Rhodesian Ridgeback

Want to learn more about the infamous Lion Hunting Dog? Then take a look at today’s guide for all the information you’ll need on this amazing breed. 

Rhodesian Ridgeback standing on ground

Height: Male 25-27 inches, female 24-26 inches
Weight: 29-36.5 kilos
Rhodesian Ridgeback Lifespan: 10-12 years
Pedigree? (registered with the KC?): Yes, this breed is registered with the Kennel Club.

Positives and Negatives

Check out the pros and cons of the Rhodesian Ridgeback below:

Pros:

  • Minimal shedding, low grooming maintenance
  • Low droolers
  • Ideal watchdog
  • Great with children

Cons:

  • Strong prey drive
  • Not ideal for first time owners
  • May be aggressive towards other dogs
  • High exercise needs

Overview

The African Ridgeback dog is a powerful and intelligent breed requiring an experienced owner. As natural protectors and guardians, these dogs are completely loyal to those within their household. Whilst they’re independent and hard-working, they can still develop separation anxiety if kept away from their owners for long periods.

Coat colors can only be found in Wheaten. This can range from light to red. The distinct and recognizable ridge of fur found along their spine was factored into the name ‘Ridgeback’. These hounds are athletically built but can be prone to weight gain.  Keep an eye on calorie intake to prevent obesity and further health issues.

Dog breed Rhodesian Ridgeback resting on grass

This dog doesn’t have loose jowls so thankfully they won’t be drooling everywhere! They also have low maintenance needs and won’t need hours of grooming to look their best. Digging isn’t something the Ridgeback enjoys so at least they won’t destroy your garden. Ridgebacks have high exercise needs and will become bored if this isn’t being met.

Naturally, boredom will lead to destructive behaviors. Only active owners will be suitable for this breed. Mental stimulation will also be needed. As working dogs, their brains were always active. Dog sports like agility and tracking are great for the Rhodesian Ridgeback’s mental stimulation.

History

The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a South African dog dating right back to at least the 16th century. They originated from the Khoikhoi a native ridged breed and other European dogs. These include Mastiffs, Greyhounds, Bloodhounds, and Great Danes. Their ancestry is also linked to ancient canines of Hottentots.

Also known as the African Lion Hound, Rhodesian Ridgebacks were originally bred to be scent hounds in South Africa. They were then further developed in Rhodesia, now known as Zimbabwe, to track and assist in the hunting of lions within the Savannah. Other animals such as Baboons and Leopards would be kept at bay by this brave dog.

The breed was deeply popular amongst the Boer farmers. Not only were they fierce hunters, but they were also expected to guard the farms from both people and predators. Rhodesian Ridgebacks bonded well with the family including children. As their protectors, these dogs would adapt from a loving companion to an aggressive guard and hunter.

They were developed to have short coats that could prevent ticks from latching on to them. It’s also suitable for the constant change of hot and cold weather in Africa. Zimbabwe created the breed standards in 1922 which have remained unchanged to this day. In 1955 the AKC recognized the Rhodesian Ridgeback.

Related: Learn all about the wonderful Cockapoo next.

Personality

Rhodesian Ridgeback Temperament:

The Rhodesian Ridgeback dog is known to be devoted and loyal to their family. Energetic and full of life, this breed can adapt themselves to be calm and gentle when in the home. Tolerant and adaptable, Ridgebacks are exceptional workers. They also don’t bark very much, only when necessary such as alerting their owner.

As a scent hound, the breed has a great sense of smell. Tracking and exploring are some of their favorite things to do. It also keeps their brain active. Independence is another trait of the Ridgeback, which is no surprise. These dogs could spend hours alone guarding their family and territory. If they aren’t working they expect to be with their owners.

Three rhodesian ridgeback dogs playing outdoor

Are Rhodesian Ridgebacks Good With Strangers?

The Ridgeback dog will be suspicious and aloof of strangers. Training will be needed to prevent aggression. As a natural protector, this breed will always be on the alert. They’re great watchdogs and will instantly alert their owner to anything out of the ordinary.

Are Rhodesian Ridgebacks Good With Children?

