Rhodesian Ridgeback

Country of origin:
Southern Africa
Height (cm):
Weight (kg):
Life span (years):
light wheaten to red wheaten
Hair length:
Recognized by:
FCI code:
Good with kids:
Pros Cons
  • forms strong bonds with its master
  • great watchdog
  • gets on well with children
  • obedient
  • can be aggressive towards other dogs
  • chases small animals
  • needs a lot of daily exercises


The Rhodesian Ridgeback is an athletic and courageous hunting dog, which was created in South Africa and Zimbabwe. The dog is known to be a fearless lion hunter but nowadays it’s mostly used as a home pet and guardian. This big and beautiful animal has rather reserved and even temperament, which makes it suitable for keeping at home.

The Rhodesian Ridgeback was developed by the first European settlers in Africa in the beginning of the XVIII century. Shortly after their arrival to the African continent these settlers turned into farmers, who greatly needed a well accommodated to the African flora and fauna dog. Moreover this animal had to be able to perform multiple tasks including hunting, protecting the owner’s domains and simply being a pleasant family pet.

The farmers initiated the breeding program of mixing dogs they’d imported from Europe – such as Great Danes, Mastiffs, Greyhounds, and Bloodhounds – with half-feral local dog developed by the Khoikhoi, an indigenous folk of the continent. This dog had one peculiar feature: prominent ridge of hair along its spine. The breeding specialists made a useful observation that crosses with this particular trait had tendency to become outstanding hunters.

At some point the Rhodesian Ridgeback was used to flush partridge or kill various African game. Gradually the hunting on big type of animals gained a substantial popularity and the hunters tested the breed as assistant in hunting on lions from horseback. The dog passed the test with flying colour and eventually the lion hunting became its speciality. The main assignment of the dog was to hold back a wild beast until the arrival of the hunter.

The breeding of the Rhodesian Ridgeback didn’t have any systematic approach well until the end of the XIX century. First purebred dogs appeared in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) thanks to the accurate breeding practices of the hunter Cornelius von Rooyen. In 1924 his efforts resulted in a breed standard that experienced virtually no changes since then.

Initially the Rhodesian Ridgeback arrived to the United States as early as 1911 but the population of dogs in this country remained fairly scarce prior the end of the Second World War. After the war many dogs were brought to the USA, Great Britain, and Canada and soon it acquired there much following. The breed was officially accepted by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1955. Nowadays the Rhodesian Ridgeback performs a various tasks including hunting, companion dog and guardian and this makes it a great choice for those, who want to have a so-called «three in one» dog.

The character of the Rhodesian Ridgeback represents a well-balanced mixture of characteristics of an average hound and typical guardian breed. This dog is praised for its devotion and high level of affection. The rate of its expressivity usually varies from specimen to specimen but it has a tendency to form a close relationship with its master. This breed is accepting to children of the family and likes to be drawn in their playing activities. Nonetheless the young Rhodesian Ridgeback may be too active for a toddler.

The strong protecting instinct of the Rhodesian Ridgeback purports that it’s rather suspicious towards strangers. It doesn’t mean though that the dog is prone to display aggression without any serious reason. The breed stays always on the watch so it can make an excellent watchdog. If properly trained it can also become a highly effective guardian, who is capable of courageously defending its master’s family and property.

The Rhodesian Ridgeback has a mixed reputation with other canine animals. The dog is apt to develop possessive as well as territorial issues, so it can set up a fight over its subordinated territory with the other dog. Unneutered males can also become quite aggressive towards canines of the same sex. The breed needs a close supervision around small species of animals including homeless cats, guinea pigs, rabbits, hamsters, etc. Majority of the members manifest a powerful prey drive and therefore it should always be kept on a leash during walks. In most cases if the Ridgeback and a home cat have been introduced to each other at the early age the dog will tolerate it the rest of its life.

Health Problems

The most common problems for the breed include:

• myelitis;
• meningitis;
• canine hip dysplasia;
• elbow dysplasia;
• hypothyroidism;
• cervical vertebral instability;
• ears problems;
• eyes problems.

The Rhodesian Ridgeback’s grooming will require minimal efforts from its master. The dog’s coat should be brushed a few times a week and it will never demand a professional attendance. The rest consists of a typical care and includes ear cleaning and nail clipping. Dogs that live mostly indoors shed insubstantially and permanently. The breed members, who are kept primarily outside are prone to shed more intensely during the shedding season.

The Rhodesian Ridgeback is fairly susceptible to training if compared with other type of hounds. This breed usually archives great success in agility and obedience competitions. In general it likes to learn and please its owner but definitely it doesn’t crave to do so. At times the dog can become outright defiant refusing to obey for whatever reason.

Remember that this powerful animal will always strive to reach an alpha status in the pack hierarchy so the trainer should hold control over the situation at all times and regularly remind the dog, who is the boss. The Ridgeback is intolerable to critiques and reacts to it with wilful and stubborn behaviour. The handler should apply only gentle encouragement and abundant treats while working with this breed.


As a tireless hunter in not so distant past the Rhodesian Ridgeback should get quite a lot of opportunities to release its exuberant energy. The daily brisk walk of an hour long is a must but this dog will much appreciate a free run in a securely fenced territory. This animal is big and strong enough to be an infamous escape artist, so make sure that the fence is really high and steady.

The Ridgeback will make an incomparable jogging or walking partner that is able to withstand even long-distance running. This breed can barely be satisfied with living in a small city apartment and it’s destined to live in rural areas where it’s provided with ample opportunities to spend its excessive energy reserves.