This notion is ridiculed by D. Brian Plummer, the colorful English author, hunter and past chairman of the Jack Russell Terrier Club of Great Britain, in his book The Complete Jack Russell Terrier. "The madness to preserve racial purity of a mongrelly type like that of the Jack Russell terrier is ludicrous to say the least.... I must confess that my famous stud dog. Warlock—a noted producer of his day—is a blend of beagle, pit bull terrier, fox terrier and Jack Russell, and is certainly under no disadvantage with his mixed ancestry."
There has always been some mystery behind the bloodlines of the Jack Russell terrier. The very first one, a bitch named Trump, was purchased from the milkman. Legend has it that young John Russell, an undergraduate at Oxford, was taking a walk in May of 1819 when "...a milkman met him with a terrier—such an animal as Russell had only yet seen in his dreams; he halted, as Actaeon might have done when he caught sight of Diana disporting in her bath; but unlike the ill-fated hunter, he never budged from the spot till he had won the prize and secured it for his own."
That passage comes from the Rev. E.W.L. Davies' 1882 biography, A Memoir of the Rev. John Russell. It tells us quite a lot. Not least, it tells us that at the age of 23, John Russell was dreaming about dogs. It also tells us that Trump was something of a canine goddess. As befits such a beast, a portrait of Trump hangs in the harness room of Sandringham, a royal estate in Norfolk, England. It has been called a blueprint of how a Jack Russell terrier should look. Trump was white, with tan patches over each ear and another at the root of her tail. Her coat was thick, close and slightly wiry, which protected her from wet and cold. Her legs were straight, her jaw powerful and her rump well-muscled. She weighed about 12 pounds and was the size of a vixen fox. "Her whole appearance," said the Rev. John Russell, "gave indications of courage, endurance and hardihood."
Russell made Trump the progenitrix of his famous line of white-bodied, working terriers, although it-never has been adequately explained what type of animal he bred her with. Russell (1795-1883) was a gruff character, much written about, whose infatuation with hunting went back to his boarding-school days. There he kept ferrets, and once used them to even a score with an overbearing senior monitor by slipping the ferrets into the poor fellow's rabbit hutches. It earned the boy a flogging with a whalebone riding whip.
When Russell became the vicar of Swymbridge in 1832, he gained notoriety as the Hunting Parson because he was also Master of the Hounds. This dual role was viewed with distaste by the bishop of his diocese, who once accused Russell of refusing to bury a child's body on a Wednesday because it interfered with the fox hunt. Repeatedly the bishop asked Russell to give up his hounds, and repeatedly Parson Jack refused. One time, however, he did an about-face. "With all my heart," said Russell, "I'll give up the hounds."
The bishop offered to shake on it.
"Mrs. Russell shall keep them," the parson said.
The man had cheek. He is probably best described by an anecdote from Dan Russell's book (Dan is no kin to Parson Jack; the name is a pseudonym):
"Like all good huntsmen Russell was a good field naturalist and very observant. On one occasion he had drawn one of the best coverts blank [i.e., it had failed to produce a fox] when he noticed a thistle in the field. He said to a man standing by, 'Want to earn a shilling? Smell the top of that thistle, then smell it all the way down.' The man did so and sniffed heartily at the stem of the thistle. He was nearly at the bottom, when he gave a snort of disgust. A fox had cocked his leg there. 'There's a fox here somewhere,' said Russell, put his hound back into covert, found the fox and killed him after a good hunt of one hour, forty minutes."
A man like that deserves to have a dog named after him. He would do almost anything to hunt fox. He would ride after his hounds, less interested in killing the fox than in chasing it, and when the fox went to ground, it was time for the terrier to go to work. Parson Jack preferred a longer-legged terrier that could run behind the hounds, rather than a runty one that had to be carried on horseback, so there was usually a short delay while the terrier caught up with the pack. Then the terrier (which derives its name from the Latin terra: earth) would locate the hole which the fox had entered and would go to earth. This is why it was important that Trump was the size of a vixen. When it came upon the fox underground, a good terrier wouldn't attack its prey (which would mean the end of the hunt and, occasionally, the end of the terrier), but would bark excitedly, dodging in to nip the fox so that the poor beast would not be entirely unwilling to bolt out of its hiding place to face the hounds again. In this way Russell could dig to the two animals, pull his terrier out by the tail and hold back his hounds while the fox dashed out. After a suitable head start, the hounds were released and the hunt was on again.