Yes, this breed is great with children! Ridgebacks are well known for their loyalty and devotion to their family including children. Due to the Rhodesian Ridgeback size, they may accidentally knock over smaller children. Especially if they’re a boisterous puppy! Ridgebacks are very tolerant of a child’s behavior and make great playmates.

Are Rhodesian Ridgebacks Ok With Other Dogs?

This canine isn’t known for its friendliness towards other dogs. Socialization is deeply important and will impact future behavior. Animal aggression isn’t uncommon amongst the Ridgeback. After all, they were popular in Africa for their hunting and defensive skills!

They can live alongside other dogs but avoid keeping too many males in the same home. A dominance struggle could ensue. Cats can also live with the Ridgeback. All household pets should be introduced to the Ridgeback during the puppy stage.

Exercise

Ridgeback dogs will need over two hours of exercise each day. An active owner will be required for this dog. Due to their strong prey drive and potential dog aggression they should always be kept on a leash. Ideally, find an enclosed area where this canine can freely run and sniff around. Be careful not to overexert a Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy.

Rhodesian Ridgeback running outdoor

These dogs will need access to a medium-sized garden and a large home. Fences should be high to prevent the Ridgeback from escaping. Rhodesian Ridgebacks can make great jogging, cycling, and hiking partners. They have a lot of stamina and can easily keep up. These dogs could actually last for 24 hours with no water in the African bush!

Recommended: Are Cane Corso dogs suitable for first-time dog owners? Find out in our guide.

Health

Below are the breed-related health conditions of the Rhodesian Ridgeback:

  • Elbow Dysplasia- The difference in bone growth within the elbow can cause joint laxity. Pain and lameness are common symptoms.
  • Hip Dysplasia- Common amongst large breeds, this health condition will cause symptoms such as pain and lameness. Over time arthritis could develop.
  • Gastric Dilatation Volvulus-  This life-threatening condition is mostly caused by fast eating and large meals. Common symptoms include bloating and retching.
  • Dermoid Sinus- Found commonly along a dog’s back, tail, and neck, this neural tube defect is caused by the incomplete separation of the spine and skin.
  • Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy– A health condition causing spasms, twitches, and jerks whilst a dog is sleeping or resting. Symptoms can show from 6 weeks-18 months.
  • Hypothyroidism- An abnormal thyroid gland reduces a dog’s metabolism. This can cause symptoms such as a dull coat, weight gain, and a lack of tolerance to the cold.

Intelligence & Training

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are highly intelligent and with the right owner, easily trainable. They will need a firm leader that won’t be pushed over. Ridgebacks are dominant so be consistent with your boundaries and show this dog whose boss! Independence can often divert attention, keep training sessions short to prevent this from happening.

Whist the breed can handle harsher training methods, no dog should ever be hit. This could have a very negative impact on a dog’s behavior. Involve treats such as food, toys, and affection to keep them motivated. Commands can be grasped rather quickly so constant repetition won’t be needed.

Rhodesian Ridgeback puppies can be trained from as early as 8 weeks. Puppy training classes are a good way of learning commands whilst also socializing around new dogs and people. House breaking can be picked up quickly if the owner is consistent. Ridgebacks learn best off routine. Stick to set times when letting them out for a toilet break.

These canines will need more attention paid to their respect training than obedience to start off with. Once a dog understands its boundaries and its owner’s leadership, its listening skills will become much better.

Recommended: Check out our guide to the iconic Border Terrier next.

Grooming

Despite their size, Rhodesian Ridgebacks are fairly easy to groom. They don’t shed very much and have a short coat preventing debris from sticking to their fur. Smooth their coat out by brushing it once a week. This allows their natural oils to take care of the fur. It also reduces the need for a bath. Slicker and rubber style brushes are best to use.

Closeup of Rhodesian Ridgeback dog

Ridgebacks aren’t known to be smelly and will require a bath every 3 months. If they become dirty before this time, wipe them down with a wet cloth. Some Ridgebacks have sensitive skin and will need a more suitable shampoo that won’t cause itchiness.

Sometimes the Ridgeback’s nails file themselves naturally. They don’t like clippers very much so nail grinders would be a better option. Ears will need a clean weekly to prevent infection. Fur that blocks the airflow to the canal should be plucked. Don’t forget to brush their teeth. Vets recommend this is done daily for the best dental hygiene results.

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