The Rhodesian Ridgeback

This page is provided to help you learn more about the Rhodesian Ridgeback breed. 


Breed History

The Rhodesian Ridgeback has a very interesting history. When the Europeans emigrated to South Africa to colonize it in the 1650s, they took all of their possessions with them, including their dogs. The Dutch observed that the Khoi Khoi and Hottentot natives had ridged native dogs that slept in the huts at night to protect them, herded the goats and cattle during the day to fend off marauding animals, and assisted the natives on hunts. So, the Colonists began interbreeding their European dogs with these ridged native dogs, and, over the next 250 years, an exceptionally versatile dog was "created" - capable of protecting, hunting, herding, retrieving, working a farm, and being a good companion.

The Rhodesian Ridgeback has been referred to as the African Lion Dog because it hunts large game (including lions) in packs of 2 to 3 hounds. Generally, the Ridgeback was not meant to kill a lion but to track it, hold it at bay, and turn the lion when it charged away from the hunter.

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Breed Standard

The breed standard for the Rhodesian Ridgeback originated with the Kennel Club of South Africa in 1922 where the dog did, and still does, hunt large game, including lion; the breed was "recognized" by the American Kennel Club in 1955. Clearly, the outstanding feature of the Ridgeback is the "ridge," which is a strip of hair along the spine extending from the back of the shoulders to just before the hips; this hair grows in the opposite direction to the other body hair and must contain two identical 'swirls" or "crowns" in the first third of the ridge. The ridge must be present at birth, or it is not there - it will not grow in as the puppy matures.

The Ridgeback is considered a large-sized short-coated dog, standing 24?27 inches at the shoulders and weighing 65-100 lb. (Males should be larger than females.). The dog is upright and handsome, yet very muscular, with the speed, stamina, and agility to hunt a lion for three days and hold it at bay until the hunter can arrive. Color ranges from "wheaton" (yellowish) to a "red wheaton" (reddish brown), with or without a face mask. Ridgebacks with a black nose should have dark eyes; if a brown nose ("liver nose") the eyes should be amber.

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Breed Characteristics

The Rhodesian Ridgeback is noted for being protective of the family (even fearless), territorial, and loving of children; grooming is minimal and the dog is inherently clean. The Ridgeback is not considered a "biting" breed, preferring to corner its game. Because it is a very intelligent breed (it would have to be to survive a lion hunt), the dog learns quickly, yet also gets bored quickly. Obedience training is easy, yet if the dog gets bored, training can become a challenge since the breed has a very quick and keen sense of humor, and oftentimes succeeds in embarrassing its owner. They never forget love and understanding, nor do they lightly forgive harsh treatment.

The Ridgeback is a dog of noble bearing, whose physical attributes reflect its role as guardian, hunter and companion. It is a dog of incorruptible, independent character, which takes its responsibilities of companionship, protection and family dedication to heart. The Ridgeback is a devoted family dog - totally loyal to it's master. He is rather aloof and undemonstrative, even standoffish, towards strangers.

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Health Problems

The dermoid sinus is a malformation of the outer skin that is attached to the spinal cord. The dermoid sinus is looked for at birth - it does not "grow in;" if a breeder misses locating a dermoid, it can be surgically corrected and the dog will live a full, healthy life. 

Thyroid problems have been a documented problem in the breed for 5-10 years; hypothyroidism can be medically managed easily.


Cancer in certain lines is becoming an emerging concern. 


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