General Question

snotty's avatar

Should Jack Russells tails be cut and what was the traditional reason behind this?

Asked by snotty (59points) May 24th, 2009

Do you think you should cut a Jack Russells tail when they are a pup and can you tell me why this was traditionally done? I think I heard somewhere that it was for hunting purposes.

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31 Answers

AstroChuck's avatar

No. Cropping tails and bobbing ears are unethical in my opinion. They are done soley for aesthetic value and serve no other purpose. Very cruel.

crisw's avatar

No, it’s anachronistic and barbaric.

It was done originally so that there was a “handle” to pull them out of the burrows of foxes and other prey animals.

SeventhSense's avatar

Didn’t it have practical reasons too in not giving another animal something to bite on to?

syz's avatar

Certainly many of the original “reasons” for docking and cropping no longer apply – mostly it’s breed standards now. Does a pet dog need it? Of course not.

oratio's avatar

Cutting an animals tail off for esthetic reasons pleasing it’s owner is unnecessary and wrong. It’s illegal in most countries in EU, and often you cant compete with a cropped dog. I can’t speak for the US.

steve6's avatar

Try living with both versions, then you will answer this question. In all fairness they are better hunters sans tail.

SeventhSense's avatar

Hey more basically what about us cropped men? Nobody inquired my opinion on that issue.

crisw's avatar

“Didn’t it have practical reasons too in not giving another animal something to bite on to?”

Not so much for terriers, as they usually faced their prey in tight burrows. It also helped them not injure their tails in the burrows as well.

steve6's avatar

my point

crisw's avatar


“Hey more basically what about us cropped men?”
That’s not cropping, it’s docking. Cropping makes ‘em stand up nice and straight :>D

steve6's avatar

four fingers

SeventhSense's avatar

Oh it stands up nice and straight when saluted but it’s just missing the collar. :)

snotty's avatar

I live in Ireland and have a Jack Russel with a long tail, many people that I meet lament the fact that he has a long tail, I had heard that it is now illegal to dock dogs tails and that vets don’t do it any more but I wasn’t sure if it was in Ireland yet. I dont see the aesthetic value in a long tail at all..wouldn’t a long tail be a better “handle“than a short one? When i was young we had a lot of dogs, I do remember once cutting a pups tail myself, you do it when it is just a few days old-so there is no bone in it-you pull it back and cut it so that there will be a bit of loose skin to cover the cut and help it heal.

crisw's avatar

” wouldn’t a long tail be a better “handle“than a short one?”

No, because the tip of the tail is much more fragile. If you grab a dog by the tip of the tail, it will either break or the skin will come off.

BBSDTfamily's avatar

@SeventhSense No, that is a common misconception. There are many other things to bite on than the tail, so how does cutting the tail solve that problem? Heck why don’t we just cut off their ears and all their limbs too?!

SeventhSense's avatar

No I was just asking. I don’t think it’s damaging though as much as it is an ethical question.
And we do cut off their ears.

rooeytoo's avatar

it is also true that when terriers went to earth after vermin and then backed out, tails were often broken or injured in the process. Guard dogs had it done so there was nothing to grab, hunting dogs so they didn’t get a million burrs and beat it bloody in the bush, cow dogs so they couldn’t be gored, cart dogs so the tails wouldn’t get caught in the traces. In England, years ago, most all working dogs had tails docked and pleasure dogs owned by the wealthy had long tails, therefore docked tail dogs were not taxed but long tails were.

I have seen it done so many times and it is nothing, done to 3 day old pups, they give one yip and go back to sleep. Some vets suture, some carterize. I have seen bad jobs where they miss the spot between the joints and a dog will have a painful, sensitive tail, it can be easily corrected but it was originally a bad job, in a human it would probably mean a malpractice suit. Vets are like anyone else, some are better than others and they can have bad days as well.

I know crisw will disagree, but to me, there are so many inhumane things happening to animals that I don’t spend my time worrying about this sort of stuff. It is done by a vet in a sterile field and rarely causes problems in later life. I worry more about the dogs tied in the back yard with their collars embedded in their skin or covered with fleas, or who never get a pad on the head or a kind word.

