Showsight Presents The Parson Russell Terrier


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OF HOUNDS AND TERRIERS By Nancy L. Dougherty T he Parson Russell Ter- rier was developed exclusively to work with foxhounds in England by the Rev. “Parson” Jack Russell and terriers, and the Parson’s terriers accompanied the hounds on long journeys to and from the meets. Th e Parson Russell Terrier was not intended to be carried on horseback but rather was expected to travel with the hounds.

a hunting day. His job is of great importance and his terriers are the tools of his trade. He has great knowledge of the fox and the ter- rier, and he knows every earth in his hunted country. Th is is where you learn about the conformation of the Parson. If they are too short in the back it is more di ffi cult for them to turn around in a tunnel. If they are too big in the chest they will have great di ffi - culty getting to a fox underground—and getting back out. If they lack bone and sub- stance, have short legs, a weak muzzle or big ears, or if they have no length of neck they will be dealt a great deal of punishment by a fox. It they lack a waterproof coat they will su ff er in the wet and cold. It all comes together and makes sense. Sometimes we breeders feel that the Parson Russell Terrier is not taken seri- ously in the AKC ring. But don’t underes- timate this breed. It is one of the few terri- ers that can boast that not only it can, but does today what it was developed for well over one hundred years ago. Parson Rus- sell fanciers are proud of the fact that this terrier remains a serious working terrier and yet is a particularly handsome dog in the show ring. And as an added attraction, the Parson is the best of companions. He is intelligent, fun-loving, a ff ectionate and the best of companions.

in the mid-1800’s. Th e terrier required enough leg and substance to get across the countryside with hounds but still be able to go underground for the purpose of bolting the fox. Th e original distinguish- ing characteristics of this terrier were the harsh, weatherproof jacket, a hint of eye- brow and beard, and predominantly white in color. Rev. Russell was often referred to as “the father of the wirehaired fox terrier” in the 1800s and his bloodlines can be found in old fox terrier pedigrees. Th e Parson also comes in a smooth coat although not seen as often. Th e smooth coat must also be weatherproof. No working Parson Russell Terrier can run with a pack of hounds in full cry, but an intelligent terrier can keep with the hunt. Th ese terriers are quite capable of running the line (scent), but when a fox- hound opens on that line he will quickly leave the terrier behind. Of course, a fox- hound is a running machine where a ter- rier is not. In Rev. Russell’s day there were no motorized vehicles to transport hounds

In the United States people work their terriers to such vermin as groundhog, but there is no substitute for a Parson going to ground after a red fox, its true quarry. While many must pursue whatever quarry is in their area if they want to work their terriers in the fi eld, it is a great pity to see the Parson altered and often miniaturized for small quarry, the result being lack of bone, substance, type and size. Having hunted in Great Britain a fair amount, the most magni fi cent sight I have ever seen is a pack of foxhounds watching and waiting while the terriers to bolt the fox that they have run to ground. Suddenly, the fox decides he had better quit the premises and out he bolts like a streak. Within a split second the hounds are behind him with a great roar and the chase is on again. Th is is what foxhounds and terriers are all about—this is what the Parson Russell Terrier was bred for! Much as I loved hunting on horseback well in excess of forty years, it is a education to accompany the terrierman in the UK on

“In the United States people work their terriers to such vermin as groundhog,


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By Mary Strom-Bernard

W hen the Parson Russell entered into the AKC Terrier Group in 1997, the com- ment I heard most often was, “How should I judge the breed?” No two look alike. With so many types, judges seemed to face a challenge in deciding what the correct breed type should be. Adding to this were many breeders that were new to the world of AKC dog shows, and new to the breed, so they were unsure as well. Parsons have certainly gained some consistency since those days, though we still have our chal- lenges—especially when talking about consistent breed type, and form following function. In this article on judging Par- sons, I will assume you have read the breed standard and do not need me to quote it word for word. Instead, I will highlight the areas of the breed standard that I feel are of great importance in judging our breed, as well as areas where I feel the breed in general may be drifting away from the current standard. Since the Parson Russell Terrier was bred to work both above and below the ground, his structure had to be indica- tive of this dual function. One key point of this breed’s structure is that the Parson Russell should not have the typical ter- rier front. With a typical terrier front, the dog has a long shoulder with a 45 degree layback, and a slightly shorter upper arm that is also turned slightly forward, which then limits the amount of forechest that is visible from the side. Th e Parson Russell forequarters should be long, sloping, and well laid back, with the point of shoulder sitting in a plane behind the point of pro sternum, which makes the silhouette of the Parson quite di ff erent from that of the oth-

