Strong, loyal, distinguished ― some breeds have it all. With their impressive reputation and history, the Rhodesian Ridgeback definitely belongs to that group, and the impression is well-earned. From big-game hunter on the African plains, to loving companion and part-time couch potato, this dignified dog is full of character.
The African Lion Hound
Also known as the African Ridgeback, the Rhodesian Ridgeback was originally developed in South Africa. It’s considered a unique creation of the country. Originally, the native KhoiKhoi dog was bred with European dogs brought by Dutch colonists (the Boers), such as Greyhounds and various terriers. The native blood gave the Ridgeback the advantage of knowing how to navigate the African terrain, as well as resiliency against several local pests and insects. This large dog was once known as the African Lion Hound. This is due to their hunting uses being expanded to involve holding a lion at bay until the human hunters arrived. This has given them quite the impressive reputation, and it still sticks, to this day. That said, the Rhodesian Ridgeback has never been used to actually kill lions. They very likely couldn’t, if they tried.
When big-game hunting started to wane in popularity, the dog became part of a breeding program in the state of Rhodesia, equivalent in territory to modern Zimbabwe. This was to keep it from going extinct. Breeds like the Great Dane, the Dalmatian, and Bull Terriers were used to give the Rhodesian Ridgeback much of the trademark appearance we see today. The breed was officially recognized in the 1920s by the South African Kennel Union. The Rhodesian Ridgeback may have arrived in the US as early as 1911, but it wasn’t until after World War II that large numbers made their way across the world to the US, Britain, and Canada. In 1955, the Rhodesian Ridgeback was officially recognized by the AKC, and today ranks 54th in popularity. The breed is still quite popular in its original home country of South Africa,
Size and appearance of the Rhodesian Ridgeback
It’s hard to miss the distinctive ridge along this dog’s back, where whorls make the hair grow in opposite directions. Just like the Thai Ridgeback, however, this ridge is only part of what makes the Rhodesian Ridgeback so compelling in appearance. This dog stands 25 to 27 inches tall, and has a strong, muscular build. They’re bred hunters, and their physique shows it. They only come in one color, wheaten. This spans a whole spectrum of colors you might find in a wheat field ― pale flaxen to burnished red. The nose comes in two colors, but brown is less commonly seen than black.
Due to its Dalmatian and Great Dane genes, among others, the Rhodesian Ridgeback possesses an elegant, muscular body, and a strong profile. Interestingly, the breed also has webbed toes, in order to let it move across desert sand without much effort.
Temperament and personality
The Rhodesian Ridgeback was once known for its fierce loyalty and protective instincts, and this still holds true today. Back in the day, they were used for hunting as well as guarding the homestead. They would also have no problem trotting along with humans on horseback across long distances. It’s important to keep this in mind if you were to bring a Ridgeback into your modern life, as they still need a lot of exercise and stimulation. This dog can be strong-willed, independent, and sometimes even domineering ― it’s not a breed for first-time owners. You don’t need to take them on mountain hikes every day, but make sure to let them get all that energy out of their system. They’re still strong hunters and allround dogs, deep down.
With their family and loved ones, the Rhodesian Ridgeback is incredibly affectionate. If tired out, they will love cuddling for hours on the couch. Just make sure you have a strict set of rules in place, and can provide the firm hand needed to keep this dog in check. Not to mention mental stimulation; a bored dog is a destructive dog, and they need to be properly challenged every now and then. The Rhodesian Ridgeback is quiet and dignified, and reserved toward strangers. In other words, if you want an extroverted and outgoing dog, maybe keep looking. They’re gentle with those they love, and will defend them and their home without hesitation.
Things to consider
The Rhodesian Ridgeback definitely isn’t for everyone, with its strong body and equally strong will. But if you’re up for the challenge and can provide what this impressive, loyal dog needs, you’ll have a loving companion and addition to your family.