Background and History
The Rhodesian Ridgeback has a similar history to the Boerboel (South African Mastiff) in that this breed was developed from the 16th century by Dutch colonists.
This breed is also known as the ‘Lion dog of Africa’, although they were used to pursue lions not to attack them as some people romantically believe. The Rhodesian Ridgeback with an impressive combination of skill and agility pursued, distracted and harassed the lion until the human hunters arrived.
In creating this consummate hunting and trailing dog, the colonists were very impressed with the indigenous Africanis dogs (also known as Hottentot or Khoikhoi) which proved to be fast and agile as well as perfectly adapted to the African climate. These native dogs were able to withstand extreme temperatures and resistant to a range of local diseases. The Africanis dog was also rugged enough to cope with the multiple challenges of terrain.
These native Africanis dogs were therefor bred with imported guarding and hunting dogs from Europe to add both size, strength and speed in order to produce the ultimate hunting dog for the local terrain.
Although these original Africanis dogs subsequently have declined in numbers and all but disappeared, this dog has bequeathed not only its DNA, but also an indelible signature on the Rhodesian Ridgeback in the form of the distinctive ridge that characterises the breed.
So while the Boerboels guarded homes, the Rhodesian Ridgeback developed as a sighthound equipped with the speed, stamina and strength to pursue the large game of Africa (in much the same way that the Cane Corso was used for hunting in Italy in contrast to the more guard dog function of the Neapolitan Mastiff).
Recent DNA analysis suggests that the European breed with the greatest influence on the Rhodesian Ridgeback is the Great Dane. This is little surprise considering this huge German dog was specifically bred to hunt and attack very large prey.
Other influences include Mastiffs, Bloodhounds and Greyhounds gifting this versatile breed with strength, size, speed and an unerring ability to scent prey over long distances. To this day the Rhodesian Ridgeback absolutely excels in lure coursing.
The gentle and balanced temperament of the Rhodesian Ridgeback also led them to be prized as companions to the family.
The Rhodesian Ridgeback is also the Hound Group’s answer to a dog able to protect the family, as well as an athletic and doting canine companion. If you are an active person who enjoys very long walks then the Rhodesian Ridgeback could well be the dog for you.
Introduced to the United States in the 1950s and were first registered by the AKC in 1955
Character and Temperament
The Rhodesian Ridgeback is excellent with children, although they can be boisterous so might be best suited to a family where these children are on the older side.
The Rhodesian Ridgeback is also celebrated for being gregarious with other dogs and rarely aggressive.
These dogs, as you may expect from a Sighthound does have a high prey drive, but this is balanced by a calm temperament meaning that they often reported as being tolerant of feline members of the family. But it is always preferable for a puppy to be introduced to a cat as early as possible to ensure the fur does not fly.
The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a very intelligent dog and can be trained to a very good standard. Some owners report a stubborn streak which may be linked to the strong influence of the Great Dane on this breed, whose size and power was in turn gained from the English Mastiff.
Indeed the Rhodesian Ridgeback does seem to align with the temperament of the English Mastiff, not only in stubbornness, but also in their relatively calm demeanour and desire to protect their families.
This means with early socialization in place these dogs provide excellent canine companions outside the home and are also well-mannered in the home and generally clean.
Indeed, the combination of courage, alertness, obedience and loyalty has led them to be celebrated as an excellent family guard dog. In addition they have a natural wariness of strangers
The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a confident and outgoing dog who makes a generally marvellous companion for both families and those who live alone. But it is preferable that a prospective owner is both an experience and strong canine leader.
With a consistent approach to training and socialization the Rhodesian Ridgeback offers a wonderful dog being both biddable and very eager to please.
For the different stages in a puppy and adult dog’s development please click here.
English Mastiff, Great Dane, Bloodhound
For an overview of the breeds in the Working Group please click here.
The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a dog that needs early socialization to ensure they get used to people in a variety of situations. This means that this very powerful dog will be calm, confident and biddable as they transition to adulthood.
The Rhodesian Ridgeback will ideally have an experienced owner able to show strong canine leadership to this dog. This will ensure that this powerful dog becomes a good canine citizen both inside and outside the house. This means proactively entrenching obedience and manners through consistent training.
The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a dog that is very eager to please, which is consistent with being bred to work closely alongside humans as sighthounds. Any training is based largely around positive reinforcement to ensure this dog has the emotional foundation to be a successful family dog.
With this hound breed it is essential to foreground recall. This adventurous dog will certainly need time off the leash to run and explore and this will ensure that this dog can be successfully managed on the dog.
In keeping with the necessary independence instilled into a hunting hound, the Rhodesian Ridgeback may also have a tendency to pull on the leash. This means that work based around your dog showing good attention to the handler, as well as encouragement to heel should also be prioritized.
As a successful hunting dog this breed carries with it a high level of intelligence, versatility and trainability.
The Rhodesian Ridgeback will actively enjoy obedience drills and mentally stimulating activities based around scent-trails and ‘find-it’ games
Click here for an outline of the benefits of training. Click here for information on socializing a puppy and here for socializing an adult dog.
You can expect this impressive hunting dog to be athletic and energetic. This means that the Rhodesian Ridgeback requires a high level of exercise including at least two hours of walks each day. If possible and in a safe area this should also include opportunities to play and explore off-leash.
This dog will also be stimulated by any chasing games or even an opportunity to undertake scent trailing.
As an intelligent dog the incorporation of obedience training and games such as ‘find-it’ will offer the Rhodesian Ridgeback additional mental stimulation.
The Rhodesian Ridgeback offers an impressive blend of streamlined athleticism and lean muscularity. Most (but not all) boast the characteristic ridge along their back inherited from their Africanus forebears.
This distinctive ridge is a band of darker hair that runs in the opposite direction to the rest of the coat along the spine.
The colors range from light wheaten to mahogany red often with a patch of white to the chest and some white fur amidst the toes.
The male Rhodesian Ridgeback stands at least around 25-27 inches (63-69cm) from feet to withers with the female only slightly shorter at 24-26 inches (63-66cm). The weight of this breed is approximately 60-88 lb (30-40 kg).
Coat and Grooming
The Rhodesian Ridgeback has a short sleek coat of varying shades from light wheaten to red wheaten with a black or brown nose.
The coat care is very minimal with only an occasional brushing required to remove dead hair and circulate natural oils around the skin.
These dogs will also benefit from being bathed around once a month to keep this dog clean, healthy and to remove the build-up of any odours.
Lifespan and Health
The lifespan of this breed is usually around 10-12 years.
As a large breed unfortunately this dog can be prey to hip and elbow dysplasia as well as hypothyroidism.
They can also suffer from dermoid sinus which is a breed specific condition affecting the spine.
Rhodesian Ridgeback Inc (USA and Canada)
Ridgeback Rescue USA (USA)
Ridgeback Rescue UK (UK)