Fig. 2: Good Proportions

Fig. 1: Lifting Legs off of the Table

er terrier breeds with more of a flat front. Th e ideal Parson should have a proster- num that can be both felt and seen. (See figure 1.) In judging the Parson Russell Terrier, the first priority should be that of identi- fying the proper silhouette. Th e outline should be that of a dog that is of medium bone, and the proportions of a terrier that is not square, but “o ff square.” Height at withers is slightly greater than the dis- tance from the withers to tail, i.e. by pos- sibly 1–1 1–2 inches on a 14 inch dog. Th is means that the Parson Russell Terrier stands with plenty of leg underneath him, with no appearance of being short on leg. (See figure 2.) Parsons should be able to travel a large amount of acreage with a tireless and ground covering trot. Currently, one of the major departures from the standard that I have observed is that of a shorter leg. Th is will begin to impede the terrier’s func- tion in the field as he is moving through tall brush and grasses, keeping up with the hounds, and covering often uneven terrain. Th e second departure from the standard in looking at the silhouette is the shorter back. While a shorter backed Terrier is often more showy, it is incorrect for the Parson Russell. Th e Parson Russell is slightly longer in loin than many ter- riers, which allows for greater flexibility

above and below the earth. Th e Parson Russell should never appear to be cobby, short coupled, coarse, or heavy in bone and substance. When assessing the Parson Russell on the exam table, you would naturally approach the dog straight, greet the dog, and start to examine the head and bite. Our breed standard does state that it is a severe fault for any Parson to be missing more than four teeth, so you would want to look at all the teeth to determine the lack of four or more—please be gentle. Th e young Parson can be wiggly and wagging; however, they are also sensi- tive, as well as having very long mem- ories. One judge prying their mouth open and giving a rough exam will be remembered for a lifetime. Th ere is a saying that the eyes are the window into the soul. Th is is certainly true with dogs. Whether round, oval, or almond, each eye shape gives the dog a dif- ferent expression. In Parsons, the eyes are to be almond shaped and dark in color. Almond shaped eyes are important in a working terrier as they are less likely to sustain injury than that of a round eye or one that protrudes. Th e round eye will often look larger—more prominent—and it gives the Parson a sometimes softer look, but round eyes are still incorrect. Th e Par- son standard does state that dark eye rims

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Fig. 4: Very Nice Ear and Eye

Fig. 3: Very Nice Head and Eye


are desirable, but our standard is one of the few that allows for the rims not to be pigmented when the coat around the eye is white. Th e ears are to be small and V shaped, with the ear tip extending no fur- ther than the corner of the eye; however, longer ears are becoming much more com- mon in the breed. Th e combination of both the round eye and the longer ear on a Parson will start to remind you of another breed altogether, since there are several Terrier standards that ask for a round or circular eye. (See figures 3 and 4.)

Th e second part of the table exam which can be di ffi cult is spanning. Parson Rus- sells, Border Terriers, and the Russell Ter- rier are the only three Terrier breeds that require spanning as per their breed stan- dard. Spanning is a very important part of the judging process for the Parson Russell. For Parson Russell breeders, it is always very disappointing when a judge fails to span or does it in a half-hearted man- ner—as if to signify that it means little in their judging process. Th e dog cannot be correctly judged without this procedure.

With that said, if you are going to judge Parsons and you are uncomfortable with spanning, then practice and learn how to span properly until you feel very secure in your ability. Th ere are several ways to span a Parson. Some judges ask to have the dog turned sideways on the table, and then the judge comes from behind the dog to span them. However, I much prefer that the dog is moved to the rear of the table, while the judge walks to the back of the table and spans the dog, still facing forward, from

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Fig. 6: Proportions of Idea Grooming

