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 love.

Let’s compare these two highly intelligent dogs.

Rat Terrier vs Jack Russell Terrier: At a Glance


Rat Terrier

jack russell vs rat terrier

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 dog. Though not as common, the Rattie can still be found hunting vermin on American farms today.

Jack Russel Terrier (Parson Russell Terrier)

jack russell vs rat terrier

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.

It was done using 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 hunting dogs began to decline drastically after the second global conflict, 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 today.

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.

On the other hand, 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 shedding.

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 with white. The 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.

Rat Terrier

The Rat Terrier stands out for its outgoing, cheerful temperament. 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 with it. 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.

Jack Russell Terrier

When it comes to children, 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.

Read more Jack Russell Terrier: Temperament


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 training.

The Rat Terrier does have a slight advantage over the Jack in that it can be more focused and patient with training.

But the Jack with his much higher energy levels wants to go do something else after a short period of time.

Read Jack Russell Terrier Training

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.

Activity Levels

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 do.

Daily exercise—a lot of it—is a must. You should consider getting your Jack into a dog sport such as earth dog 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 per hour.

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 long lifespans.

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.