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Jack Russell Terriers at the Willowdale Steeplechase

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It’s a great way to kick off your day at the Willowdale Steeplechase, watching the terriers break from their boxes in a great flurry. And watching the owners can sometimes be as fun as watching the dogs.

In the weeks leading up to the event, training days are offered by Geof Williams, chair of Willowdale’s Jack Russell Terrier Races for the past 22 years. The terriers race on short grass so the lure can move more quickly and easily. Each wears a different colored collar for identification purposes. Muzzles are also required, as Jack Russells tend to be feisty.

Like it or not, each dog is loaded into a box, and the lure is set. Once the boxes open, the furry lure is quickly pulled toward the finish line—and the dogs are off!

The most important race is the second. To win, dogs must jump each hurdle and cross the finish line. Even last-place finishers can win if they clear every hurdle.

For the five or six races, terriers are grouped into categories based on sex, height and age. The short dogs race first. But it’s the tall ones that provide the real excitement. They run faster, jump higher and flip better.

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