Fig. 7: Overgroom and Long Beard

behind. Young Parsons are not used to being turned crosswise on the table, and it is a much more familiar sensation for them to simply be moved to the rear of the table. It is also easier for the exhibitor to manage this maneuver. When spanning, please know what the correct depth of chest is for your hands, as depth of chest is not always seen, but is easily felt. Someone with smaller hands is going to have thumbs and fingers that clearly do not meet, and someone with long fingers or large hands is going to have hands and fingers that overlap. So mind your gap! To give you an idea of what size of chest is correct you can use a regular DVD and wrap your fingers around it. If your fingers do not meet when wrapping them around the DVD, then look at the

size of the gap between your fingers and that is approximately the same gap that you should have when spanning a Parson with a correctly sized chest. For a person with large hands and or very long fingers, your fingers are likely to overlap around the DVD with no gap. Keep in mind that you cannot properly span a Parson with- out lifting the front feet o ff the exam table, as your hands need to fit under the dog’s front legs and feel the very smallest part of the chest. Th e second reason for spanning is flexibility. We want that chest to have some spring to it; if you span the chest, and feel absolutely no give or spring to it, then that is just as wrong for the breed as a chest that is very large. A dog with a larger yet very flexible chest can still do the work, but a dog with a rigid, hard, or incorrectly shaped chest—no matter what the diameter—cannot do the work well. (See figure 5.) Despite the wording in our standard, I still see Parsons that are excessively groomed. Most of the Parsons I see that are over groomed are not with breeder- owner handlers. If you look at a Parson and it completely reminds you of another Terrier breed, then the dog either has poor breed type, has been excessively groomed, or both. Th e legs should not be flu ff ed and sprayed, the coat should be in a truly natural appearance, harsh and showing no

evidence of scissoring or clipping. Sculpted furnishings are to be severely penalized (See figures 6 and 7.) Th ough there can still be some variation in breed type in Parsons, when you look at a Parson that has large round eyes (how- ever adorable that may be), heavy cheeks, or a very coarse and exaggerated head, then the breed type is wrong. Our breed will be greatly helped in achieving better consistency with educated judges that are knowledgeable in the correct breed type. As a breeder judge, I would much rather reward excellent breed type and adequate movement, than poor breed type and a large side gait. Correct movement for a Parson is to be ground covering and tire- less—any exaggerated movements either in the front or the rear take away e ffi ciency in covering many miles out in the field for a day of hunting. While I have touched on several specif- ics in detail, judges still need to know the breed standard and judge the whole dog— not just the parts and pieces of the dog. Be sure to reward the virtues of the dog and penalize those faults to the extent that they depart from the standard. Never judge a Parson on cuteness, as I am very sure that the word ‘cute’ cannot be found anywhere in our breed standard; besides, breeders will respect you more for rewarding cor- rect breed type than cuteness.

Fig. 5: Span DVD with Gap

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JULIE FELTEN I reside in Wauconda, Illinois, a north- west suburb of Chicago. I am employed as an insurance agent specializing in home and auto products. Outside of dogs, I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, music, bird watch- ing and shopping. I’ve had dogs since my early childhood and have been showing for about thirty years. I’ve been an AKC Breeder Judge since 2000. I have bred/owned over 75 AKC Parson Champions to date, many finishing out of the Bred by Exhibitor classes. I am an AKC Breeder of Merit producing multiple group winning, national/specialty winners and all breed Best In Show honors. MARY STROM- BERNARD

I live in western Massachusetts with my five Parsons, a Wire Fox Terrier and a Russell Terrier. Outside of dogs, I work a demanding, full-time job in bank man- agement. For fun, I like to ski, snowshoe, kayak and travel. I have been showing dogs for about twenty years. I am not a judge, but am pleased to say that my only judging assignment was Parson Sweep- stakes at Montgomery County in 2013. NANCY

DOUGHERTY I live in southeastern Chester County, Pennsylvania and I work in the field of steeplechase horseracing. My husband and I have a pack of Penn-Marydel Foxhounds, so fox-hunting is a big part of my life. I have been involved with show dogs for about fifty years, starting with foxhounds, then Parson Russell Terriers (through fox-hunting) and Dachshunds. I have been judging since 2002 and have had Parsons for over thirty years.

I currently live in Carlton, Oregon, just an hour drive from Portland, Ore- gon. Outside of dogs, I enjoy horseback riding and working on the Rose City Classic Student Art Contest. My husband and I are professional wildlife photog- raphers. We also have photographed several National and Regional Special- ties along with doing candid photos for


a variety of clients. I have been showing and breeding dogs for just under thirty years. I have been judging for nine years. SALLY YANCEY I live in Greensboro, North Carolina. My hobbies include golf and pickle-ball. I’ve had dogs my entire life—over forty years in Parson Russell Terriers and judg- ing the breed for over thirty years. I am also an AWTA den trial judge along with AKC Earthdog. I have been fortunate enough to judge the National Specialty at MCKC and in Canada. My judging has taken me all over the US as well as the UK and Germany.