Yesterday a starving momma dog (who I feed often and by so doing incur the wrath of the other shop keepers who don’t want the mangy critters loitering in the plaza) brought 2 of her last litter of 7 (she is under 3 and this is her 3rd litter, 24 pups total) to me for a feed. It breaks my heart, they are doomed to a life of scavenging and starvation until they die of disease or starve to death or are shot by the council. That is the sort of thing that kills me, not a docked tail or cropped ears.

crisw's avatar


Of course I’ll disagree!

“It is done by a vet in a sterile field”
Not in the U.S. Breeders usually do it at home, with rubber bands or nail clippers.

I agree that it’s not the biggest threat to animal well-being, but I don’t like to excuse any unethical practice by stating that even more unethical practices exist. If it’s morally wrong, it’s morally wrong.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

Well, from what I know of JRTs, the tails are shortened for hunting purposes, and the ears are pretty much for the same reason. The dew claws are also removed for the same reason. My dog is a hunting dog, and while she doesn’t chase foxes into burrows, she does hunt and kill rodents ten times better than a cat. If my JRT could climb trees, the squirrels around here would be fucked.

My dog has a short tail, cropped ears, and no dewclaws, and she doesn’t seem to mind. Funny thing is, if I grab her tail, gently, she immediately sits down. That is pretty neat.

Why it is morally wrong by any standards strikes me as NATWA. (Not Anything to Worry About). Of course, I wouldn’t expect anyone with no concept of hunting practices using dogs to understand that.

Personally, I have more of a problem of human male infants being routinely circumcised for no other reason than some barbaric religious covenant with a deity no one can even prove exists.

crisw's avatar


Your JRT has cropped ears? I must say that is quite unusual. I have never seen one with cropped ears. JRTs typically have drop ears, not prick ears.

Ear cropping has never been a standard practice for any hunting breed that I am aware of. Few terriers are cropped.

Most cropped breeds are working dogs that typically were cropped to help them look fiercer and to give bad guys (or fighting dogs) less ear to hold onto. These include the Doberman, Great Dane, Beauceron, Bouvier and giant schnauzer.

casheroo's avatar

Cropping and docking is just plain cruel, in my opinion. Unless it serves a medical purpose, I see no need for it.

We have a miniature pinscher, and cropping and docking is the norm for them. Luckily, his ears were never cropped, but they had already docked his tail :(
It’s sad too, because my parents tried to enter him into a “shortest tail” contest, but they refused to allow him because the people who docked it messed it up, and literally cut ALL of it off :( he has a little thing that we call a “nubbin’” Poor guy. I wish we had saved him from it.

Darwin's avatar

@rooeytoo – When I run into a situation like that I spend some money to get the strays vaccinated, neutered and free of parasites, then I work with them long enough that I know they would make good pets. Then I find them a home. That way the neighbors aren’t upset and I am helping in a very small way to end the stray pet problem.

Darwin's avatar

And I know Wikipedia is not the be all and end all, but this is what it says about the history of docking and cropping:

“Historically, tail docking was thought to prevent rabies, strengthen the back, increase the animal’s speed and prevent injuries when ratting, fighting and baiting.[2] In early Georgian times in the United Kingdom, tax was levied upon working dogs with tails and so many types of dogs were docked to avoid this tax.[2] The tax was repealed in 1796 but that did not stop the practice from persisting.

In modern times, tail docking is done either for prophylactic, therapeutic or cosmetic purposes. For dogs who worked in fields, such as some hunting dogs and some herding dogs, tails could collect burrs and foxtails, causing pain and infection. Tails with long fur could collect feces and become a cleanliness problem, and particularly for herding dogs, longer tails could be caught in gates behind livestock[citation needed]. Many hunting dogs’ tails are docked to prevent them from becoming injured while running through thickets and briars while fetching hunters’ prey.

In dogs used for guarding property (such as Doberman Pinschers or Boxers), docked ears are thought to make the breed appear more ferocious; hanging ears are reminiscent of the naturally droopy ears of puppies, looking more cute than dangerous. Cosmetic docking is also done to meet breed registries standards.

For dogs with tail injuries that cannot be treated sufficiently with basic medical treatment, the tail can be docked to remove the damaged portion.”

Supposedly docking tails and cropping ears was done as far back as Roman times, in part to avoid untreatable infections in tails and ears injured during the hunt or other activity. I know that certain dogs (Cocker Spaniels for example) are known to have a great risk of ear infection due to the long and pendulous external ears and I have known a few who have had their ears shortened to reduce such infections.

