This post is a reprint from December of 2005
Histories are always an interesting thing, as are breed standards and the all-breed dog books.
I have found that all of these things seem to copy each other, with one bit of idiocy begetting another, so that now about half of the all-breed books say a border terrier is 10 inches tall. I suppose we will soon discover that John Russell bought a dog named "Milkman" from a man named Trump, and that a Border Terrier was named after the "South of the Border" franchise!
In that vein, I was on the web site of the breeders association for the AKC "Parson" Russell Terrier, and found an interesting history that made me laugh. There are several things poorly phrased in this history, but I will not quibble with the small parts, but focus on the main.
The PRTAA breed history begins, "The Parson Russell Terrier was first bred in the south of England in the mid-1800's to hunt European red fox ..."
Good up to there, I suppose, though the dog predates John Russell (he had no problem finding a white foxing terrier to mate to Trump!) and was not called a "Russell" terrier (of any type) until after the Reverend was stone dead. In the mid 1800s they were fox terriers or foxing terriers until the Kennel Club ruined the breed and disgraced the name.
I suppose that one should also note that there is no such thing as a "European" red fox; there is only a red fox, and it is the same animal all over the world, from Israel to England, and from Canada to California. The fact that the American red fox is the same as the "European " variety -- and is in fact an import from the U.K. -- will no doubt come as a surprise to the theorists in the Kennel Club.
The history goes on to note that "Rev. Russell was a founding member of England's Kennel Club in 1873, and in 1874 he judged fox terriers for The Kennel Club."
Well yes, this is true, but there is a bit more isn't there? Russell was 78 years old when the Kennel Club was created -- an old man broken by poverty who had been forced to sell off his pack of hounds because he could no longer afford to keep them. He judged one of the very first Kennel Club shows, but his remarks at that show are notable. As he somewhat humorously described his own terriers after going to the show and seeing the Transvestite dogs being paraded around the ring: "True terriers [my dogs] were, but differing from the present show dogs as the wild eglantine differs from a garden rose."
Russell never did register his own terriers with the Kennel Club, noting that the things selected for at shows (color of the nose, placement of the ear, etc.) were of no use to a working terrier in the field. As far as I can tell, he judged only one show, found it an amusing disgrace, and never repeated the mistake!
The PRTAA history goes on: "The first breed Standard was drafted in 1904 by Arthur Heinemann, who founded the Parson Jack Russell Terrier Club in 1914."
In fact what Heinemann founded was the Devon and Somerset Badger Digging Club, and he founded it in 1902, the same year he bought the Cheriton Otterhounds. Heinemann never met Russell (he was only 12 when Russell died) and his dogs were not descended from Russell's dogs (Russell had only only four very old terriers at the end).
The PRTAA web site goes on: "The JRTAA standard was based upon the Heinemann standard and was written to represent the Parson Russell Terrier as a working terrier to red fox and red fox alone."
Really? A digging club called the "Devon and Somerset Badger Club" wrote a breed standard for an animal they were not working??? What an odd thing.
In fact it is pure bunk invented by people who do not dig and who have conveniently cut down the history to fit their nonworking dogs.
In the world of show dogs fantasy feeds more than substance, and more dirt is thrown with a computer keyboard than with a shovel in the field.
The world of the working terrier allows for different sized dogs for different earths, situations and quarries. Different wrenches for different nuts, so to speak.
A badger sette and a fox pipe are not the same size, nor are the animals that dig them. A fox may put up in a badger earth, in which case a larger dog can be used, or it may put up in a drain, in which case a larger dog can be used, but a European badger earth and a natural fox den are not the same size. If you are hunting fox you need a dog capable of following an animal with a 14" chest -- it's that simple.
The true history of the AKC breed standard seems to be that they have a breed standard written by a badger digging club that they are now presenting as a breed standard for working red fox in a natural earth.
No wonder there are so few Kennel Club dogs found in the field! It's a bit like an American mechanic showing up at a Volvo factory and wondering why none of his wrenches fit!
- Related Posts:
Heinemann and Russell: A Chronology
The Transvestite Terriers of Westminster
If John Russell Were Alive Today
A Terrible Beauty: The Ugly Side of Dog Shows
The Accuracy of the Internet