Rhodesian Ridgeback

Type: Sighthound and Pariah

Height: 24 - 27 inches.

Weight: 65 - 85 lbs.

Life Span: 9 - 12 years, though some have lived to 16.

Litter Size: 7 - 8 puppies.

Country of Origin: Zimbabwe (Rhodesia)

Activity: Indoors - Low. Outdoors - Very High.

Watch-dog: Very High.

Guard-dog: Very High.


Description: A Rhodesian Ridgeback's uniqueness is the ridge of the back, formed by the hair growing in the opposite direction to the rest of the coat. This unique feature only shows up on two other dog breeds, and begins with two whorls of fur starting at the top of the ridge. These dogs are medium to large sized, but without any cumbersome movement. The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a strong, muscular and active dog, symmetrical in outline and capable of great endurance and speed. They are very fast, running down whatever prey may come into their gaze. When they are alert, their brown is wrinkled and the ears perk, but are always dropped. They can be wheaten, cream, golden, red or brown. Sometimes they have a dark muzzle. Rhodesian Ridgebacks are not only attractive in looks, but personality as well. They are kind and friendly, but very protective of their owners. They would fight to the death if needed, and are very loyal. They get along well with most people, though they do have a limit to their kindness when being pestered. The Rhodesian Ridgeback makes a most honorable companion, in both hunting and friendship alike.

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Other Names: African Lion Hound, African Lion Dog, Rhodesian Lion Dog (previously)

Colors: Light wheaten to red wheaten.

Coat: Short, dense, sleek and glossy.

Temperament: Rhodesian Ridgebacks are friendly and obedient. They are good natured and friendly, but are also good guard dogs and watch dogs. Rhodesian Ridgebacks are laid back, devoted, and very intelligent. They can be rather independent, so training can be challenging. But once trained, they are obedient. They are good with children but not so good with smaller pets, as they have a high prey drive.

With Children: Yes, as long as they are not pestered.

With Pets: Needs socialization when young to accept cats, dogs and other pets.

Special Skills: Hunting dog, watch dog and family pet.

Care and Training: Minimal grooming of the Rhodesian Ridgeback's short coat is required. Brush with a firm bristle brush and shampoo only when necessary. Rhodesian Ridgebacks need a great amount of exercise as they have tremendous stamina. They love to swim. Rhodesian Ridgebacks need a consistent and equable approach to training. They are intelligent, but stubborn. An owner should start training when they are young and easy to manage.

Learning Rate: High. Obedience - Medium. Problem Solving - High.

Special Needs: Fenced yard, leash, socialization and training.

Living Environment: A fenced yard is essential for the Rhodesian Ridgeback in an urban environment. Rhodesian Ridgebacks thrive in a large property where they can patrol their home ground. The owner of a Rhodesian Ridgeback should be able to control a large, independent, athletic dog.

Health Issues: Hip dysplasia, dermoid sinus, and osteochondrosis.

History: Named after the country of Rhodesia which is now Zimbabwe, they were once called the African Lion Dog as they would, according to myth, hunt lions and other big game in packs. The use of hunting lions is a myth, but the breed was used most often to hunt large game, and to keep lions at bay until a hunter could get close enough to shoot it. They would distract the prey, keep it at bay and bark until their owner arrived. Rhodesian Ridgebacks are thought to have come with the Khoikoi, or Hottentot tribe, from Northern Africa into Southern Africa. They were the dog kept by these people to bring down large game. Rhodesian Ridgebacks were developed from crossing the local dog (the African Hottentot Hunting Dog, owned by the Hottentot people) who had a distinctive ridge of hair growing in the reverse direction along their back ,to the Pointer, Mastiff, Greyhound and Bulldog that were brought over by Dutch and German settlers in the 16th and 17th centuries. Anthropologists believe that a dog existed as far back as 1505 that had a ridge growing along its back, and that was of extreme loyalty. After the eventual new breed that formed from the Hottentot dogs and the Bulldog, Pointer, Mastiff, and Greyhound, the Reverend Helm brought some of these mixes to Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), which was a popular big game hunting site in the 1870s. Hunters rejoiced in the breed's nose, trailing abilities, and bravery to hunt quarry of a lion's size! Of these hunters was a man named Cornelius Van Rooyen of Plumtree, Rhodesia. He had a pack for over 35 years that he refined and perfected into what the Rhodesian Ridgeback is today. After Van Rooyen died in 1922, fanciers wanted to standardize the breed and did so, first wanting to call it the Rhodesian Lion Dog. Soon after they decided this name sounded too fierce a reputation, and called it the Rhodesian Ridgeback. The breed standard was set in 1922 by combining the best attributes of five existing Rhodesians Ridgebacks. The breed was imported into the United States after World War II, and was recognized by the AKC in 1959. Today the breed has thrived as a popular house pet as well as a hunter.

First Registered by the AKC: 1955

AKC Group: Hound Group

Class: Hound

Registries: AKC, ANKC, CKC, FCI (Group 6), KC (GB), UKC