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Parson Russell Terrier: Dog Breed Info, Pictures, Traits & Care

Written by: Dogster Team

Last Updated on April 17, 2024 by Dogster Team

Parson Russell Terrier Puppy Portrait

Parson Russell Terrier: Dog Breed Info, Pictures, Traits & Care

Feisty and fun-loving, the Parson Russell Terrier is a unique little terrier that shares a lot of similarities with its cousins, the Jack Russell and the Fox Terrier. These dogs were bred to chase foxes alongside other dogs and horses, flushing them out of both aboveground and underground hiding spots. They’re adept problem solvers and little athletes, which can create problems for owners who aren’t prepared to manage them.

If you’re considering bringing home a Parson Russell Terrier, find out everything you need to know to determine if these cute but tough terriers are a good fit for your home and lifestyle.

Breed Overview


13–14 inches


13–17 pounds


13–15 years



Suitable for:

Experienced owners, active owners, canine competitors


Bold, intelligent, independent, friendly

The Parson Russell Terrier was developed in the 1800s to hunt foxes. These dogs were named for Revered John, “The Sporting Parson” Russell, who was dedicated to hunting as a pastime. He raised and trained terriers to collaborate with foxhounds to pursue foxes, leading to a tenacious and independent breed.

When John Russell died, the name “Jack Russell” was widely used to describe all types of working and hunting terriers. Few of them have any similarities to Russell’s bred terriers, except for the Parson Russell that he cultivated himself.

Parson Russell Terrier Characteristics

High-energy dogs will need a lot of mental and physical stimulation to stay happy and healthy, while low-energy dogs require minimal physical activity. It’s important when choosing a dog to make sure their energy levels match your lifestyle or vice versa.
Easy-to-train dogs are more skilled at learning prompts and actions quickly with minimal training. Dogs that are harder to train will require a bit more patience and practice.
Some breeds, due to their size or their breeds potential genetic health issues, have shorter lifespans than others. Proper exercise, nutrition, and hygiene also play an important role in the lifespan of your pet.
Some dog breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, and some more than others. This doesn’t mean that every dog will have these issues, but they have an increased risk, so it’s important to understand and prepare for any additional needs they may require.
Some dog breeds are more social than others, both towards humans and other dogs. More social dogs have a tendency to run up to strangers for pets and scratches, while less social dogs shy away and are more cautious, even potentially aggressive. No matter the breed, it’s important to socialize your dog and expose them to lots of different situations.

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Parson Russell Terrier Puppies

Parson Russell Terrier
Image Credit: Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH, Shutterstock

Parson Russell Terriers are not as common as Jack Russell Terriers, but there are plenty of responsible breeders in the US. The Parson Russell Terrier Association of America (PRTAA) has a database of registered Parson Russell Terrier owners and breeders to find available litters.

Though uncommon, it’s possible to find Parson Russell Terriers in rescues and shelters. Like their Jack Russell cousin, Parsons can be a handful for owners who get them unprepared and can’t handle their high energy levels and independent streak. There are no breed-specific rescues for Parsons, but Russell and Jack Russell rescues may have full-blooded Parsons, or Parson/Jack Russell mixes to consider if you want a rescue dog.

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Temperament & Intelligence of the Parson Russell 🧠

Like their cousins, the Fox Terrier and Jack Russell Terrier, Parson Russell Terriers are tenacious and energetic dogs that like having a job to do or something to explore. They have typical terrier traits of independence, intelligence, and feistiness and need an owner who can direct their energy into productive activities. These are not dogs that are content to lie around and watch television. If you don’t provide the right outlets for Parson Russell Terriers, they will find other ways to entertain themselves that you may not appreciate, such as chewing furniture or barking excessively.

Are These Dogs Good for Families? 🏠

Parson Russell Terriers can be a good fit for active families if their needs are met. They can get along with children, but you may need to devote extra time to training. Children must be taught to respect the Parson Russell Terrier to avoid any issues with boundaries and aggression. Parsons and young children should never be left unsupervised. Like other terriers, Parsons do not tolerate rough handling well.

