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Russell terrier running through grass

Breed overview

  • Breed group — Terrier group (American Kennel Club)
  • Height — 10-12 inches
  • Weight — 9-15 pounds
  • Coat length & texture — Short, wiry, or smooth
  • Coat color — White coat with tan, brown, cream, black, or multi-colored markings
  • Exercise needs — High
  • Intelligence — Average
  • Barking — Vocal
  • Lifespan — 12-14 years
  • Temperament — Energetic, friendly, intelligent
  • Hypoallergenic — No
  • Origin — England

Russell terrier fun facts 

👉 Coming up with a pet name can be fun but tricky. Search no further! According to PetScreening’s 2024 database, the majority of our users name their male Russell Terriers Charlie and Jack. Meanwhile, most of our users with female Russell Terriers love Bella, then Luna.

  • The original Russell terrier was bred for hunting foxes. Reverend John Russell developed the breed in Devonshire during the 1800s. Today, they retain their instincts to bark and chase small prey.
  • Both the Russell terrier and the Parson terrier are commonly referred to as the “Jack Russell terrier.”  This popular name is not an actual breed in the United States, but a generic description for white terriers. In their native England, the Jack Russell terrier is another name for the Russell terrier while the Parson Russell terrier is still recognized as a separate breed like they are in the U.S.
  • The Russell terrier starred on television even before they were recognized by kennel clubs. Millennials and older GenZ may remember the PBS show, Wishbone, where a Russell terrier reenacted popular literature and movies for kids.
Russell terrier closeup

Russell terrier temperament and characteristics 

The Russell terrier always has a white coat with dark markings. Their ears are short and folded down, giving them a cute floppy look. Their narrow face and shorter stance set them apart from the closely-related Parson terrier who has a more boxy figure. Yappy and happy, the Russell terrier greets you with a friendly bark and wagging tail as soon as you arrive home. Possessing bounds of energy, they’re always ready to play and require at least an hour and a half of exercise every day to stay healthy. They’re generally welcoming of kids and strangers, but their guarding instinct and high prey drive may make them feel slightly territorial over new people or animals until you tell them it’s okay. You’ll also need to be mindful of Russell terriers around cats since they may chase them.


The Russell Terrier is a small breed with an alert and confident expression. Its coat is generally rough and broken in texture. The AKC breed standard recognizes white with black or tan markings. There is no preference for markings so long as the dog remains 51 percent white. The Russell Terrier has a strong muzzle and distinct V-shaped ears that tilt forward, giving this breed a unique appearance. We teamed up with FidoTabby Alert, and according to their database, the common coat color for the Russell Terrier is (46%) white.

Common Russell terrier health problems 

Due to genetics, almost every dog breed comes with a list of potential hereditary issues. The Russell terrier is a generally healthy breed, but breeders and pet parents will need to look out for these issues.

  • Patellar luxation. This condition occurs when the kneecap pops out of line with the femur. In half of cases of patellar luxation, both knees are affected.
  • Deafness. Unfortunately, mostly white dogs such as Russell terriers are at increased risk of being born deaf, especially if they have no markings. A BAER test to judge their hearing capabilities is recommended for Russell terriers before breeding.
  • Eye diseases. Cataracts and glaucoma may develop as your Russell terrier enters their senior years. Other eye problems are also possible that may have genetic origins, so the AKC recommends eye exams before breeding.

Cost of caring for Russell terriers

While the Russell terrier is a relatively healthy breed, medical expenses are always a huge factor when considering adopting any dog. It’s estimated that the average pet parent spends anywhere from $20,000 to $55,000 total over the course of their dog’s life. Much of that sum is reflected in emergency medical bills that can easily exceed $1,000 per incident.

Pet insurance can help you pay those bills in smaller chunks. You choose your deductible and pay a monthly rate. When accidents or illnesses arise, you’ll pay the total cost upfront and then receive a reimbursement from the insurance company once you file the claim. Pet insurance yields the most benefits if you enroll your pup early, since seniors may have limited coverage. If pet insurance isn’t the best plan for you, consider starting a pet savings account instead.

Russell terrier chewing on a stick

History of the Russell terrier

During the 1800s, Reverend John Russell of Devonshire, England, decided to take his love of hunting to the next level. He raised a new generation of terrier dogs to hunt foxes. The modern Parson terrier and the Russell terrier resulted from his efforts, which were continued in Australia and the United States where they also caught vermin and hunted small game.

