Showsight Presents The Parson Russell Terrier


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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