Sunday, March 02, 2008

Canine Achondroplastic Dwarves

A "puddin'" Jack Russell is a dog that is an achondroplastic dwarf. The clear visual signs of this genetic condition are a large chest on short, benched or "Queen Anne" legs. These dogs are also referred to as "shorties" by some people, and as "Irish Jacks" by others.

An achondroplastic dwarf is an animal that cannot run as fast as a well built dog, and it's chest will often be too large for it to go to ground, no matter how much they have "the fire called desire."

Achondroplastic dwarfs are not smaller dogs -- they are almost always larger in the only way that really counts when hunting, which is chest size.

Though an achondroplastic dwarf terrier may be only 10 inches tall, it may be anywhere from 15 to 20 pounds in weight due to the huge chest, big bones, and large head.

Breeds commonly associated with achondroplastic dwarfism are basset hounds, dachshunds, shih-tzus, pekingese, sharpeis and English and French bulldogs. These dog always have limbs that are shorter than their body and often have over-large heads as well.

Achondroplastic dwarfism is a genetic defect and should not be perpetuated. This is not "just another type of small dog" -- this is a dog with non-proportional limbs and very clear symptoms caused by a genetic defect.. "Achondroplasia" literally means "an absence of good shape" and refers to a distortion of the legs (as in the Dachshund and Jack Russell) or head (as in the English Bulldog). Achonodroplasia is associated with back problems, weight problems, and patella problems, as the short legs make it more difficult for the dogs to run, while any added weight further compromises an already unsound skeletal system.

Some ill-informed breeders are intentionally breeding achondroplastic dwarf dogs because they think they are "cute." This is a very bad turn of events, as it simply increases the genetic load on all dogs. The UKC dogs being bred as "Russell Terriers" are often (though not always) achondroplastic dwarves.

A "puddin" Jack Russell terrier does NOT have a different nature or temperament than a regular Jack Russell terrier; they are just as likely to be a cat chaser, hamster killer, and back-yard garden digger, and will do just as poorly in a home where training, exercises, and physical activity is not provided. The defective gene that causes achondroplastic dwarfism is not tied to temperament or personality in any way, shape or form.

Puddin Jack Russell terriers are generally happy and active dogs that seem to enjoy life and they, in turn, should be enjoyed and loved. Please do not breed more achondroplastic dwarfs, however. There are more than enough Jack Russell Terriers in the world looking for pet homes right now. The world does not need more "cute" dogs and it does not need more dogs with genetic problems. Every day perfectly wonderful and cute dogs are being put down in shelters across the U.S., and their only crime is that they are not a puppies.

If you are looking for a pet Jack Russell terrier, the place to start is with Russell Rescue.


Anonymous said...

I've read the UKC standard for the Russell Terrier, and it certainly does not sound like the dogs you are describing as dwarves.
It specifies straight legs and a chest that is not too large. Weight within a pound or two of inch per height.
These dogs are just shorter and longer, not deformed.
Yvonne Moore

b rad said...

Wow..... interesting!
I'm not sure or certain that my dog is a dwarf or not.
We refer to her as a shorty or "Irish JRT".

PBurns said...

The UKC breeders who are members of the clubs are pretty clear on their web sites that many of them are breeding crooked-legged "puddins". In fact, that fact is given a hard nod on a link off of the home page of the UKC club. Do these UKC folks want to get rid of the crooked legs in their registry? Perhaps, but that's pretty hard when you have so many puppy peddlers and so many crooked legged dogs. Look here, for example >> They are proud to be be selling puddins and happy to sell you a dachshund cross as a hunting terrier too :) "Welcome to the World of the SHORTY JACK RUSSELL TERRIER" indeed!

No worries -- nice pets I will bet, and all speed to them. But if you want a working dog, and you want a dog that would not embarass John Russell in the field if he were alive today, then there is still only one dog called a Jack Russell Terrier.


Anonymous said...

Yes, the UKC Russell folks seem willing to register just about anything. Examples: See where they say theyir dogs are EJRTCA, UKC Registered and that they
are "Raising Puddin Size Shortie Jack Russell Terriers that are 'Distinctively Different'". Many, many other examples.

Unknown said...

UKC recognized the short-legged dogs as Russell Terriers on January 1, 2001. This is where UKC officially recognizes the dwarf form.

The UKC Jack Russell Terrier _should_ NOT be the shorty, puddin or dwarf variety.


Daniel Gauss said...

While not on the list of breeds you mentioned, I do remember an achondroplastic Borzoi.. I'm thinking this is pretty rare for a sighthound breed. If I recall, his name was Bilbo Baggins. Appropriate, I think.

