Rhodesian Ridgeback Breed Guide

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are large and muscular dogs with sleek and glossy coats. They range in color from light wheaten to red wheaten, sometimes with a bit of white on their toes and chest. The breed has a dense, short coat and most dogs bear the trademark "ridgeback" that gives them their name. This line of hair grows counter to other hairs along the spine. Rhodesian Ridgebacks have round eyes and high-set ears. Their skulls are flat and broad and their muzzles are deep. These dogs measure 24 to 27 inches tall at the shoulder and typically weigh 70 to 85 pounds. Some dogs may weigh as much 100 pounds.

These dogs are even-tempered, reserved around strangers, and trustworthy around kids.

Friendly dogs that enjoy people, Rhodesian Ridgebacks are a perfect fit for families with older children. Their short coats shed little and they require minimal grooming, but the breed does need daily exercise to remain physically and mentally healthy. These dogs are even-tempered, reserved around strangers, and trustworthy around kids.

Rhodesian Ridgebacks were originally developed to hunt lions. They would distract the lions so the hunters could take a shot. The breed is also called the African Lion Hound.

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are gentle, playful, and even-tempered dogs, which makes them great playmates for children. They can, however, be boisterous and may knock over smaller kids. They are reserved around strangers and have a powerfully protective side, making them good watchdogs. They are usually mellow, but their strong will sometimes leans toward domineering.

These dogs love to run and need a lot of daily exercise to remain physically and mentally healthy. Jogging and hiking along with the family are great activities that combine physical activity with bonding time. After time outdoors, Rhodesian Ridgebacks are perfectly content to rest on the couch while watching a movie with family members.

Ridgebacks should always be kept on a leash when outdoors to keep them from running off and chasing cats or other small animals. When not on leash, a securely fenced yard provides a safe place for these dogs to run and play.

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are prone to developing certain health problems that can negatively affect length or quality of life. Some of these conditions are manageable with medication and professional care, while others are untreatable and potentially fatal. To help ensure a healthy puppy from a healthy line, always purchase or adopt from a reputable source.

Congenital hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, dermoid sinus, deafness, hypothyroidism, and certain heart conditions are known to affect Rhodesian Ridgebacks. The breed is also at risk for degenerative myelopathy, an incurable and degenerative disease of the spinal cord. Additionally, Ridgebacks are prone to bloat, certain cancers, and a number of eye diseases, including entropion, cataracts, and progressive retinal atrophy. These dogs also love to eat and don't know when to stop; without attention to portion control, they will eat until they are sick and overweight.

Routine veterinary care, timely vaccinations, proper nutrition, regular exercise, and weight management help ensure Rhodesian Ridgebacks live a full life of 10 to 12 years.

Stubborn and prone to testing their boundaries at every opportunity, Rhodesian Ridgebacks need firm and consistent training beginning early in life. Training should be done by a strong and experienced person. Fortunately, these dogs learn quickly and respond well to positive reinforcement and fair and logical training techniques.

Lessons should be kept short and fun to hold the breed's attention. These dogs must be taught that they cannot do whatever they want, whenever they want. Ridgebacks are very sensitive, though, and will shut down when faced with harsh criticism or disapproval. Physical and verbal reprimands will only lead to a worsening of negative behaviors.

Keeping the Rhodesian Ridgeback busy will go a long way toward preventing digging, chewing, counter-surfing, and other problem behaviors. Socialization is also key and will help these dogs grow into tolerant and confident adults that are able to be around strangers and other animals without showing anxiety or aggression. For best results, begin socialization during the first months of life and continue it through adulthood with frequent walks around town and trips to neighborhood businesses.

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are easy to groom, but they shed a lot and their hair is difficult to remove from carpeting, clothing, and furniture. It's best to brush these dogs outdoors every few days to remove loose hair from the coat before it has a chance to fall out and accumulate along baseboards and in corners.

An occasional bath is enough to keep the breed's coat clean and manageable. If the Ridgeback rolls around in something toxic, stinky, or sticky, a quick wash with a pH-balanced canine shampoo will clean the coat without harming the skin or removing important natural oils. A thorough rinse is important to prevent skin drying and irritation.

The nails need regular trimmings and the teeth should be brushed daily to reduce the risk of gum disease, tooth decay, and other problems. Weekly ear checks are important, and excess ear wax is removable with a cotton ball and veterinarian-approved otic cleanser. Itching, redness, odor, discharge, or other signs of ear infection should be reported to a veterinarian right away.

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are native to South Africa and were bred by Boer farmers to work as hunting dogs. The breed developed from Mastiffs, Great Danes, Greyhounds, and other dogs brought to South Africa by European immigrants during the 16th century. The settlers crossed their European dog breeds with Africa's native Khoikhoi, or Hottentot, tribal dogs to produce a dog capable of withstanding hot and cold temperatures and hunting alongside crocodiles and other wild threats.

In 1877, two Ridgebacks were introduced to Rhodesia by Reverend Helm. They were instant hits in the hunting of lions on horseback. Their popularity increased due to their exceptional hunting abilities, and the breed became known for the ridge of hair down its back.

Rhodesian breeders set a standard for the breed in 1922, and the dogs were introduced to England and then America soon thereafter. The dogs saw increased recognition in both countries during the 1950s after several outstanding specimens were imported to America and the breed became registered by the AKC.

The American Kennel Club officially recognized the Rhodesian Ridgeback in 1955.