Rat Terrier vs Jack Russell Terrier – Which is Better? Dog vs. Dog
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The Jack Russell Terrier and the Rat Terrier,
two distinct breeds, bred from different origins
for entirely different work, yet the two have
a lot in common and they’re both easy to
Let’s compare these two highly intelligent
dogs in our on-going series, Dog vs. Dog.
Let’s get started, but before we start,
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In the 19th and early 20th centuries, we see
the emergence of a new type of dog out of
the US, the Rat Terrier.
The Rat Terrier was bred to be an all-purpose
farm dog whose job was to kill rats and other
vermin as well as to hunt small game.
The Rat Terrier has a highly diverse background.
His ancestors include Fox Terriers and various
other types of terriers, Beagles, Whippets,
Italian Greyhounds, and dogs known as feists.
The Whippet and Italian Greyhound blood added
speed, while the Beagle brought in scenting
ability and a pack mentality.
The result was a dog with speed, versatility,
a good nose, and an agreeable disposition.
In the early 20th century, this was one of
the dogs you were most likely to see on a
farm in the US, as a compact yet capable working
Though not as common, the Rattie can still
be found hunting vermin on American farms
In the early 1800s across the Atlantic in
England, Reverend John Russell, a parson with
a passion for fox hunting, developed a strain
of speedy fox hunting terriers from the now
extinct English White Terrier, a breed that
was bred to be white in color so they could
be distinguished from the prey they were pursuing.
As the need for the need for hunting dogs
began to decline drastically after the second
global conflict, the Jack Russell’s numbers
also started to decline.
At that point, the breed increasingly was
kept primarily as family and companion dogs,
which the Jack is still quite popular for
This breed line eventually broke off into
the Parson Russell Terrier, which is considered
by some to be a better hunting dog because
of its longer legs.
The two breeds are comparable in size, but
the Rat Terrier, being of a more varied origin
can often be quite a bit larger than the JRT.
On average, the Jack Russell weighs between
13-17 pounds at a height of 10-15 inches,
while the Rattie can weigh anywhere between
10-24 pounds with heights between 10-18 inches.
Coat and Colors
Both dogs have a short, easy-care coat that
requires little to no grooming other than
regular brushing to help with sometimes intense
While the Rat Terrier is typically a smooth-coated
dog, Jack ’s weatherproof coat can be smooth,
broken, or rough, and is either all white
or white with black or tan markings.
Rat Terriers come in what’s called a “pied”
pattern: large patches of one or more colors
Colors you’ll see are black, chocolate,
red, apricot, blue, fawn, tan, lemon or white,
with or without tan markings.
Both breeds are family-pack oriented dogs
and neither is prone to showing alpha behavior,
making the good companions.
The Rat Terrier stands out for its outgoing,
It loves to be with people,
The Rattie generally isn’t much of a barker,
but he is vocal and will “talk” to you
frequently by grousing, grumbling, and mumbling,
as well as by using his paws to get your attention.
The active little Rattie is a great friend
to children who will throw a ball for it,
teach it tricks, and otherwise spend time
It’s not unusual to see a Rattie and child
napping together under a blankie.
This relationship works best when the dog
is raised with children from puppyhood.
When it comes to children, the Jack may not
be as receptive, they are not patient with
having their ears or tail pulled and won’t
hesitate to growl or nip if driven past their
limit of tolerance.
Overall the Jack is friendly and outgoing
and loves to work, and by work, we mean hunt.
And, sometimes this will be the only thing
on your Jack’s mind.
They both can be regarded as versatile dog
breeds with many capabilities.
Both breeds are highly intelligent and eager
to please and not distracted easily from their
The Rat Terrier does have a slight advantage
over the Jack in that it can be more focused
and patient with training, where the Jack
with his much higher energy levels wants to
go do something else after a short period
But, with patience, the Jack Russell can be
trained, as if you were alive in the 90s,
you probably remember two of the most highly
trained Jacks ever: Wishbone and Eddie, the
dog on Frasier.
With either breed, start training early.
Next, to the word energy in the dictionary,
you will find a picture of a Jack Russell.
This can make it a little difficult to live
with unless you are able to channel its energy.
The Jack must have a job to do, and careful
supervision or it will take your house apart
in its search for something interesting to
Daily exercise—a lot of it—is a must.
You should consider getting your Jack into
a dog sport such as earthdog trials, terrier
races or agility.
The Rat Terrier can be a bit less energetic
and ready to sit on the couch watching YouTube,
but the Rattie is still a highly energetic
dog that can run at speeds up to 27 miles
Like the Jack, the Rat Terrier needs daily
walks, although you can take more leisurely
walks and burn some doggy calories with an
indoor game of fetch.
Health and Lifespan
Overall, the Jack Russell Terrier and the
Rat Terrier are healthy breeds with relatively
The Jack can be prone to deafness and Glaucoma,
while the Rat Terrier can suffer from eye
problems, heart problems, and hip dysplasia.
Generally, the Rattie lives a bit longer at
12-18 years, compared to the Jack Russell
at 10-15 years.
So who do you think wins this Terrier Tussle
between Britain’s Jack Russell Terrier and
America’s Rat Terrier.
Declare victory in the comments below.
If there are other breeds you’d like us
to compare, shout them out, we’ll give them
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