Does This Breed Get Along With Other Pets? 🐶 😽

Parson Russell Terriers were bred to work alongside pack dogs and horses. They usually get along well with other dogs, horses, and other livestock with proper socialization. As a hunting dog, they can have a high prey drive and may chase cats, toy dogs, and other small animals. It’s best to monitor interactions and keep the Parson separated from animals that may be viewed as prey until you know the individual dog’s personality.

two Parson Russell terrier running through the meadow
Image Credit: Christian Mueller, Shutterstock

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Things to Know When Owning a Parson Russell Terrier:

Food & Diet Requirements 🦴

Parson Russell Terriers need a high-quality diet that meets their energy needs without promoting excess weight. Though these dogs are active, they can quickly overeat and become obese with too much food and not enough exercise, leading to health problems. If you have any concerns about your dog’s diet or body condition, consult with your vet.

Exercise 🐕

Parson Russell Terriers are playful and excitable. They enjoy exercising and burning off excess energy, so they’re best suited for fenced-in yards or farms. Otherwise, commit to regular walks or trips to the dog park to give your dog some exercise. These dogs are also a good choice if you want to explore canine competitions like rally, flyball, or agility. Without an outlet for energy, Parsons can become unruly and destructive. Parson Russell Terriers have a high prey drive and may not be reliable off-leash, especially in an area with a lot of small animals or wildlife.

Training 🦮

Parsons need strict but gentle training. These dogs are smart and energetic with a low tolerance for boredom, so training sessions should always be varied and exciting. Always use positive reinforcement training with Parsons instead of harsh methods. These dogs respond to praise and rewards to curb their independent streak. With proper socialization, Parsons can get along with other animals and children, but they will not tolerate rough handling or abuse.

Cute Parson Russell Terrier Free Running in Nature
Image Credit: Kristyna Mrazkova, Shutterstock

Grooming ✂️

The Parson Russell Terrier comes in two coat types: smooth and broken (rough). With either coat, your Parson will need regular brushing to remove loose hair and keep the skin healthy. Rough coats also require plucking or clipping to prevent mats. Parsons don’t need a lot of baths unless they’re active outside. Once a month is usually enough. You will also need to trim your dog’s nails and clean their ears regularly.

Health and Conditions ❤️

Parson Russell Terriers are not overbred. They’re generally healthy dogs when they’re produced by responsible breeders who screen stock for inherited conditions like congenital deafness, spinocerebellar ataxia, patellar luxation, and eye disorders. Otherwise, the Parson is subject to the same health conditions that affect all dogs, including parasites and cancer.

Minor Conditions:
  • Cataracts
  • Parasites
  • Deafness
Serious Conditions:
  • Patella luxation
  • Ataxia
  • Lens luxation
  • Progressive retinal atrophy
  • Cancer

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Male vs Female

Male and female Parson Russell Terriers are similar, so it comes down to personal preference. The males may be a little larger. There are no distinct behavioral problems or training challenges with either males or females, especially if you spay or neuter. This not only prevents some problem behaviors related to sex hormones, such as roaming or certain types of aggression but eliminates or minimizes the risk of some reproductive cancers and diseases.

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3 Little-Known Facts About the Parson Russell Terrier

1. Parson Russell Terriers Descended from a Female Named Trump

Reverend John Russell developed the Parson Russel Terrier in the early 1800s from a small white and tan terrier female named Trump. He purchased the dog from a milkman in Elmsford, England, and she formed the basis of his breeding program.

2. Parson Russell Terriers Used to Be Known as Fox Terriers

With Russell’s breeding program, Parson Russell Terriers were recognized as a distinct type of Fox Terrier. This breed wouldn’t have breed standards until 1894, when the Devon and Somerset Badger Club was founded.

3. Parsons Share a Common History with Jack Russells

Parsons, Jack Russells, Russells, and Fox Terriers have murky breed distinctions during their development. However, it wasn’t until formal breed standards were created that these breeds could be recognized as distinct breeds; the American Kennel Club still considered the Parson a Jack Russell Terrier well into the 1990s. There are still few breed associations that recognize them as separate breeds, though the Parson is notably taller and longer than the Jack Russell.

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Final Thoughts

The Parson Russell Terrier is a great breed for the right owner, but you can’t be fooled by their cute looks. These dogs are intelligent, tough, and determined little hunters and athletes that can be a handful for a novice owner. Raising a well-adjusted and happy Parson Russell Terrier takes work, but it’s worth the effort for the right person.

Featured Image Credit: Kristyna Mrazkova, Shutterstock

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