Norjack

Linda Simon
Dr Linda Simon (MVB MRCVS, University College Dublin)
 
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A delightful mix of the gutsy Jack Russell Terrier and the hardy Norfolk Terrier, the recently developed Norjack possesses many of the wonderful attributes of each of its parent breeds. As well as their determined and brave personalities, these small dogs are known for their athletic prowess and impressive stamina.

Rarely reaching heights much over 30cm, the Norjack is certainly a small dog (though they don’t seem to know this!). They have a sweet little face with expressive, dark eyes and ‘drop ears’ that point down to their cheeks. Wiry and well-muscled, their compact bodies were clearly built to run. Their coarse fur can be white, brown or black and a dark facial mask is a common feature.

About & History

The Norfolk Terrier and the Jack Russell Terrier are two small English breeds of dog that were both traditionally used as rat catchers. Within the last few decades, they have been deliberately bred together to create the Norjack. A very rare hybrid, little is known about its origins and no-one can say for sure where or when this new cross-breed was developed.

The Norfolk Terrier

The Norfolk Terrier originated in East Anglia in the late 1800s. A number of similar dogs were used in its creation, including the Border Terrier and the Cairn Terrier. Interestingly, they were created with the intention of having a farm dog that would be hardy enough to live outside in barns and outhouses and driven enough to hunt down any vermin.

Many agree that the breed went on to become popular among students in the elite Cambridge university and several breeders were Cambridge alumni. It was in the mid 1900s that the original breed was split into those dogs that had prick ears (now the Norwich Terrier) and those with hanging ears (the Norfolk Terrier). Though Norfolk Terriers make good pets, they are not a particularly well-known breed internationally.

The Jack Russell Terrier

The Jack Russell Terrier is a much-loved breed of dog that has a reputation for being a bit of a terror! They are high-energy and absolutely full of life. The Jack Russell is a descendant of the Fox Terrier and was bred from them at the start of the 1800s.

While they are originally English, the breed was exported to Australia where it was further developed. Though considered one of the best ratters around, this breed was primarily used to flush rabbits and foxes out during hunts. As well as being a popular choice of pet dog today, the Jack Russell is known to excel in a number of disciplines, including Flyball, agility and obedience.

Appearance

A small, working dog, the Norjack should have a compact little body that is built for speed and endurance. They must be built in good proportion and should have no exaggerated features. As both parent breeds were bred for a purpose rather than to look a certain way, it stands to reason that they have inherited a sporty conformation. While their limbs are short, they are strong and densely-boned allowing for quick acceleration. They typically have a wedge-shaped muzzle that ends in a prominent black nose. Their eyes are brown and pleading with a somewhat somber expression. Their ears are triangular and drop sweetly forward from the top of their skull.

An adult Norjack measures between 25cm and 33cm at the withers and weighs from 5.5kg to 7kg, making them a small breed. The coat of the Norjack is short or medium in length and wiry. Fawn is the most common colour with many dogs also having a black muzzle and white patches. A dark red coat colour is also seen in some individuals. Dogs can shed a fair amount and are certainly not a hypoallergenic option.

Character & Temperament

A terrier through and through, the Norjack is spirited, high-energy and tenacious. They don’t seem to have an ‘off’ switch and are the first to say ‘yes’ to any game or activity on offer. They require plenty of attention and can become frustrated if they feel they are being left out or not shown enough attention.

A good companion for older children, they should be supervised when around young toddlers as they can be impatient. Some individuals may even snap if they feel threatened. Good socialisation from a very young age and setting boundaries can help to prevent any issues from occurring.

Though the Norjack can live in harmony with other cats and dogs, they need to be introduced to them from a young age and can be too feisty to live around some older animals or quieter breeds. They should never be homed with rabbits or small pets (such as guinea pigs or mice), who would simply be seen as lunch!

Trainability

Though undoubtedly smart, the Norjack is not as easy to train as one may think as they can have a stubborn streak and do not appreciate being ordered about. While they can learn new commands quickly, this doesn’t necessarily mean they will perform them every time they are asked!

It is generally advised that an experienced trainer is employed, particularly in the first year to ensure that good habits are made. It can be challenging to train these dogs outdoors as they are often distracted by the tempting smells of the local wild life. Instead, consider carrying out training sessions within the home or in the backyard.

Health

There are certain health conditions seen in the Norjack Terrier more often than in other breeds. As this is such a rare cross-breed, it is vital that their health is monitored closely and only the best individuals are bred from.

Patellar Luxation

When a dog’s knee cap moves out of its normal position, it is said to be ‘luxated’ or dislocated. Small, female dogs are most often affected. Initially, owners may pick up on a ‘skip’ in their dog’s step or an unusual gait. A vet may be able to feel the knee cap popping in and out of place when they examine it and will perform X-rays to confirm their suspicion.

Primary Lens Luxation

Lens Luxation is a condition of the eye whereby the lens become unstable over time and begins to move. If the lens slips in front of the eye the dog will suddenly become very painful and the eye may turn a hazy ‘blue’.

They will be unable to see out of this eye. The treatment will usually consist of a surgery to correct the abnormality. While dogs will usually first present with just one eye affected, the condition is known to affect both eyes.

Epilepsy

Certain breeds are genetically prone to developing epilepsy. For most, they will experience their first fit between one and five years of age. While it may be triggered by a loud noise or frightening experience, many will have fits for no apparent reason.

Vets will usually perform several tests when a dog has a seizure, ensuring there is no other issue going on, such as low blood sugar or high liver enzymes. Those that are diagnosed with epilepsy will require life-long check-ups and are often managed successfully with daily medication.

Mitral Valve Disease

The Mitral Valve is a valve within the heart that separates the left ventricle and atrium. When it becomes leaky, a heart murmur can be heard. Over time, this condition will progress and symptoms will become more evident until, inevitably, a dog will go on to develop heart failure. Early diagnosis is the key to managing this condition and there are a number of medications available which can help.

Exercise and Activity Levels

Don’t be fooled by the short stature of the Norjack; they need lots of exercise. They require a good run around each day and also need plenty of mental stimulation to prevent any boredom, which may lead to destructive behaviour. A good 90 minutes of activities, such as hiking, running and agility each day should keep them happy.

A dog with an extremely high prey drive, the Norjack will always be off to chase any squirrel or rat it sees in the park, regardless of how well trained they are. This tendency can make it tricky to talk them off the lead in public. For this reason, it is useful to have access to private fenced land in which they can freely roam.

Grooming

Despite their short fur, the Norjack tends to shed quite a lot. During their shedding season, they should be brushed on a daily basis outside the home to limit fur loss within the house. The rest of the year, a weekly brushing should be all that they need. At the same time, their ears can be checked and those prone to wax build-ups may benefit from a weekly cleaning.

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