Although they’ve been well-loved in the United States for many years, the Russell terrier only recently joined the American Kennel Club in the Terrier Group in 2012. Today, they’re ranked #73 out of #199 of the most popular dog breeds registered by the AKC.

The English white terrier was the ancient ancestor of the Russell terrier. Now-extinct, this dog was the formation stock of several established breeds, including the Boston terrier and the fox terrier.

Caring for your Russell terrier

Once you adopt your new puppy, you’ll need to take them to their first trip to the vet for a health exam and vaccinations. Energetic young dogs like the Russell terrier may easily find trouble around the house, so we can even help you puppy-proof your home and prepare for teething. Just in case your little escape artist manages to get out, FidoAlert provides a free Fido ID and tag so you can recover them quickly.


Especially as a puppy, the Russell terrier can be quite rambunctious. Count on dedicating at least 90 minutes to 2 hours of exercise time each day to help them put their energy to good use. The Russell terrier is a highly intelligent breed that also needs mental stimulation throughout the day in order to stay focused and happy. Treat puzzles and durable toys give them something constructive to chew on and can keep them entertained when you’re not around to play with them.

Russell terrier playing with a ball


The Russell terrier always has a short coat that can have a smooth or wiry texture. Officially, the Russell terrier can have a smooth, broken, or rough coat. The broken coat combines smooth and wiry rough coats for a unique patchy appearance. All coats shed a moderate amount and require weekly brushing to stay in shape. In addition to nail trimming as needed, the Russell terriers require weekly ear cleaning, and daily teeth brushing. While you can wipe dirt and mud off with a wet towel, try to limit baths to once a month or less. Over-bathing can strip their coats, giving them a dull, unhealthy look. Finding the right dog shampoo can help rejuvenate their coats when it’s time for a spa day.

Diet and nutrition

Russell terriers are usually happy, healthy dogs, but the secret to a long, full life lies in their food dish. Your vet can give you advice on what to feed your Russell terrier at each life stage, as well as how much to feed them. Weighing no more than 15 pounds, the Russell terrier is considered a small breed. They usually eat between 1 ¼ to 1 ¾ cups of dry kibble each day depending on the formula and their activity level. It’s important to feed your dog an appropriate amount of food to guard them against obesity. Being overweight results in limited mobility, which puts a damper on their playful attitude, and is linked to devastating diseases like diabetes.

Training your Russell terrier

Despite their high intelligence, the Russell terrier has an independent streak that can make training a challenge. Obedience training may take some time, but it’s necessary in order to keep your dog safe. The Russell terrier excels in dog sports such as agility, and loves learning new tricks.

Close up of a Russell terrier standing outside

Breeds similar to the Russell terrier

The Russell terrier is only one member of the highly diverse terrier group. Not quite sure that a Russell terrier is right for you? It’s worth taking the time to explore and consider other terriers to see which one would make the best pet for you. Here are a few to get you started:

  • Parson terrier. The Parson terrier possesses a stocky build and long legs with the same coat pattern as the Russell. They can have a smooth or rough coat.
  • Fox terrier. Known as the fox terrier or the wire fox terrier depending on their coat texture, this breed has a standard and toy size that’s comparable to the miniature and toy poodle.
  • Boston terrier. The Tuxedo dog charms pet parents with their sweet disposition and dapper looks. They’re much calmer than the Russell terrier, and better for apartment dwellers since they’re not prone to barking.

Frequently asked questions

Is the Russell terrier the same as a Jack Russell terrier?

In England, the Russell terrier is still known as a Jack Russell terrier. In The United States, however, they’re called Russell terriers, with “Jack Russell” being the common nickname for both Russell and Parson terriers.

Is the Russell terrier a good family dog?

Amiable and energetic, the Russell terrier is an excellent choice for active families. They may require some early training around small children and cats, however, since they have a high prey drive that encourages them to chase.

Is the Russell terrier a healthy breed?

Health is a multi-faceted topic, with much of the outcome depending on the environment. In general, the Russell terrier doesn’t have many health problems associated with the breed. However, their wellbeing is largely dependent on their lifestyle, such as their diet and exercise habits. Pet insurance can help you cover the cost of both genetic and acquired health problems. Coverage may be especially beneficial for puppies who probably have a few emergencies ahead of them.

What’s the difference between a Russell terrier and a Parson terrier?

Although they have the same colors and patterns, the Russell terrier is a little smaller than the Parson terrier. Both breeds are closely related and are often simply referred to in the United States as “Jack Russell terriers.”