Friday, December 04, 2009

A Brief History of the JRTCA

This post is recycled from November of 2005

Five years after the American Working Terrier Association was created, Mrs. Alisia Crawford, one of the first Jack Russell Terrier breeders in the U.S., founded the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America (JRTCA).

Ms. Crawford and the early founders of the Jack Russell Terrier Club put a lot of thought into structuring the JRTCA so that work remained front and center.

Towards that end, the club decided that its highest award — the “Bronze Medallion” — would not go to show dogs, but to working dogs that had demonstrated their ability in the field by working at least three of six types of American quarry — red fox, gray fox, raccoon, groundhog, possum, or badger — in front of a JRTCA-certified field judge.

In the show ring the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America decided to ban professional handlers as it was thought this would make the shows less serious (and more fun) while keeping the focus on the essential element of work.

Instead of mandating the kind of narrow conformation ranges demanded by the American Kennel Club for their terrier breeds, the JRTCA decided to divide the diverse world of the Jack Russell Terrier into three coat types (smooth, broken and rough), and two sizes (10 inches tall to 12.5 inches tall, and 12.5 inches tall to 15 inches tall).

“Different horses for different courses” became the watchword, with overt recognition that different quarry, different earths, and different climates required different dogs.

Unlike the Kennel Club, the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America also decided to maintain an “open” registry so that new blood might be infused at times. At the same time, the JRTCA discouraged inbreeding and eventually restricted line breeding to a set percentage.

To balance off an open-registry with the desire to keep Jack Russell-type dogs looking like Jack Russells, the JRTCA decided not to allow dogs to be registered at birth or to register entire litters. Instead, each adult dog would be photographed from both sides and the front, with each dog admitted to the registry on its own merit. In addition, each dog had to be measured for height and chest span.

This last element turned out to be quite important, as it meant that the height and chest measurements of adult dogs were recorded as they were registered. Over time, both height and chest size of adult dogs could be tracked through pedigrees — an essential element of breeding correctly-sized working terriers.

The JRTCA was not shy about their rationale for these rules: they openly and emphatically opposed AKC registration, maintaining that time had show that dogs brought into the Kennel Club quickly grew too big and often lost other essential working attributes such as nose, voice, and prey drive.

Today the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America is the largest Jack Russell Terrier club and registry in the world, and its Annual National Trial attracts approximately 1,200 Jack Russell terriers from all over the U.S. and Canada.

The JRTCA’s small professional staff cranks out a bimonthly magazine that is 80-100 pages long, holds a regular schedule of dog shows, and sells Deben locator collars and fox nets for the working terrier enthusiast.

The web site of the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America is packed with well-presented information, high-quality graphics, and a user-friendly layout, and reflects the full diversity of the Jack Russell Terrier community, from pet to performance, and from show to field work.

Perhaps the most important service work of the JRTCA has been the ads the Club routinely runs in all-breed publications warning people that Jack Russell Terriers are not a dog for everyone, are primarily a hunting dog, and are not like the cute dogs seen on TV and in the movies.

1 comment:

nat said...

They deserve all the accolades they can get. I stopped paying attention to the inner workings of the club around the the time the AKC accepted the "Parson", because there was so much drama going down and I no longer had a recorded family dog nearby to take to trials, but the people involved really do have the best interest of the breed at heart and in mind.