Jack Russell Terrier vs Rat Terrier

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If planning to adopt a new companion dog, you may wonder whether to go for the Jack Russell Terrier or the Rat Terrier due to their close personality and appearance attributes. The following Jack Russell Terrier vs Rat Terrier comparison reveals the difference between these two breeds. 

Jack Russell Terrier vs Rat Terrier General Overview 

Although Jack Russell Terriers and Rat Terriers can be good choices for a home pet, they come from different origins and have distinct character traits. The following Jack Russell Terrier vs Rat Terrier comparison will help you determine which dog meets your temperament, size, and lifestyle expectations.

Rat Terrier

Jack Russell Terrier Overview 

Jack Russell Terriers were initially bred to help hunt and flush out foxes in England. They are fairly small dogs with a compact body structure that makes them have a low center of gravity. Jack Russell Terriers are athletic and energetic dogs with higher exercise requirements.

Rat Terrier Overview 

Rat Terriers are domestic, or farm dogs initially bred to help flush out and kill Rats and other rodents on farms. Although Rat Terriers originated from the United States, they have become popular and are being raised in other parts of the world due to their friendly nature.

Comparing Jack Russell Terrier and Rat Terrier

Considering both Jack Russell Terriers and Rat Terriers were originally bred for hunting, they have some hunting instincts in common. However, these dog breeds come from different ancestries, so you can expect them to have distinct physical appearances and behavioral characteristics.


The hunting instincts in both dogs make them have a strong prey drive and demonstrate the following physical and behavioral similarities. 

  • Although these dogs have different gene combinations, they suffer from similar health conditions such as dental issues, skin conditions, allergies, heart problems, patellar luxation, and sometimes deafness and epilepsy during their old age. 
  • Both breeds have a strong pack mentality and want to dominate.  
  • The breeds are loyal and affectionate to their family members and bark a lot if you don’t give them enough attention. 
  • Both breeds are highly energetic and need intense exercises to help them use their excess energy. 
  • Although the frequency of bathing the dogs primarily depends on how dirty they get, both breeds will need bathing after around 4 to 6 weeks. 
  • Although these dogs might shed daily, they are primarily seasonal shedders and tend to shed heavily during spring and fall. 
  • Although the tail docking practice varies from region to region, both Jack Russell Terriers and Rat Terriers are known to have their tails docked. 
  • Both breeds have white as the predominant coat color. However, the proportion of the white color still varies with the breed. 
  • Although the ears can be tipped or erect, both breeds have V-shaped ears. 


Although both Jack Russell Terriers and Rat Terriers are hunters, they originate from different ancestors and have different gene combinations. The genetic distinctions make these breeds have the following physical appearance, temperament, and behavioral differences.

Jack Russell Terrier


Jack Russell Terriers can have three varying coat color combinations of white, black, and tan markings or white, brown, and tan markings. Keep in mind that white is the primary color in Jack Russell Terriers, and the other colors are only markings or patterns. 

On the other hand, Rat Terriers can have a wide range of color coats with different markings and patterns. In most cases, Rat Terriers have large patches of lemon, red, apricot, chocolate, black, tan, fawn, or blue colors.


Jack Russell Terriers are generally double-coated and can have three different types of coats which include:

  • Rough coat: The rough coat is also popularly known as a wiry coat or the wire-haired coat. In most cases, the hair in wiry coats grows longer than one inch. Unlike smooth coats, the hair tends to grow in varying directions, giving the dog a wiry appearance. 
  • Smooth coat: It’s the shortest coat in a Jack Russell Terrier. The hair tends to lie in one direction even without grooming. Typically, smooth coats have the highest shedding level in Jack Russell Terriers. 
  • Broken coat: The broken coat is medium, combining the attributes of a rough coat and a smooth coat. 

On the other hand, Rat Terriers have short, dense, and shiny coats. Without an undercoat like the Jack Russell Terriers, it is easier to clean up, groom, and maintain the Rat Terrier coats. For instance, you will only need to brush a Rat Terrier once per week using a rubber mitt or curry brush.  

On the other hand, you will need to brush a Jack Russell Terrier daily or at least three times per week using a bristle or a stripping comb. The tangles and mats also form easily, and you might need to use a spray bottle to relieve the discomfort when brushing.


Although both dog breeds are loyal and affectionate to their family members, Rat Terriers are more social and dependent on their families than Jack Russell Terriers. That means Rat Terriers suffer from separation anxiety much more quickly when left alone than the Jack Russell Terriers. 

On the other hand, Jack Russell Terriers are more independent, and you can leave adult Jack Russell Terriers for up to six hours without affecting them emotionally.

Unlike Rat Terriers, Jack Russell Terriers are not friendly towards strangers and other dogs and pets. However, Jack Russell Terriers can still bark a lot when left alone for too long. 


Although the lifespan of both breeds depends on the health condition, lifestyle, food and diet, and ancestry history, under the same conditions, Rat Terriers tend to have a better life expectancy than Jack Russell Terriers. 

Typically, the life expectancy of a Jack Russell Terrier ranges from 13 to 16 years, while Rat Terriers have an average life expectancy of 15 to 18 years. A Jack Russell Terrier is considered a senior dog from the age of 10 to 12 years, while a Rat Terrier is considered a senior dog from the age of 12 to 14 years.

Rat Terrier

Body Shape 

Jack Russell Terriers have a square-shaped, balanced, and compact body structure that makes them seem sturdy and well-balanced. If viewed from the front, the skull seems flat and slightly tapering towards the eyes and nostrils.  

On the other hand, the skull of a Rat Terrier is broad and seems slightly domed, tapering towards the muzzle. The general body structure looks like a blunt wedge when viewed from the front.

Major Distinguishing Factor 

The major distinguishing factor between a Jack Russell Terrier and a Rat Terrier is the size. Jack Russell Terriers are smaller than Rat Terriers, with a standing height of 10 to 15 inches vs. a standing height of 10 to 18 inches for Rat Terriers.

Also, Rat Terriers are heavier than Jack Russell Terriers, with an average weight of 15 to 24 pounds vs. an average weight of 13 to 17 pounds for Jack Russell Terriers.

When to Adopt a Jack Russell Terrier

Considering that Jack Russell Terriers have good vocals and are not friendly towards strangers and other animals, they can be a good choice for watchdogs as they will alert you when an intruder or stranger enters your compound. 

Additionally, if you are looking for a dog to leave alone at home when going to work or other commitments, the independent nature of Jack Russell Terriers makes them a good option. 

When to Adopt a Rat Terrier 

The friendliness of Rat Terriers towards strangers and other pets makes them a good choice if you have frequent visitors or small children in your home. Also, they are single-coated and require minimal grooming, making them a good option if you’re on a tight budget or schedule that can hinder frequent grooming.

Which Dog Is Better?

The sheer size of a Jack Russell Terrier makes it a better choice for a home pet or lap dog. Its personality traits also make it a better option since it can be a watchdog and you can leave it alone for a longer time. However, Rat Terriers can be a better option if you have small children in your home.


Although Jack Russell Terriers and Rat Terriers have different origins, they are both affectionate and loyal, making them good choices for home pets. The unfriendliness of Jack Russell Terriers towards strangers makes them good watchdogs, while the social nature of Rat Terriers makes them good around children.