The Rus-A-Pei is a designer dog, an intentional hybrid between The Chinese Shar-Pei, an ancient Chinese breed that has been used as a protection and guard dog for thousands of years, and the Parson or Jack Russell Terrier, an intense and determined hunter of fox. This is an active and independent animal with a quick mind that can tend toward stubbornness, so Rus-A-Pei owners with little or no training experience are encouraged to take their dog to obedience classes and work with more experienced trainers. Although challenging to train, these dogs are highly intelligent, so when you find the correct ratio of exercise, attention, and mental stimulation they can blossom into a loyal, charming, and well-behaved animals.
The Rus-A-Pei is not a breed as such, but a name used to describe a designer dog, a deliberate cross of the Shar-Pei, a capable and aggressive farm guardian that was later used for dog fighting, and the Parsons Jack Russell, a high-energy terrier with a strong prey drive. The history of the Shar-Pei is long and somewhat mysterious; records indicate that an early variety of this breed was employed as an all-around farm dog in Southern China around 2000 years ago, where it not only protected the master’s home but also provided protection for the livestock in the hunting of wild boar. When dog fighting, their loose skin and natural aggressiveness and determination made them good candidates for the fighting ring until some of the newer western dogs like the Bulldog and Bull Terriers were imported into China. When those that bred fighting dogs stopped breeding Shar-Peis and shifted to other dogs, the Shar-pei population went into a steep decline, and during the 1940s and 50s the Shar-pei was among many Chinese breeds that were decimated due to famine, fear of biological warfare, and government policies. The breed may have gone extinct if it weren’t for the May 1971 edition of DOGS highlighting what it termed to be “possibly the last surviving specimen of the breed,” prompting Shar-pei owner and fancier in Hong-Kong to reinvigorate the breed as well to export many to the United States, to ensure the survival of the breed. The Parsons “Jack” Russell Terrier is a much newer breed than the Shar-pei, named after the founder of the breed a parson by the name of John Russell, often referred to as Jack. He was so immediately taken by the small, mostly white dog that he spotted walking with a milkman in 1819 that he bought her right then and there, giving her the name of “Trump”. The parson was an avid fox hunter who also bred foxhounds, and he saw in Trump the basis of a breed of dogs small enough to go to ground after foxes but with long enough legs to keep up with them. The Parson Russell Terrier is registered with both the American and the United Kennel Clubs and is often referred to by the name of Jack Russell Terrier. It is important to note, however, there are also Jack Russell Terrier clubs in both countries which recognizes a different standard, although it is not considered an official breed by the kennel clubs at this time. This standard allows for a less consistent canine, with differences in temperament and medical conditions. This dog often has a longer back and shorter legs than the Parsons Russell Terrier due to infusions of Dachshund and Corgi in its background.
Although there may be the occasional dog who inherits the slightly larger size of the Chinese Shar-Pei or the smaller size of the Russell Terrier, the majority of Rus-A Peis are somewhere between the two, usually between 30 and 40 pounds when fully grown. The structure of this crossbreed may vary quite a bit from dog to dog as the parent breeds are quite different. Dogs that more closely resemble the Shar-Pei tend to have a thicker build with a head that is somewhat broader and flatter and a muzzle that is both broad and deep, while dogs that take more after the terrier side of the family will have a slightly rounded but balanced head shape with a square muzzle that is a bit more slender than that of the Shar-Pei. They have dark, almond-shaped eyes, usually with dark rims and their triangular ears can fold forward toward the eyebrows or fold out to the sides at rest, but may sometimes stand erect or partially erect when the dog is at attention.
The Parsons “Jack” Russell is well-known as an extremely intense and active canine, quite often crossing the line right over into hyperactive, and like most terriers they have an extremely high prey drive. The inclusion of the calmer and well-mannered Chinese Shar-Pei will often reduce the activity levels of this hybrid and their prey drive may be somewhat muted, but their intensity often remains undiminished although it may be more controlled. This hybrid is likely to somewhat aggressive towards other dogs and highly unlikely to back down if challenged, regardless of the size of the challenger, so may not be the best choice for multi-dog households. They tend to be rather independent and some may even be a little dominating, so early training and socialization is essential if you want a dog that is stable and well-behaved. It is also important to remember that this canine is quite quick-witted and a lack of mental stimulation generally leads to destructive or obsessive behaviors.
Parsons and Jack Russell Terriers, regardless of the standard used, are extremely active animals with an incredibly intense drive to chase down prey. The Rus-A-Pei is still an active canine, but due to the inclusion of the Chinese Shar-Pei their activity requirements are somewhat lowered and they are much less likely to be hyperactive than their terrier parent breed. An hour of vigorous activity per day is usually sufficient for this crossbreed, which can be achieved with activities such as long walks, games of fetch, flyball competitions, and agility training. While these dogs are certainly small enough to comfortably fit in an apartment-type setting, they are generally too inquisitive and active for this type of environment and will prefer a larger home with their own yard to run in.