Breed Type: Hunting, Hound
Country of Origin: South Africa
Size: Large
Males: Height 63–69 cm, Weight: 40kg
Females Height 61-66cm, Weight 32kg.
Care Requirements: Moderate, but they do like company
Lifespan:  10-14 years
Exercise Requirements: Medium
Best Suited as: Family Pet

Apart from the tell-tale and defining ridge which runs down the back of the Rhodesian Ridgeback they are probably best known from their history in South Africa is hunters of lions. Whilst indeed this is true and they are remarkably brave dogs the image of a pack of Ridgeback is running across the plains to take down a lion is not entirely true. Their task was more to distract the lion and keep out of its reach until the Hunter to arrive on the scene and then dispatch the lion.

The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a tall, well built and muscular dog of excellent balance and symmetry. They are a mix of power and endurance as a result of their history as large predator hunters. They were required to be sufficiently fleet of foot and high of Constitution to run down a lion and insufficiently powerful for a group of them to get a lion at least concerned an alert to their presence.

Current breeding aims to maintain the Rhodesian Ridgeback in more or less its original state unlike other breeds which are seen large divergence in the last hundred years.  It would be an easy task and indeed to some desirable one to breed them heavier and larger than the current standard but this has not yet an likely won’t ever happen.  The name of course comes from the bridge that runs the length of their spine which causes the hair to grow in the reverse direction to the rest of the coat thus creating a ridge.

During the colonisation by white men of South Africa this first arrivals observed a local tribe called the Hottentots using a semi domesticated dog the purposes of hunting. These dogs exhibited the same ridge as seen in the modern day Ridgeback. As big-game hunting grew in popularity in South Africa so to grew the need for these hunters to have reliable hunting dogs, sufficiently brave, strong and of high endurance to be able to run down and corner big-game.

Already engaged in these activities the native dogs used by the Hottentots was the obvious choice. Whilst the other breeds used to increase the size, power and group tracking and hunting ability of this native dog are not all known it’s likely the Cuban bloodhound was among them.

As mentioned above the Rhodesian Ridgeback was not expected to take down a lion, rather its job was to run it till tired then keep it at bay to the Hunter could arrive and shoot it at close range. With the invention of powerful long-range rifles and sniper scopes their role as line hunters came to an end and there you role as a family pets Guardian was born. Their natural bravery and high impact loyalty as a result of cross breeding with hound dogs made them an excellent choice to this task.

it is difficult to compare the Rhodesian Ridgeback temperament wise with any other breed. They are strong will and independent much like a livestock Guardian dogs are far more closely attached to the human family members than any livestock Guardian would ever be they crave the companionship either of their owner or their family members and will desire to be bred them wherever possible. They are leaners – whether you are sitting or standing expect to fill their weight.

They are intelligent and trainable but never subservient so whilst they can be trained to obey commands they will always viewed as important suggestions from a loved one. If you are looking for military obedience issued consider a different breed.
With their family members they are loyal, loving and gentle. You need not fear their mistaking one of the children for a lion indeed it would be very difficult to a child to elicit any level of aggression from the family Rhodesian Ridgeback and they’ll take a high level of punishment without response.  They love to play they also love to stay. They’ll exercise as much as you provide them with an outlet for it but will also happily lie on a mat to much of the day.

There are indeed protectors and watchdogs. A stray cat or dog advises way into your back yard should be very concerned about whether they’ll ever exit it again. It would be a very brave burglar had decided to try his luck breaking in through the backdoor and a throaty bark of an adult Ridgeback is indeed an imposing sound.

If other animals are introduced into the household and it is made clear to the Rhodesian Ridgeback that these other animals are family members your Rhodesian ridge back will accept them.

There hound history remains strong within them as evidenced by their desire to be within a pack. Rather than leave your Rhodesian back at home alone if your family is out very often consider buying a pair rather than a single animal.

Care and Grooming
As with all large dogs they come with the requirement to their fast-growing bones not be subject to the stress of high shock exercise as this may damage the growing joints and bones. Old or young they should not be allowed to exercise immediately before or after eating as this can cause them to suffer from bloat a painful and often fatal condition. They need bathing only infrequently and their short fur only requires brushing to remove dead hair and dust though they will likely see it as an extended patting session and enjoyed it immensely.

There hound dog heritage makes them instinctive chasers and their size and athleticism means they can often make short work of fences that might contain a smaller dog. Be sure there are no easy escape points from the backyard

bred the purpose, they are a very healthy breed that can live on average 12 to 14 years though some will live even longer. This is quite exceptional considering the average age to other similarly large breeds is closer to 10 years.

They suffer few genetic problems but as with all large dogs you should not buy a puppy where the parents have not been screened the hip and elbow dysplasia and where your puppy scores are available.

It is most important to always buying a Rhodesian and back from a registered breeder to ensure you receive a dog that is not across breed as their temperament changes markedly when crossed and also to ensure they don’t suffer from the genetic condition “dermoid sinus”.  Your breeder can and will test to this and provide evidence your puppy does not suffer from it whereas a registered breeder will not.

Veterinary Surgeon, London at Blue Cross UK | + posts

A London based Veterinary surgeon, Sanja is also an avid writer and pet advocate.