Jack Russell Terriers: Rough vs. Smooth

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Jack Russell Terriers Rough Vs. SmoothThe Jack Russell Terrier is a brave, inquisitive, and energetic pup that can bring joy and happiness to any family. But did you know that these dogs come in rough and smooth coats and will have different grooming requirements? If you’re considering buying or adopting one of these gorgeous and adorable dogs, we’ve listed everything you need to know so you can make a decision between smooth or rough Jack Russell Terriers.  

What are Jack Russell Terriers? 

The lively, upbeat, and friendly Russell Terrier is a cute pooch that looks more like a stuffed toy brought to life but was actually developed as a sporting dog for fox hunting. Despite their smaller frame and charming appearance, they are tireless and eager, packing a huge personality into a compact and sleek body. They’re known for their intelligence and endearing looks, moving with an effortless and free gait that encapsulates the breed’s energy and confidence. 

History of the Jack Russell Terrier 

The white dogs we know as Jack Russells today were originally developed by Reverend John Russell, a hunting enthusiast who purchased a white and tan female terrier named Trump. Carrying plenty of stamina and courage to chase foxes out of the ground, she became the inspiration for the breeding program that would help to create a superior terrier breed. One of her more defining qualities was her controlled aggressiveness which helped to provide just enough drive to chase and catch foxes without causing physical damage to her quarry. 

The many terriers that John Russell had developed were highly respected for such qualities, and these pups were often purchased by hunters. However, it’s unlikely that the dogs of today were direct descendants of Trump since Russell had to sell his dogs due to financial difficulties, and were only left with non-breeding fox terriers by the time he passed away in 1883. Today’s Jack Russell Terrier comes in three different coat types, we’ll be discussing the two main types, the smooth-coated Jack Russell terrier and the rough-coated Jack Russell terrier

Rough Coat Jack Russell Terrier

Commonly known as the long-haired Jack Russell terrier, these dogs are more correctly called the rough-coat Jack Russell, which comes with longer hair compared to other breed varieties. Unlike the smooth-coat variant, the hair on these dogs can grow in different directions which can give them a textured look that’s unique. Apart from their fascinatingly wired coats, they don’t exhibit much of a difference from the other two coat variants in terms of size, temperament, and behavior. 


All Jack Russell Terriers are double-coated dogs and come with dense undercoats and harsh outer coats. Because of their work as hunting dogs, their hair was made coarse to protect them from the elements; their hair is also water-resistant, which guards them from the weather. These dogs will come with primarily white coats with black or tan markings but it’s also possible to get both.  

The markings around their bodies can take the form of any pattern as long as their body is 51% white at a minimum. Both the United Kennel Club (UKC) and the American Kennel Club (AKC) recognized Jack Russell Terriers back in 2001, and their name was changed to Parson Russell Terrier at one point. However, both dogs are now considered to be different breeds — all three coat types, including the broken coat jack Russell Terrier are considered to be the same breed.       

While known to be a small terrier, this dog can grow between 10 to 15 inches tall and will be slightly longer than it is tall, extending up to 18 to 22 inches. On average, this dog will weigh between 14 to 18 pounds when fully grown. 

Grooming Needs 

These dogs come with a double coat, along with the other coat types; as such, their long hair is thick and can easily become tangled. By following this guide, you’ll be able to attend to their grooming needs. 

  • Brushing: When it comes to grooming rough-coat Jack Russells, it’s important to maintain their fur by giving them a good brush. Using a wide-toothed comb is the best choice for these pups, but when they’re shredding, be sure to use a slicker brush. 
  • Bathing: Bathing shouldn’t be done frequently; shampoo can soften their hair which won’t be ideal for their rough coats. Only bathe your dog when they’re dirty and use dry shampoo as often as possible.
  • Stripping: This refers to the process of removing loose hair from your dog’s coat. These dogs will need to be stripped twice each year using a stripping comb; this is best done during shedding season. Alternatively, you can use a stripping knife to remove several dead hairs at the same time. 
  • Trimming: Luckily, these dogs only need a bit of trimming, where the loose hair around their face should be cut using blunt scissors but removing any more than this isn’t recommended. It’s also best to trim around their genital area, feet, and toes for hygiene. Their coats should be trimmed once every 8 to 10 weeks to maintain a healthy coat.    

Smooth Coat Jack Russell Terrier

Just like the dog above, the smooth coat JRT is a tough terrier that has retained its ability as a working terrier exactly as it first appeared over two centuries ago. While white Jack Russell terriers are often confused with the Parson Russell Terrier, the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America made sure to keep them a separate breed. Today, this dog breed is known to have distinct coat types and this smooth coated dog is among the most celebrated dogs in the United States.      


These dogs come in a small size as discussed above, and can also come with small brown spots or brown markings, also known as “ticking.” In the case of smooth coats, these dogs will come with silky white hair and will come with small, V-shaped ears of moderate thickness that are pointed forward. Inside the show ring, a tail that’s down is considered to be a serious fault for these dogs, and should instead be set up high and docked five inches to give a good grip on the hair of Jack Russell terriers. 

According to the breed standards, a Jack Russell must always look alert and balanced, and because they’re working terriers, their most distinct physical trait is their chest size. It shouldn’t be so big that they can’t enter and work inside burrows; their traditional quarry is the red fox, so they will need to be compact enough to chase after these.  

Their face shouldn’t contain much hair, and their body should have coarse hair that can protect them from the elements such as snow and rain. This type of coat will have short hair that flows in the same direction and will be consistent throughout the face, legs, and body. Of the three different types of coats, this is the easiest option to care for.  

Grooming Needs

These dogs are easy to care for thanks to their low-maintenance grooming requirements; their short coats need minimal brushing using a bristle brush. Doing this at least once a week should be enough to keep their coat shiny and healthy. Just keep in mind that they will shed quite a bit, so brushing them on a regular basis will help to keep this under control. 

Bathing is only necessary when they get dirty and their nails need to be trimmed regularly to stop them from becoming too long. You won’t need to do any more cleaning than this — overbathing your dog will only lead to dry skin, which may result in more shedding and problems. 

Jack Russell Terrier Colors 

Apart from the coat texture between these two dogs, they don’t really have many other differences and will come with similar coat colors. All in all, these dogs are available in tan, white, black, or a combination of these different colors, known as Tricolor. Their white body may also come in various coat patterns but the white parts should always be the dominant color.   


This small animal will need a lot of exercise, whether you have a smooth, rough, or broken-coated dog. If you’re looking for the right dog, be sure to consider the terrier coat and ensure that you have the means to care for these dogs and their needs. Potential owners will need to remember that these are high energy dogs that may need obedience classes due to their high prey drive and may also benefit from a professional groomer.