by   David Hancock

In our contemporary terrier breed list we have a group of mainly white small terriers bearing rather casually-bestowed breed titles, ranging from the functionally-named Fox Terrier (in two coat textures), the Parson Russell Terrier, the ubiquitous Jack Russell, the Sealyham and the Sporting Lucas. We could so easily have had other names featuring: the Cowley Terrier, the Cheshire Terrier and the Devon Terrier, perhaps instead of some of the surviving ones. For simplicity's sake, we could have dubbed the white terriers merely as variants of the Fox Terrier, rather as the Schnauzer and Pinscher breeds are described - by size. But it could be argued too that there should be a place for a Heinemann Terrier.  

Arthur Heinemann, who was born in 1871 and spent most of his sporting life on Exmoor, continued Parson John Russell’s work, producing the famous Spider for use with the local Otterhounds. Heinemann, who judged the ‘Working Fox Terrier’ class at Crufts in 1909, introduced the Bull Terrier outcross, favouring a harder dog than the parson. Heinemann was seeking a fox killer, Russell a fox bayer. The country they hunted was renowned for its terriers. The smaller Fox Terriers could so easily have been named Devon Terriers; Heinemann perpetuated Russell's 'Trump' type - stiff-coated, with length of leg and not too boxy a head. In the breeding of his working terriers, Russell used a show bench Fox Terrier sire, Old Jock. But at that time much of the show bench stock came from hunt kennels.

Round about 1890, an ‘Old English Terrier Club’ was formed seeking to draw attention to the hardy hard-bitten varieties of ultra-game terriers from the various country districts. The worthy people behind this club were well-intentioned and genuine enough in their zeal. But so often the best dogs brought forward in this way won their class at shows bearing the names of the pedigree terrier breeds emerging at that time. Heinemann, like Russell, was active in both field and show terrier circles. The Reverend John Russell was a Fox Terrier man. He did not dock his terriers’ tails. He did not strive to create a breed of terrier. But at a dog show in the 1870s, which attracted an entry of 150, he famously remarked: “I seldom or never see a real Fox Terrier nowadays". He never sought an Exmoor, Devon or Dartmoor Terrier. (I once spent a winter on Dartmoor - mainly its remoter parts, training infantry soldiers and studying the local terriers - I was impressed by both! Two North Devon farmers told me at this time, 1955-6, that as young men they recalled Heinemann and his Russell-type terriers visiting their land at threshing time.)

Heinemann kept his work going. Parson Russell favoured a terrier with length of leg, a narrow chest, a well-boned skull and a thick hard dense close-lying coat. He modelled his terriers on Rubie’s and Tom French’s Dartmoor Terrier and his first terrier Trump was the size of a full grown vixen, with legs as straight as arrows and a coat that was thick, close and wiry. He selectively bred from good working dogs to produce more good working dogs – not to establish a physically-identifiable type as a distinct breed. Many foxhound kennels favoured his type of hunt terrier, but it was essentially a working wire-haired Fox Terrier, never a separate breed. Truly, a real Jack Russell is a smaller wire-haired Fox Terrier and many a smaller wire-haired Fox Terrier could be called a Jack Russell. The Reverend John Russell, a founder member of the Kennel Club, judged Fox Terriers at the Crystal Palace show of 1874. Heinemann was more interested in the Trump-type terrier, less in the emerging show type of Fox Terrier rapidly gaining favour.

Before the Great War, the Fox Terrier, in its two coats, could muster over 3,000 registrations; nowadays the wire-hairs total less than 800 a year, the smooths less than 200. But nearly twenty years ago into the annual Kennel Club terrier list came the Parson Jack Russell Terrier (later the Jack was dropped), with just under 700. Before 1990 there were no Russells registered with the KC, the ‘breed’ was not even recognised by them. But Jack Russells have been with us a very long time, in the field if not in the show rings and in some numbers. The Parson Jack Russell Club was formed in 1983, to prevent a lower height dog becoming the norm. Outside the show ring there are probably a greater number of Jack Russells being born than Fox Terrier registrations before the Great War. I see both Parson Russell Terriers in the show ring and Jack Russells at country shows with coats that neither Russell nor Heinemann would have approved of.

Have we given too much credit to Russell and too little to Heinemann? Arthur Heinemann died in 1930; in terrier-development terms, these are relatively recent events. The publication English Life of 1925 contained a poetic contribution by Arthur Heinemann which read:


“Here’s  Devon and Somerset’s Terrier Pack!

Every one bred from ‘Lynton Jack’.
Narrow and straight, with natural coats,
Possessing pluck worth many groats.”

It's worth remembering the third line if we are to retain both the form and the coat of our working terriers.