Jack Russell (priest)

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Jack Russell
Russell dressed in his hunting clothes
Born(1795-12-21)21 December 1795
Darthmouth, Devon, England
Died28 April 1883(1883-04-28) (aged 87)
Black Torrington, Devon, England
Resting placeSwimbridge, Devon, England
Alma materExeter College, Oxford
Known forDog breeder

John "Jack" Russell (21 December 1795 – 28 April 1883), was an English parson who served as vicar of Swimbridge from 1832 to 1872. An enthusiastic fox-hunter and dog breeder,[1] Russell developed the Jack Russell Terrier and the Parson Russell Terrier, both of which are a variety of the Fox Terrier breed.[2]

Early life[edit]

Russell was born on 21 December 1795 in Dartmouth, South Devon, the eldest son of John Russell and Nora Jewell.[3] He lived at Sandhill House.

He was educated at Plympton Grammar School, Blundell's School, Tiverton[4] and Exeter College, Oxford.

Sporting career[edit]

According to local legend, it was at Exeter College where he spotted a little white terrier with dark tan spots over her eyes, ears and at the tip of her tail, who was owned by a local milkman in a nearby small hamlet, identified as either Elsfield[5] or Marston[6][7]. Russell bought the dog on the spot and this animal, called "Trump", became the foundation of a line of fox hunting terriers that became known as Jack Russell Terriers. They were well-suited by the shortness and strength of their legs for digging out foxes which had "gone to earth" having been hunted over-ground by fox hounds.

Russell was a founding member of The Kennel Club.[8] He helped to write the breed standard for the Fox Terrier (Smooth) and became a respected judge. He did not show his own fox terriers on the conformation bench, saying that the difference between his dogs and the conformation dogs could be likened to the difference between wild and cultivated flowers.

Clerical career[edit]

In 1832, Russell was appointed vicar of Swimbridge in North Devon, where the local public house was renamed the "Jack Russell Inn" and still stands today. He was also rector of Black Torrington in Devon.[9] At Swimbridge, Russell enjoyed a hectic social life, with formal dining, charity fundraising, and an active career as a Freemason.[10]


In 1836, at Swimbridge he married Penelope Incledon-Bury, third daughter and co-heiress of Vice-Admiral Richard Incledon-Bury (1757-1825), Royal Navy, lord of the manor of Colleton, Chulmleigh in Devon,[11] who resided at Dennington, Swimbridge. Russell is said to have had expensive sporting habits both on and off the hunting-field, which drained the substantial resources of his heiress wife and left the estate of Colleton in poor condition.[12]

Death and burial[edit]

Russell died on 28 April 1883 at Black Torrington Receptory, and was buried in the churchyard of St. James's Church, Swimbridge, where he had served as vicar for 40 years.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Parson Russell Terrier Club, UK - Introduction to the breed". Parsonrussellterrierclub.co.uk. Archived from the original on 5 May 2011. Retrieved 13 April 2011.
  2. ^ "A Field Guide to the English Clergy' Butler-Gallie, F p90: London, Oneworld Publications, 2018 ISBN 9781786074416
  3. ^ Lee, Sidney, ed. (1897). "Russell, John (1795-1883)" . Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. 49. London: Smith, Elder & Co. p. 464.
  4. ^ "Famous OBs". blundells.org. Archived from the original on 5 June 2011. Retrieved 13 April 2011.
  5. ^ Davies, Norman (1 January 1996). Europe: A History. Oxford University Press. p. 343. ISBN 978-0-19-820171-7.
  6. ^ From the civil war to Jack Russell breed by Chris Koenig, Oxford Times 25 January 2007
  7. ^ "A brief history of the Jack Russell - Jack Russell Terrier UK". Jack-russell-terrier.co.uk. Archived from the original on 2 April 2011. Retrieved 13 April 2011.
  8. ^ "Plentiful Run Parson Russell Terriers - About Us". Dogwebs.net. Archived from the original on 23 July 2011. Retrieved 13 April 2011.
  9. ^ Vivian, p.499
  10. ^ Hörter, Ria (2012). "Parson John (Jack) Russell and the Jack Russell Terrier". The Canine Chronicle. Retrieved 16 April 2019.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  11. ^ Vivian, Lt.Col. J.L., (Ed.) The Visitations of the County of Devon: Comprising the Heralds' Visitations of 1531, 1564 & 1620, Exeter, 1895, p.499, pedigree of Incledon
  12. ^ Lauder, Rosemary Anne, A Tale of Two Rivers, Bideford, 1986, p.72
  13. ^ "History of Swimbridge Parish Church of St. James". swimbridgeparishchurch.org. Retrieved 4 December 2013.

Further reading[edit]

  • Parson Jack Russell: The Hunting Legend 1795-1883 by Charles Noon, Halsgrove Publishers.
  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. 2004. {{cite encyclopedia}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  • Baker, Margaret Mitford. Jack Russell, hunting parson of old Devon. Devon Life vol. 7 no. 56 (1971) pp. 37. [1796-1833]
  • Davies, E.W.L. A memoir of the Rev. John Russell and his out-of-door life. (New ed.) London: Richard Bentley & Son, (1883), portrait, xii, 397 pp. [Index]
  • Kerr, Eleanor. Hunting parson: the life and times of the Reverend John Russell. London: Herbert Jenkins (1963) 192p, plates: ill.
  • Lamplugh, Lois. Parson Jack Russell of Swimbridge. Swimbridge: Wellspring (1994) [ii], 27p: ill, ports [ISBN 0951534734]
  • Noon, C. Parson Jack Russell: The Hunting Legend 1995–1883, Halsgrove Press, Tiverton (2000) 144 pp. [ISBN 1841140503]
  • Pepper, Frank S. Parson Jack Russell. Swimbridge: Church Council (1981) 8p. [Westcountry Studies Library - p920/RUS]
  • Lifetime Passion for All Forms of Hunting: The Sporting Parson The Reverend John Russell. Devon Family Historian 84 (1997) pp. 2–3. [The Hunting Parson who bred the Jack Russell terrier]