This breed, originally from South Africa, is also known as the African Lion Hound.
Rhodesian Ridgebacks originated in Zimbabwe and didn’t arrive in the United States until after World War II. Today, the Ridgeback is growing in numbers as a “companion” dog here in the U.S. The descendants of the Rhodesian are thought to be the Mastiff, Deerhound, and maybe the Great Dane.
Known as a sighthound, the Ridgeback was bred as a working farm dog used for herding and protecting the tribes territory. They were also trained to hunt and hold lions “at bay,” meaning to keep them in position until the hunters made the kill. Today, Ridgebacks are considered more companions than working dogs.
Rhodesians range from 24 to 27 in height and they weigh about 70 to 85 lbs. Their most distinctive trait is the ridge of hair running along their spines from the shoulders to their hips in the opposite direction of the rest of their fur. Another distinguishing feature is their coat color - a shade of red that can be a light or dark color with white sometimes on their chest and toes.
Grooming is pretty minimal with Ridgebacks, as their coats are short and dense with a glossy look. They typically have large, dark eyes with a black nose, but they can also have amber eyes with a brown/liver color nose. Their muzzles tends to be black, long, and powerful, and their ears are medium-sized and hang naturally. Their tails are long and smooth, and they tend to curve upward.
Opposites Do Not Attract
Rhodesians are smart, loyal, easy-going, and good-natured, but they can be aloof around strangers. Bred with the proper temperament, this breed is not considered aggressive towards strangers; they simply don’t care one way or the other about them. They do have an independent streak, which can make training a little more challenging, but these dogs are very smart, and they catch on to the training techniques pretty easily.
Like all dogs, early socialization and training is a must. Because of their stubbornness, they aren't ideal for the passive people. Still, they do have a sensitive side and don't respond to harsh corrections, so proper positive reinforcement is the best training for this breed. Because of their strong-willed tendencies, they aren't recommended for first-time dog owners.
Rhodesian Ridgebacks have a moderate activity level, so they will need a daily exercise regimen. They make an excellent hiking or walking partners and should have at least one walk per day (no less then 30-45 minutes). But remember, they are sighthounds and will have a strong prey drive, so a leash will be required for walks. A fenced-in yard with plenty of room to romp around is recommended to keep them from getting into mischief.
The typical lifespan of the Rhodesian Ridgeback is between 10 and 11. Health concerns include dermoid sinus, hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, deafness, degenerative myelopathy (DM), and bloat.
Consider looking for a Rhodesian Ridgeback through rescue organizations first. Every year, there are millions of dogs being euthanized - not because they are bad dogs, but because there is no home for them and insufficient resources to care for them at rescue agencies. By adopting a dog, you are truly saving a life!
At the very least, NEVER purchase any dog from a pet store. Unfortunately, those puppies almost always come from puppy mills. Instead, look for a reputable breeder to work with.
On a final note, it is important to spay and neuter your puppy by 6 months old to have a healthy and happy pet for many years to come!
If you lead an active lifestyle and are looking for a partner, the Rhodesian Ridgeback is the dog for you!
Original Dog Bible, 2nd Edition by Kristin Mehus-Roe