Anonymous said...

Achondroplasia means absence of development of cartilage.

PBurns said...

Well yes, but that hardly tells you what achondroplasia is, right? As notes, it is a type of dwarfism. One can say it is caused by "autosomal dominant mutation in the fibroblast growth factor receptor gene 3" which sounds rather grand, but that just obscures the simpler reality. See or any other medical text. There are a LOT of tyes of dwarfism -- achondroplasia is just one -- but it is far and away the most common type in dogs.


Anonymous said...

One other dwarf breed that you forgot- the Cardigan Welsh Corgi (their relative, the Pembroke Welsh Corgi, which probably descends from the vallhund, is a straightlegged dwarf breed.)

Weirdly though, the Cardi is significantly healthier than the Pem. For most of its modern history, it's been a nice little obscure breed. Unfortunately, the popularity is shooting up even in the near-decade I've been in the breed and soundness has suffered for it.

Anonymous said...

My experience with the short-legged Jack Russells is that most behave like the long-legged ones. However, my relatives had one that had a very calm temperament. But he was aloof and moody. I much prefer their Jack Russell/border terrier cross. She's a much more biddable dog, but she still has her hunting instincts. (She recently tried to help me release some pheasants).

I also liked my grandpa's old JRTCA tricolor bitch. She was a very game game dog, with lots of "honorable scars" from wars with groundhogs, raccoons, and feral cats. She decided to take on coyotes one day, and that was her Waterloo.

My grandpa got her, expecting her to have the "feist" or "rat terrier" temperament, which is a more common type where I live. This is the squirrel dog of West Virginia. He was pleasantly suprised that she was not only a good squirrel treeing dog, but that the dog could also go to ground. The only dog he ever had that could do both was a standard dachshund, a dog purchased as a pet but proved to be a tenacious small game dog as he matured.

Feists and rat terriers really lack the gameness of a Jack Russell. Feists and rat terriers can be put together in packs, but if you put more than three jacks together, you will eventually have a nice terrier scrap on your hands. I didn't believe it until I saw it happen at a family reunion.

What I hate is that Jack Russells have become a fad dog. Wishbone or Eddie. What they didn't tell you is that Eddie, whose real name was "Moose" who was such a game terrier that he killed cats and never listened to a single command-- that's how he wound up at the professional trainer's establishment-- that he was an inappropriate pet.

My grandfather's dear "Cabbage" would have never made it as a pet. She preferred to be after the groundhogs all day, hunting either with my grandpa or his crossbred beagle, whose sense of smell was an asset to the pair.

Those dogs were lucky to live on a 75 acre hunting preserve and also have access to a 200 acre hunting camp. If they didn't have that sort of exercise, they would've both been absolute terrors.

Although Cabbage's life was cut short, her crossbred beagle partner made it to the ripe old age of 18. A testimony to the virtues of random breeding and lots of exercise.

Unknown said...

I have been researching dwarfism in dog breeds and have two questions I've been unable to find answers for:

(1) Are the Norwich or Norfolk Terriers associated with dwarfism? They have short legs, but I could find no reference to dwarfism in these breeds.

(2) Why is the Shar-Pei associated with dwarfism, when their legs are proportional to their bodies?

PBurns said...

Norwich and Norfolk terries are not achondroplastic. Sharpeis are to some extent, but there is some taxonomic disagreement here. The head on the dog is enormous, and the back is shortened, which is why it makes it on some lists and not on some others. For the record, I am talking about the achondroplastic Jack Russells and their limitations as hunting dogs in this post.

Connemara said...

If you have a JRT that is Achondroplastic, it is probably going to have joint issues sooner than later. So it would make sense that they probably do not make great hunting partners.

Not all breeders of the shorter legged version are breeding dwarfs though. Some are working towards and committed to getting rid of the queen anne, benched leg look. Some do health test their dogs and others actively hunt with them. Some are active in the breed with agility and training and are not looking to sell/push 5-10 litters of pups each month.

The breeders mentioned above (in other posts) are all part of the EJRTCA - Their breeder referral page is basically a semi-organized group of the who's-who-of backyard-breeders. The group does nothing for the breed. ...Unless you count promoting dwarfism, and setting up and selling a score of dogs to new BYB. Otherwise, their contribution to the breed is sad and disgusting at best.

I am also into the shorter version of Jack Russell myself, and I would never associate myself with them.

PBurns said...

An achondroplastic dog is not just a bad dog for hunting due to likely joint problems -- it is a bad pet if it has joint problem (and it may very well have heart problems too). Anyone who is breeding achondroplastic dogs is guilty of breeding freaks for profit -- and winking at defect, deformity and disease in order to pocket cash.

