The winter solstice (or hibernal solstice), also known as midwinter, is an astronomical phenomenon marking the day with the shortest period of daylight and the longest night of the year. In the Northern Hemisphere this is the December solstice and in the Southern Hemisphere this is the June solstice.
The axial tilt of Earth and gyroscopic effects of its daily rotation mean that the two opposite points in the sky to which the Earth’s axis of rotation points (axial precession) change very slowly (making a complete circle approximately every 26,000 years). As the Earth follows its orbit around the Sun, the polar hemisphere that faced away from the Sun, experiencing winter, will, in half a year, face towards the Sun and experience summer. This is because the two hemispheres face opposite directions along Earth’s axis, and so as one polar hemisphere experiences winter, the other experiences summer.
More evident from high latitudes, a hemisphere’s winter solstice occurs on the day with the shortest period of daylight and longest night of the year, when the sun’s daily maximum elevation in the sky is at its lowest. Although the winter solstice itself lasts only a moment in time, the term sometimes refers to the day on which it occurs. Other names are “midwinter”, the “extreme of winter” (Dongzhi), or the “shortest day”. In some cultures it is seen as the middle of winter, while in others it is seen as the beginning of winter. In meteorology, winter in the Northern Hemisphere spans the entire period of December through February. The seasonal significance of the winter solstice is in the reversal of the gradual lengthening of nights and shortening hours of daylight during the day. The earliest sunset and latest sunrise dates differ from winter solstice, however, and these depend on latitude, due to the variation in the solar day throughout the year caused by the Earth’s elliptical orbit (see earliest and latest sunrise and sunset).
Worldwide, interpretation of the event has varied across cultures, but many have held a recognition of rebirth, involving holidays, festivals, gatherings, rituals or other celebrations around that time.
John “Jack” Russell (21 December 1795 – 28 April 1883), known as “The Sporting Parson”, vicar of Swimbridge and rector of Black Torrington in North Devon, was an enthusiastic fox-hunter and dog breeder, who developed the Jack Russell Terrier, a variety of the Fox Terrier breed.
Russell was born on 21 December 1795 in Dartmouth, South Devon, the eldest son of John Russell by his wife Nora Jewell. He lived at Sandhill House
He was educated at Plympton Grammar School, Blundell’s School, Tiverton and Exeter College, Oxford.
It was at Exeter College, legend has it, that he spotted a little white terrier with dark tan spots over her eyes, ears and at the tip of her tail, who was owned by a local milkman in the nearby small hamlet of Elsfield or Marston). Russell bought the dog on the spot and this animal, called “Trump”, became the foundation of a line of fox hunting terriers that became known as Jack Russell Terriers. They were well-suited by the shortness and strength of their legs for digging out foxes which had “gone to earth” having been hunted over-ground by fox hounds.
Russell was a founding member of The Kennel Club. He helped to write the breed standard for the Fox Terrier (Smooth) and became a respected judge. He did not show his own fox terriers on the conformation bench, saying that the difference between his dogs and the conformation dogs could be likened to the difference between wild and cultivated flowers.
Russell was appointed vicar of Swimbridge in North Devon, where the local public house was renamed the “Jack Russell Inn” and still stands today. He was also rector of Black Torrington in Devon.
In 1836 at Swimbridge he married Penelope Incledon-Bury, third daughter and co-heiress of Vice-Admiral Richard Incledon-Bury (1757-1825), Royal Navy, lord of the manor of Colleton, Chulmleigh in Devon, who resided at Doniton, Swimbridge. Russell is said to have had expensive sporting habits both on and off the hunting-field, which drained the substantial resources of his heiress wife and left the estate of Colleton in poor condition.
Death and burial
Russell died on 28 April 1883 and was buried in the churchyard of St. James’s Church, Swimbridge, where he was vicar.
Jack Russell Terrier
The Jack Russell Terrier is a small terrier that has its origins in fox hunting. It is principally white-bodied and smooth, rough or broken-coated but can be any colour.
The Jack Russell is frequently confused with the Parson Russell terrier (see the American Kennel Club) and the Russell terrier, which is a shorter-legged, stockier variety. (Within the Fédération Cynologique Internationale, the “Russell terrier” is also known as “Jack Russell terrier”.) The term “Jack Russell” is also commonly misapplied to other small white terriers. The Jack Russell is a broad type, with a size range of 10–15 inches (25–38 cm). The Parson Russell is limited only to a middle range with a standard size of 12–14 inches (30–36 cm), while the Russell terrier is smaller at 8–12 inches (20–30 cm). Each breed has different physical proportions according to the standards of their breed clubs.
Jack Russells are an energetic breed that rely on a high level of exercise and stimulation and are relatively free from serious health complaints. Originating from dogs bred and used by Reverend John Russell in the early 19th century, from whom the breed takes its name, the Jack Russell has similar origins to the modern Fox terrier. It has gone through several changes over the years, corresponding to different use and breed standards set by kennel clubs. Recognition by kennel clubs for the Jack Russell breed has been opposed by the breed’s parent societies – which resulted in the breeding and recognition of the Parson Russell terrier. Jack Russells have appeared many times in film, television, and print – with several historical dogs of note.
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