One example is that of the Great Dane:

“These big guys were originally used for boar hunting. A Dane is taller than a wild boar, but the boar was tall enough to grab the dog’s ear because Danes naturally have long, floppy ears. Many dogs had their ear or ears ripped off by the attacking swine, which led to infections and scars, not to mention a funny-looking one-eared dog in many cases.

The solution? Cut the ears shorter. Then the prey would be unable to reach the dog’s ears. The practice caught on, and over the years, it was refined. Dog owners began to prefer the sleek look it gave their animals, so even nonhunting dogs were subjected to ear cropping.”

Fighting pit bulls generally are docked and cropped because it 1) makes them look “meaner” and 2) gives fewer mouth-holds to competitors in the fight ring.

There was one other aspect to cropping and docking. For a while folks believed Lamarck’s thoughts on inheritance of traits, that characteristics that were acquired during the lifetime of an organism were passed on to its offspring. Thus a breeder wanting to create a line of dogs with short tails would have docked the tails of his breeding dogs, believing that the trait of having a short tail would then be passed on to the offspring. But then along came Darwin and Mendel and that theory went out the window.

In any case, I don’t dock the tails or crop the ears of any dogs that live with me or pass through my hands. Some have naturally short tails or ears that stand up while others have long tails and floppy ears.

It is true that there are times my husband wishes American Bulldogs were born with short tails like their cousins the English Bulldogs, because our dog’s tail is a lethal weapon that swings just about at crotch height. But we don’t agree with subjecting any of our pets to unnecessary surgery. And the pain eventually passes.

rooeytoo's avatar

@Darwin – last time the vet was here (closest one is 250k away) she euthanized about 50 dogs at one station at the owners request. They were killing each other for scraps of food, covered with mange and becoming threatening to humans. In the local town camp, when a vet isn’t coming, I go with Ivermec and dose all that I can get close to, it helps but not too much. At another nearby outstation, I also dose with Ivermec, over 50 doses handled out last time, ran out though before I could get to them all, some too wild to come close to a white person.

So bottom line I do what I can, but Ivermec is $450 for 200ml and I can go through that much in a month, so it gets a little bit expensive. These dogs are sort of owned by aboriginal people or are simply camp dogs and have a rough life but are not technically strays than I can just kidnap.

I just have too much of the real world animal cruelties in my face to consider docking or cropping a major problem or unethical. To me if you care enough about the animal to consider its looks, there is a greater chance the dog will be loved and cared for, its entire life. Not always true I know because shelters are filled with dogs who have been done, but it seems they may have a better chance.

oratio's avatar

@rooeytoo Lot of wild dogs in the outback, is there?

rooeytoo's avatar

@oratio – there are very few pure dingos left in Australia except on Fraser Island, which is and island where dogs are prohibited. Although there are those who want to cull there because they have lost fear of humans and will attack.

And yes, feral dogs, cats, buffalos, pigs, and camels are a huge problem and are routinely poisoned or shot.

The dogs I am speaking of are not technically “wild.” They are camp dogs, they live with the aboriginal people. It is an unusual situation and hard to watch up close and personal.

If you want to see how the vets work when they come out, have a look at this

oratio's avatar

@rooeytoo Interesting. A whole different world than mine. Camels on the loose?

Darwin's avatar

They tried camels in Texas but they couldn’t make it.

And what about rabbits? Have those been controlled in Australia?

rooeytoo's avatar

@oratio – camels all over the desert, they love it here. They could trek across the outback from one end of the country to the other. It was the only way before the rail went throughor there were tracks for trucks. Too rough for horses. Now Australia is exporting them to the middle east because they are so strong and healthy.

@Darwin – yep always rabbit problems happening, sometimes in plague proportions, literally. There is a fence called, strangely enough “The Rabbit Proof Fence” almost 2000k long to protect WA from the rabbits coming up from Victoria. Didn’t work but was an interesting idea. When my husband was a kid, they hunted rabbits for food and to protect the crops. He used ferrets and little dogs (who had a lot of broken tails because they weren’t docked!)

SeventhSense's avatar

Talk about a reason to have Jack Russel terriers in the outback.
How about this plague down under

bluesky's avatar

I think it just depends on what the owner wants with their dog. If it is done right and the dog is well taken care of then no big deal. I do have a jack his tail was already docked before I adopted him.

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