I know no one in the world of Russell Terriers who is actually hunting their dogs regularly underground. If you have names and emails of peole who actually own locator collars, dig, and have pictures, let me know. There is not reason the small non-achondroplastic dogs should not be able work -- I think the problem is mostly up the leash, not down.


Connemara said...

Working them or not is not the biggest concern in the Russell Terrier world right now. Breeding, promoting and glamorizing cute wittle dwarfs with health issues is a bigger problem.

I am not sure how to get the word out to the general public looking for a Jack Russell that the dwarfed, "Puddin" version is incorrect and unhealthy. I have talked until blue in the face about this for years. Yet the EJRTCA types continue to multiply and infect the Jack Russell world.

Most looking for a Jack Russell Terrier have no plans to work it in the field. Most want a pet and some will do agility, flyball, lure cursing and other sports with them. Setting the whole to work or not issue aside, the dwarfs are taking over because people are buying the BS they are selling.

Keep writing about it though- I found your site - Hopefully others will too. Education is a wonderful thing. I myself continue to learn and re-evaluate often.

PBurns said...

The are a LOT of folks hunting Jack Russell Terrier. I simply know no one who works the UKC Russell Terriers. If you do, I was interested. In my opinion, we need more show dogs and lap dogs like we need another brand of light beer.


Connemara said...


I don't personally know too many of the UKC crowd of "Russell Terriers". Most that I have come across are either ribbon chasers or simply registering their dogs so they can say; 'buy my puppies - they have papers".

I do believe that Turning Leaf in the Carolina's hunts with hers. Then there is a Liz McKinney in Virginia maybe? That has said she does as well. I do not know for fact though, if any UKC people are working their JRTs (Russells) and if so, at what level.

Connemara said...

I was re-reading this topic and I think people are confused. When the UKC allowed the JRT in, they had some issues with the name. So they ended up calling the JRT a "Russell Terrier".

I do not believe now or then that the intent was to register and legitimize the dwarfed version. However, many of these types were let in. And now if a breeder wants to say their dwarfs are registered, they go to UKC or the EJRTCA to register them. The UKC is allowing it even though the standard calls for straight legs. The EJRTCA embraces that look and I believe they allow 8-9" tall ones in as well.

I don't think they were trying to create another breed altogether. Am I wrong? I might be.

PBurns said...

The UKC is a for-profit organization and will register pretty much anything. The UKC Russell community was created out of anger and spite, not because of a need. So far as I can see, it seems to mostly be ribbon chasers and puppy peddlers. I know of no one who was not digging in the JRTCA who is now digging in the UKC. I have no problem at ALL with the small dogs -- I prefer them far and away. But you either fence up to keep out puddin's or you don't, and you either have true history or you don't. The Australian history/origins is nonsense, and the breeding of puddins is a disgrace. Ultimately, there are only two kinds of Jack Russell Terriers, not matter what you call them: those that are worked, and everything else. Just as farm country is not farm country without farmers, so is a Jack Russell not a Jack Russell without field work. The Rev. Russell defined his dogs by what they DID in the field, not by ribbons in the ring.


Connemara said...

Well said.

Anton said...

Not all short JRT are dwarves or achondroplastic. I don't believe the one pictured is either.

The miniature breeds of dogs with short legs are not either, like the mini dachshund.

I have seen achondroplastic JRTs certainly but these seem to be few and far between these days. They have a lot of bone (bent) and the heads are huge.

The dog pictured here has legs that are far too petite for achondroplasism and its head is in proportion. It has hound like ears yes, maybe beagle or dachshund influence.

A lot of fiddling goes on with JRTs and petite breeds have and continue to be used in their creation. Some are excellent and game, others neurotic skinny things but basically all sorts, the type determined by the breeders whims.

What is exactly a JRT in America Im not sure, looking in from outside? Each country seems in fact to have their own versions, creations. I like some of the South African ones and Australian. Personal preference. The achondroplastic sort seems to have almost vanished in favour of an all round smaller shorter but well muscled dog which I personally like a lot.

They have proportion and slender bone. Some do have bent legs but this is just a selection problem in breeding not true dwarfism. A "deviation" of the pasterns mostly though they dont seem to display any weakness at all.

Unknown said...

The sweetest, calmest, most affectionate and best dog we ever had that everyone who came over loved was a dwarf JRT that we rescued from the SPCA. She was, of course, neutered. She lived a long time, probably 14 or more years. While breeding them is not a good practice, adopting one may bring your family great not.