I live in east central Wiscon- sin. Outside of dogs, I have many interests including trail-riding, training and horse-camping with my horses, raising rare breed poultry/waterfowl and showing and caring of my fiber goats, rare breed sheep and alpacas. I’ve been in purebred dogs for years,

but started serious showing in 1981. I’ve been a Sighthound breeder since 1985 and a Parson breeder since 2001, although I’ve owned Parsons since 1979 (English imports). I started judging in 1997 and was granted the Parson in 2000.

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1. Describe the breed in three words. KB: Tenacious, independent and affectionate. ND: Handsome, smart and ready. KD: Clever, tough and devoted. JF: Bold, friendly and athletic. MSB: Energetic, playful and great companions. SY: True Working Terrier.

SY: The shorter backs and straight fronts mean less flexibil- ity and stride. This may be more pleasing to the eye but it is not correct in Parsons. 4. Do you think the dogs you see in this breed are better now than they were when you first started judging? Why or why not? KB: I don’t judge, but I don’t feel that the breed is better than when we were first AKC recognized. We don’t have the history and long-term breeders that more established breeds have. I think the Russell Terrier has hurt the Par- son, as the Russells are charming and so easy to live with. ND: Yes and no. I have seen some outstanding Parsons which I am happy to say have been well rewarded by group judges. But I have also seen less than stellar Par- sons where it is clear the exhibitor does not know the breed and worse, does not want to learn. KD: Yes, as a breed, I feel there has been improvement since they were first recognized—more consistency, better breed type. JF: The strongest quality in the breed was in the formative years of AKC recognition 2000-2004. So I’d have to say overall better when I first started judging. There have been a few standouts along the way, but overall, the breed is losing depth of quality. Many long time quality breeders have quit and the breed still suffers from out- standing males not being utilized by fellow breeders. MSB: Yes. I see huge strides having been made in shoul- ders and overall balance, though I see a definite need of more uniformity in the overall profile. Far too often I see Parsons that are square in profile rather than off-square. Coats have become vastly improved, where as we used to have many curly and wavy coated Parsons, most of the coats now are flat with sufficient undercoat. SY: There were certainly some good ones from back in the day, but I believe today’s Parsons are in good shape with a little more size and substance. 5. What do you think new judges misunderstand about the breed? KB: Spanning! I rarely see a judge span correctly and I’m not sure they truly understand why it is of paramount impor- tance to the breed. Spanning is critical component to the judging process. If a dog can’t be spanned, it cannot do the job it was bred to do. ND: This is a working breed still greatly used in the UK, its country of origin. The Parson must have the substance and pluck to work and yet be flexible enough to work

2. What are your “must have” traits in this breed? KB: Moderation, keenness and effortless movement. ND: Must have breed type, harsh coat and the ability to work under and above ground. KD: Four “must haves” in the breed are: proper body length- to-height (not too short-backed), type, coat (not over- groomed) and good temperament. JF: Sufficient length of leg, approximately square with an appealing headpiece. Good substance, in proper balance and plenty of dog behind a correctly set tail. A properly groomed, harsh, double-coated weather-proof jacket, small, flexible chest and tireless ground-covering trot displaying good reach in front with the hindquarters providing plenty of drive. Alert, happy and confident temperament is a must! MSB: Excellent breed type. Correct profile—off-square and a straight, flat coat with no curl, wave or kink. SY: I look for a balanced Terrier with good free movement, nice, harsh jacket and a spannable chest. 3. Are there any traits in this breed you fear are becoming exaggerated? KB: I can’t say I see exaggeration, however, I think poor fronts are an issue. My greatest fear is that this breed will lose the fire that makes it the Parson. I see far too many Parsons in the ring with their tails down—this should never be the case! ND: I despise creative grooming; sculpting or exaggerating the natural coat. Clean and tidy is the best presentation. I’d like to see breeders concentrate on breed type and correct conformation. Pay attention to shoulder layback and good rears, attributes that allow the Parson to do its job. KD: Over-grooming is still haunting this breed. They are a working breed first and foremost. JF: The tendency to breed long and low. MSB: I feel that the over-grooming in the breed is far too common. I often see Parsons groomed to resemble other breeds and not resembling the wash and wear dog they are supposed to be.

“i look for A bAlAnced terrier with good free movement, nice, hArsh jAcket And A spAnnAble chest.”

