Muskrat Love, JRT Style

The Captain & Tennille’s “Muskrat Love” became the duo’s third biggest selling song, but love isn’t what Jack Russell Terriers are feeling when chasing a Muskrat in water. It’s two words: Get it.

Get it. Get it. Get it. Get it. Get it. Get it. Get it. Get it. Get it.

Back in the day, catching Muskrats was all in a day’s work for the terriers. The rodents were regarded as a nuisance animal whose tunneling habits caused embankments and water barriers to weaken, and flooding to occur. As vegetarians, these critters could decimate gardens and crops, and were known to carry rabies, tularemia, and leptospirosis. They also attacked humans, especially children.

Today we know that Muskrats make a valuable contribution to aquatic communities, but they are still considered a pest when their burrowing activity damages dams and dikes, and their feeding damages new plantings and crops. Using terriers to deal with them isn’t done much anymore, their job having been replaced by live traps, but tell the terriers that.

Enter muskrat races. It’s a thing!

These events parlay the Jack Russell Terrier’s highly developed prey drive into a fun event that has the dogs swim through water to chase an artificial lure that looks like a muskrat. Some events are held at ponds:



Some events are held in pools. In fact, some races are conducted in municipal swimming pools at the end of the summer right before the pool is drained for the winter.

We came across one race held at Purina Farms:


Some dogs take to it right away, others run like mad on the dock, but hit the brakes when they see the water. In that regard, introducing this dog to the sport is not unlike introducing a dog to dock diving.

Muskrat races are not titled events, and the races are sometimes held in conjunction with earthdog competitions. A quick look at different videos suggest that this seems to be largely a Jack Russell Terrier/Russell Terrier activity. A good place to get information might be the Missouri Earthdogs Club which typically holds its events at Purina Farms in Gray Summit, Missouri..

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