The Westminster Kennel Club show starts next week, and so it seems fitting to review the history of that show, which is the biggest and most famous in the U.S.
The Dog Show by William Stifel (2003, Westminster Kennel Club) is a very well-done coffee table book celebratrating the 125th anniversary of the Westminster Kennel Club.
It also -- rather unintentionally -- tells the story of how rapidly the white foxing terrier, which we now know as the Jack Russell Terrier, was destroyed by the vagaries of Kennel Club matrons. A quick summation:
- The first "Best in Show" winner at Westminster was awarded in 1907 to a smooth Fox Terrier that looked very much like today's Jack Russell.
- Fox Terriers won again in 1908, 1909, 1910, 1911, 1915, 1916, 1917, 1926, 1928, 1930, 1931, 1934, 1937 and 1942.
- A Sealyham (another working breed ruined by the show ring) won in 1924, 1927 and 1936.
- Airedales made Best in Show in 1912, 1919, 1920, 1933, and 1936.
- A Bull Terrier went Best In Show in 1918.
- A Welsh Terrier went Best in Show in 1944.
It was during this period of time that the face of the Fox Terrier was elongated and the chest enlarged by show ring breeders.
Prior to World War II, if you were really intent on wining the top award at a dog show, you got into Fox Terriers.
Probably no breed could have survived such intent attention without being wrecked by fad.
The Fox Terrier certainly did not.
Today, Fox Terriers are not found working in the field because, with few exceptions, their chests are too big to get to ground in a tight earth.
In 1990 the U.K. Kennel Club admitted on to its roles a dog they called the "Parson Jack Russell Terrier," a name just invented for the occassion.
The dog was, in fact, nothing more than a Jack Russell Terrier -- the unimproved Fox Terrier that had existed prior to the Kennel Club's creation.
In 1999 The Kennel Club changed the name of the dog to the "Parson Russell Terrier," (another name invented whole-cloth by Kennel Club theorists) to distinguish the Kennel Club dog from working Jack Russell Terriers still found in the field.
Today, Parson Russell Terriers, in both the U.K and the U.S. are rarely found at work in the field.
Why? Simple because once again their chests have grown too large.