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underground. A 14-inch Parson can do the job just as well as a 12-inch terrier, depending on the terrain. Nothing irritates me more than a judge announcing that a 14-inch terrier is too big. It constitutes not knowing the breed at all. KD: The most misunderstood thing that many judges exhibit are lack of understanding of proportion and spanning/judging the chest. The Parson is slightly longer than tall. It is not the same proportion from point of shoulder to bid docks as withers to ground. A dog that is too short would have more difficulty turn- ing around in an earth burrow in order to get out. Also, a puppy will generally have a smaller spannable chest than an adult. It’s not just about spanability, it’s also about compressibility. JF: The PRT is medium in temperament and should never be expected to have the same amount of show gene as his cousin the Wire Fox Terrier. Not that you want a dead head (which should never be rewarded), but the Parson is a pack dog that is expected to get along, thus the reason he is not sparred. Never allow speed gaiting in your ring. The Parson should always be shown at a brisk walk and not judged or rewarded based on another’s breed standard. MSB: I think judges often reward the square profile versus the correct off-square profile. While a square profile can be more pleasing to the eye, it is incorrect for the Parson Russell Terrier. There are also Parsons being shown that do not have sufficient leg underneath them. I would emphasize to any judge to be sure of the correct profile and remember to span. I don’t see too many judges that actually forget to span but I do see many judges that go forward and do not use the information that they receive from the process of spanning and they reward dogs that are deep chested and not truly spannable. SY: That a Parson is just another Smooth Fox Terrier. 6. Is there anything else you’d like to share about the breed? Please elaborate. KB: The Parson is an incredibly smart and funny little dog. However, they are challenging for even an experienced dog owner. When left to their own devices, they will find a way to entertain themselves. Once they have their mind set on something, it’s hard to redirect them, whether they are after a critter or trying to get a toy from the top of the refrigerator! ND: The Parson is the best of companion dogs. Parsons are very intelligent, have a super personality and are simply full of fun. They are always ready to participate in anything you may be doing. I wouldn’t be without one. Being a Terrier, however, one per household is enough and never even think of having two bitches or two dogs housed together. JF: Please learn to span the breed correctly and do not just go through the motions. It’s critical to know why and

what to feel for. His chest is his hallmark and should be easily spanned, flexible and correctly shaped. He is one of only three working terrier breeds that is still actively used for natural earth work in this country. Please help us preserve his working roots! MSB: I am hopeful that our Judges Education Committee, on which I serve, will have an Illustrated Standard com- pleted and available to judges by the end of the year. I believe an Illustrated Standard will be a very useful tool for judges that seek to judge our breed. SY: We are seeing dwindling numbers in our breed in con- formation as well as performance. I think a lot of us old- timers are phasing out, but I hate to see that the breed, once ever so popular, will now be something that is rare.

7. And, for a bit of humor: what’s the funniest thing you’ve ever experienced at a dog show?

KB: In the ring, my Parson barking at an airplane flying overhead. Outside the ring, the most recent was our man- nequin head that we used to display a fancy hat at Morris & Essex. We drove it around posed as a passenger with different hats. ND: I think the funniest thing that ever happened to me happened just last year. I was showing my Foxhound bitch indoors. She was still very inexperienced and no breed in this world can hook your leg like a Foxhound. As I was finishing going around, it happened and I took about three giant steps almost into the arms of the judge! A look of absolute surprise and alarm was on the judge’s face. But I did not fall and I did not knock the judge over. We all had a good laugh over it. As for Parsons, my friend’s male Parson was on the table being examined when he politely removed a flower from the judge’s lapel. So much like a Parson! KD: The funniest thing that’s happened to me at a dog show were exhibitors going to the AKC Rep and Superinten- dent complaining that the same person was judging the same breeds two days in a row—it was my twin sister. JF: What happens at Montgomery stays at Montgomery. MSB: I am not sure this is so much funny but cute. The han- dler that handles my dogs has an adorable daughter and we have taken many candid photos of her since she was quite young. We were at a local dog show and the ador- able daughter was tired and upset, lots of tears and her father told her something to the effect that she should stop crying and that Mary did not want to see her cry. Her very serious answer, “I forgot how.” How does one ever argue with that? SY: Humorous now, but not so funny then. On the way to a show, being picked up at the airport on the hottest day of the year and then transported in a small, pink pickup truck to the motel—three people had to fit in the front. On top of that, the driver was asking us for directions and we had never been to this place!

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