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Correct Russell Terrier Breed Type

Side photo of a dog respresenting the correct Russell Terrier Breed Type


Correct Russell Terrier Breed Type

Since admission into the AKC Foundation Stock Service registry, breed fanciers have been inundated with questions regarding the correct Russell Terrier breed type. First, let me say what the breed isn’t. It is not a short-legged or bench-legged dog nor is it excessively long or thick-bodied. Russell Terrier is not the Puddlin or Stable dog that most people remember, nor is it a mini-Parson. It is a breed in its own right, developed to be carried on horseback in terrier bags.

Breeders are seeing many dogs lacking breed type being pinned in the show ring. Hopefully this writing will assist judges and breed fanciers in capturing the essence of breed type for this little earthdog. The Russell is a form follows function breed. He is, first and foremost, a hunting, earth-working terrier, not a mere pet or fancy show dog.

The Russell Terrier originated in England for vermin control and hunt service, flushing fox from dens. It does share similar breeding lines with today’s Parson, with both breeds going directly back to lines developed by Rev. John Russell, the hunting Parson, in the mid-1800s. The Rev. Russell’s fox working terrier was the basis for both the Parson Russell Terrier and the Russell Terrier. Quickly, the breeds separated and were developed using entirely different blends of working terriers built specifically for different geographic demands and hunt service demands. The Russell Terrier hails from crosses of the Sealyham and Smooth Fox Terriers, producing a dog shorter in height and longer in body than either of its Parson or Fox Terrier cousins.

There are several points essential to correct breed type for the Russell Terrier. These characteristics define him as a distinct and unique breed. The Russell is a fox hunting terrier utilized in the hunt fields of England for above and below ground work. The character of the Russell Terrier is that of a spirited and game hunter. He is keen of expression and full of life.

Size considerations define him. His 10-12-inch size, with height disqualifications both top and bottom, separate him from the Parson. This having been said, it is crucial and essential that judges not hesitate to measure a dog in the show ring. Less than 10 inches encroaches upon dwarfism and over 12 inches infringes upon the Parson Russell Terrier. Since height is crucial to breed type, judges have an obligation to wicket the Russell Terrier, for without the use of the wicket the Russell encroaches on another breed. The dog must remain within the height requirements in order to maintain correct breed type. Please use the wicket; your eye is a woefully insufficient tool when gauging height. DQ: under 10 inches – over 12 inches.

The Hallmarks of the Breed are the size (14-15 inches or smaller), shape (oval), and compressibility of the chest. The chest must never hang below the elbow. The size, shape, and compressibility of the chest can only be determined by learning how to properly span the chest. Spanning is a required breed-specific exam necessary to maintain correct breed type. The chest is one of the dog’s working tools; without it he is unable to do his job effectively or efficiently. Any exhibitor should be able to assist you with the exam. Diagrams have been provided.

A computer CD is 15 inches in circumference. Although a CD is not the correct shape, nor is it compressible, it is, however, useful for comparing your hand size to the 14-15-inch or smaller size requirement when placing your hands around it. A two-liter soda bottle is also the incorrect shape, as it is also round, but it has a circumference of approximaqtely 13.5 inches. The process is pictured in the diagrams on the following page.

Russell Terrier Breed Type
While on the table, move the rear of the dog toward you so that the tail-end is closest to you.

Proportion also defines the Russell Terrier. In profile, the silhouette represents a distinct rectangle when measured from the point of shoulder to the point of hip. Russells are slightly longer than tall, but not excessively long-bodied. In height, the dog must maintain a 50/50 proportion. From the ground to the elbow is equal to the distance from the bottom of the brisket to the top of the withers. Simply, the mid-line of the dog is where the elbow and the bottom of the brisket meet.

The Russell Terrier is not a short-legged or a deep-chested, square or thick-bodied terrier. Russells present no hint of achondroplasia (dwarf characteristics): no benched fronts or Queen Ann legs, enlarged head, or any deviation of the required 50/50 height proportion. Again, the chest must never hang below the elbow. The above deviations from the Standard are very serious faults representing a lack of breed type. This is a lithe, slimly built terrier with smooth muscle transitions, moderate bone, angulation fore to aft, and a moderate tuck up.

Russell Terrier Breed Type
Slide your hands around the chest, thumbs meeting over the withers and fingers meeting at the mid-line.

The head shape is a blunted wedge when viewed from the front or side, having parallel planes in profile. The muzzle is slightly shorter than the backskull when measured from nose to stop and then from stop to the occiput. The stop is well defined with minimal falling away under the eyes. The nose is black. DQ: Any color other than black, lack of pigment. The eyes are dark brown, almond-shaped, having tight-fitting dark rims and good width between the eyes. Eyes are never close set, light, yellow, or blue. DQ: Blue eye or eyes. The correct bite is scissors, with level being acceptable. DQ: Overshot, undershot, wry mouth. Ears are small and are dropped, the ear set is level with the top of the skull and the tips hang close to the head and measure to the outer edge of the eye. DQ: Prick or semi-prick ears.

Russell Terrier Breed Type
Raise the dog onto the back legs, and then exert slight pressure on the rib cage, top to bottom.

Russells may be smooth, broken, or rough, with no preference. Coats must be weatherproof; all coat types have an undercoat and a harsh outer coat. No preference is given to markings. Markings may be tan, black, or tri-colored with no preference to color or placement of markings as long as the dog remains 51 percent white. Fifty-one percent white equals white belly, legs, chest, and white on the body. Blankets are not acceptable. DQ: Less than 51 percent white, brindle coloring, any other color than listed.

The Russell Terrier gait is lively and purposeful. Movement must be unrestricted and effortless while exhibiting an attitude of confidence. He is a horizontal-moving dog and should always be exhibited on a loose lead. The Russell’s lateral movement is balanced fore to aft, having equal reach to equal drive. His double-tracking coming and going movement converges to the centerline as his speed increases.

Russells are not a sparring breed; they are pack dogs and must be amenable to other dogs at all times, as traditionally they lived and worked with the foxhounds. They are an alert, lively, active, keen terrier with a very intelligent expression. Their intensity for life is one of their most endearing traits. They are playful, curious, loyal, and affectionate. Tidying up and minimal grooming are appropriate for the Russell; any form of sculpting is to be severely penalized, i.e. no back-combed legs, fluffed & chalked furnishings, and no skirts are allowed.

The American Russell Terrier Club, Inc. respectfully requests that judges keep the traditional Russell hunt terrier alive and well for future generations.