By and For People Who Shape The Sport Of Dogs







Judging The Russell Terrier

What to look for when judging this breed of Terrier

by Pam Simmons


Photo Courtesy of Patti Bradford - depicting a Russell Terrier being spanned by a JudgeSince admission into the AKC Foundation Stock Service registry breed fanciers have been inundated with questions regarding the breed. First let me say what the breed isn’t. It isn’t a short legged or bench legged dog nor is it excessively long bodied. It 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, 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 Terrier originated in England for vermin control and hunt service, flushing fox from dens. It does share similar breeding lines with today’s Parson both breeds going directly back to lines, developed by Rev. John Russell, the hunting Parson, in the mid 1800’s. 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. 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 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” size with height disqualifications both top and bottom set, 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” encroaches upon dwarfism and over 12” infringes upon the Parson Russell. Since height is crucial to breed type, judges have an obligation to wicket the Russell, for without the use of the wicket; the Russell becomes another breed. The dog must remain within the height requirements in order to maintain his breed type. Please use the wicket your eye is an insufficient tool when gauging size. DQ: under 10”- over 12”.


The size (14”-15”), shape (oval), and compressibility of the chest are the Hallmark of the breed. 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 for maintenance of breed type. The chest is one of the dogs’ 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 below.


Please note * A computer cd is 15” 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” or smaller size requirement, when placing your hands around it. A 2 liter soda bottle is also the incorrect shape as it is also round but it has a circumference of approximately 14.5”.


While on the table move the rear of the dog toward you so the tail-end is closest to you.

Slide your hands around the chest, thumbs meeting over the withers, fingers meeting at the mid-line.

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


Proportion also defines the Russell. 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, not excessive long bodied. In height, the dog must maintain a 50/50 proportion. From the ground to elbow is equal to the distance from the bottom of the brisket to the top of the withers. Simply, the midline 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 terrier.


Russells express 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 are serious faults representing a lack of breed type. This is a lithe, slimly built terrier with smooth muscle transitions.


The head shape is blunted wedge viewed from front and side, with parallel planes in profile. The muzzle is slightly shorter than the back scull when measured from nose to stop and then from stop to the occiput. 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 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: under shot, over shot or wry bites. Ears are small and are dropped, the set is level with the top of the scull and tips hang close to the head and measure to the eye. DQ: Prick or semi- prick ears.


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 coat length or markings. Markings may be tan/white, black/white or tri colored with no preference to color or placement as long as the dog is not less than 51% white. DQ: Less than 51% white, brindle, any other color than listed. EST 2005 1998

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