|RIP Eddie Chapman. A re-post from 2005|
Eddie Chapman's book, The Working Jack Russell Terrier, is one of the best books written on working terriers.
It is a very short book -- just over 100 pages long including 35 illustrations -- but it is enough because Chapman has something to say, and says it plain and without a lot of wind-up.
A key theme of the book is that a useful dog has to be small in the chest. Chapman writes:
"There is one point of a study dog's anatomy which is more important than any other and that is the size of the chest, or rib diameter if you like. The standard states that a Jack Russell should be capable of being spanned by the hands behind the shoulder blades. This, to my mind, is extremely misleading as any adult man and most women have a hand span which is bigger than the chest of an average fox. I am a small man and have reasonably small hands, but in more than 20 years in which I have handled well over 1000 foxes, I have never handled a full grown fox which came anywhere near the span of my hands.... It therefore follows that if I pick up a dog and can only just span him with a squeeze, then the dog cannot get to a fox in a tight place and a dog that cannot get to a fox in a tight place cannot be considered a Jack Russell. Either you are breeding a dog that is suitable to work fox or, if he is too big to get to a fox, you are just breeding for looks. This, of course, is what happened to the pedigree Fox Terrier and look where that has got him!"
Chapman writes later on in the book:
"[The Rev. Jack Russell] hunted the Exmoor area and was master of the North Devon Hounds. I know the country well and have worked my terriers in most of the Exmoor Earths off and on for nearly twenty years and at one time I was there professionally. So I think I can claim to know what sort of terrier is needed to work those earths efficiently. The earths in Exmoor are the same as those in which Mr. Russell worked his dogs. . . .
There are many hunt countries that have earths similar to the Exmoor and so they find it necessary to use the standard, small-chested Russell Terrier. I do not think I would be wrong if I spoke for all their men and said that good small dogs have a definite advantage over good big dogs in their bigger earths. They have more manoeuvreability in the bigger earths and the big dogs are useless in the small earths because of the size of their chests, so they are very limited in their use .... On the working side, I think if we look at the country as a whole, I think we will find that the most used size is between 10 and a half inches and twelve and a half inches."
The Working Jack Russell Terrier can be ordered from Coch-Y-Bonddu Books in Wales. This book is well worth the price, with nice chapters on handling fox, a chapter on locators/bleepers (I find it amazing that so many recent books never even mention them!) and hints on how to breed a proper-sized dog.
For other books on working terriers see Read Country Books. For the only practical book written on American working terriers, go here.