Some breeds are hard to find outside of their native country, often due to there being very little interaction and crossbreeding with other dogs. This usually means that a breed maintains most of their original traits and appearances, especially designed for some specific purpose or other. In the case of the Thai Ridgeback, it’s all of the above.
A guardian with a long history
The Thai Ridgeback is considered a primitive breed, in that there are very few differences between the original version of the breed, and the one we have today. It’s a landrace breed ― developed mostly on its own without much human intervention ― and can be dated back at least 360 years in its home country of Thailand. It’s believed to be much older, however, predating written records, so there’s no way of saying for sure. The Thai Ridgeback was used mainly for hunting in the eastern part of the country, but was also used to escort carts and guard homes, as well as deal with vermin.
It looks and acts much the same today as it did back then, mostly due to poor transportation systems in eastern Thailand. There were simply very few chances for this dog to crossbreed with others. The Thai Ridgeback is also known as Mah Thai Lang Ahn, and the breed is still very rare outside of Thailand. They can be hard to find in the rest of the world, as well as be very expensive, despite being so common in their home country that it’s been named the National Breed of Thailand.
It’s believed that the Thai Ridgeback is a descendant of either the extinct Hottentot Dog or the Funan Ridgeback Dog. It’s likely that there is some shared lineage with the Vietnamese Phu Quoc Ridgeback, given the physical resemblance. The Thai Ridgeback didn’t make its way to the US until 1994, and in 1996, the American Kennel Club officially recognized the breed.
Size and appearance of the Thai Ridgeback
Like the much better known Rhodesian Ridgeback, the Thai Ridgeback is named after the distinctive ridge along its back. This ridge is formed by hair growing in the opposite direction of the rest of the coat, creating whorls and swirls. Some puppies are born without this ridge, however, and thus won’t do well in shows. In terms of color, the Thai Ridgeback can be found in solid blue, black, red or fawn, with a black mask occasionally found on red-coated dogs. Interestingly enough, all Thai Ridgebacks also have spotted tongues ― in some cases, the tongue can even be solid black or blue. On top of that, some Thai Ridgebacks from Northern Thailand are born with dew claws on their back feet.
The Thai Ridgeback is an impressive, elegant dog. They stand 20-24 inches tall, and while they’re not bulky, they’re strong and have a lot of stamina. Given their original purposes, this isn’t all too surprising. Their life expectancy is 12-13 years, and they might be prone to becoming overweight. They may look intimidating, but their facial expression has a playful look to it, especially with the wrinkles, the somewhat floppy ears, and soulful eyes. The Thai Ridgeback is an excellent jumper, agile, and their coat is very short and smooth, requiring very little grooming. Due to their minimal shedding, people with allergies may find that this breed bothers them less than others.
Temperament and personality
The Thai Ridgeback can make for an excellent companion and family dog, as they are strong, loyal, and intelligent. But it’s definitely not a dog for first-time owners. Their prey drive and protective instincts are strong (they’re perfectly capable of both fighting and killing a cobra, for instance), which can be tricky. They’re natural guardians, which means that they can be wary and reserved around strangers. Proper socialization is key, both with humans and other dogs, and it needs to be done through patience, consistency, and proper knowledge of dog-behavior. Experienced owners are a must.
Today, the Thai Ridgeback is mostly a companion dog, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t still great at their original jobs. They were once bred for hunting and guarding, and therefore had to be independent, self-sufficient, and intelligent. They were even expected to hunt for their own food, which has left them with strong survival instincts. They’re not recommended for families with younger children, despite how playful and extremely protective they can be.
Things to consider
The Thai Ridgeback can be a difficult breed for even an experienced owner, but all of that said, they’re just as loving and faithful as they are demanding. With consistency, patience, and a firm hand, as well as lots of care and attention, the Thai Ridgeback will make an excellent companion. You just need to be willing to put in the work.