The Jack Russell Terrier was originally bred in Devonshire, England, in the 1800s for the purpose of hunting fox. They get their name from the Rev. Jack Russell who, besides his ministry, had a passion for the fox hunt.
The fox hunt is a deeply routed rural tradition of England. Many animal activists object to the hunt as they see it to be a cruel, barbaric sport elicited by the idle rich. The fox hunt is carried out by trained working dogs, which pursue a fox until the ultimate kill. The dogs are followed by humans either on foot but mostly on horseback. For the advocates of the fox hunt, it is more than a sport. It is a method for conservation and pest control. In North America, the pesky coyotes is the "tod" or target predator of the hunt.
Traditionally hounds which are the working dogs trained for the hunt are used in the pursuit of the fox and other prey. Terriers were bred specifically for the purpose of fox hunting because of their ability to furrow underground.
From body stature to temperament, the Jack Russell Terrier exudes hunting. His body is well balanced, strong and flexible. He is built this way in order to maneuver himself into fox holes and run in underground burrows to chase and catch his prey. He is intelligent, bold, steadfast and flexible. He will do anything to catch the fox, woodchuck, rat or whatever the prey of the day will be will.
However there is a downside, the Jack Russell is so determined to catch his prey that he will stay underground in pursuit to the point of his own death. In other words he will stay underground for days on end without food or water.
The usefulness of this little dog is insurmountable. They are noted for hunting vermin. The farmer has long employed the Jack Russell Terrier to hunt raccoons, rats, possums and other pests, which destroy their stock and crops. This little terrier is a whiz at jumping into holes after raccoons and rats and coming out 50 feet away from another hole entirely. They are relentless, going anywhere and doing anything necessary to catch their prey. They are also used down by river banks to catch what prey that is menacing the area.
Although there are the standard dog showing for Jack Russell Terriers, where the animal who most closely matches the breed standards wins, the JRTCA is committed to recognizing the working dog that the Russell Terrier was bred to be. Working awards are the highest order of awards given to terriers by the JRTCA. These awards are: "the Natural Hunting Certificate and the Bronze Medallion for Special Merit in the Field."