Why are Jack Russell Terriers such good hunters?

They are tenacious, fearless and relentless. Jack Russells have been known to follow prey for miles and miles without giving up. Once they catch their prey, they usually kill it. Their prey can include anything from a wild rabbit to the neighbor’s cat.

In the 1800s and early 1900s, Jack Russells were used during foxhunts to pursue the fox once the animal had retreated into its burrow.While the foxhounds “gave voice”—that is, bayed loudly so the hunter would know where the fox had hidden, the Jack Russell went into the fox’s burrow and sought to chase the fox out so the hunter could kill it. Since a fox is about the same size as a Jack Russell, it took a tough little terrier to tackle this job underground.

Jack Russells use almost all their senses when hunting. They listen to hear their prey and use their noses to follow its scent. They are quick to catch sight of an animal on the run with their good vision. They also use their intelligence to outsmart animals who are trying to escape by running through a series of underground burrows.

How did Jack Russells get this strong hunting instinct?
Farmers living in England have bred them for hundreds of years to be aggressive hunters. Animals such as rats, mice and gophers plagued farmers by eating their crops and making nests and burrows on their property. These farmers needed a dog who could work on its own to hunt down these rodents and kill them.

Jack Russells were also used by foxhunters to help in the hunt, and were bred in part for this use. Since the fox is an animal who fights back when cornered by a dog, foxhunters needed a dog with incredible spunk and courage for this kind of hunting.

What do Jack Russells do when they are hunting?
If their prey is above ground, they will chase their prey until they catch it, and will kill it if they can. They will run the prey down until the animal is too exhausted to run any further. Or they will corner the prey until they are able to grasp it in their jaws or underneath their paws. If the animal goes into an underground burrow, the Jack Russell will follow, racing through the animal’s burrows until he corners the creature. If the burrow is too small for the Jack to fit, the dog will dig his way into the burrow until he unearths the prey.

Rodents hiding in haystacks, between walls or underneath woodpiles are not safe from this breed. Jack Russells will dig or chew their way through any kind of barrier to get access to their prey. In fact, one Jack in California tore a huge hole in his owner’s living room wall because he
heard a mouse squeaking inside.

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