Like most dogs, the Rhodesian Ridgeback has quite a history to tell. During the 16th and 17th centuries, European settlers began to arrive in South Africa and brought dogs such as the Mastiff, Great Dane, Bloodhound, Pointer, Staghound, and Greyhound name a few.
These settlers would need a dog that could put up with hot and cold weather, a little water, and rough bush, all while performing the duties of a guard dog and hunting dog. They bred their European dogs with native Hottentot tribal hunting dogs (which settlers recognized by a ridge of hair growing in the opposite direction along the top of their back) in time; they developed just such a dog.
European Settlers Used Them to Hunt Lions
The Rhodesian Ridgeback hunts by both sight and scent and is a devoted protector of the entire family. Hunters took several of these dogs to Rhodesia in the 1870s to hunt lions, track them, and then keep them at bay. Amazingly, these dogs were so successful; they became popular. Also, their distinguishing ridge became a symbol of quality.
By the early to mid-1900s, too many types of ridged dogs existed. Therefore, breed enthusiasts convened a meeting to clarify the most looked-for points of the breed. This meeting set the basis of the current standard we have today.
Rhodesian Ridgebacks made their way to England in the 1930s and then to America not long after. In both countries, the dogs gained recognition in the 1950s, and expeditiously gained a large fan base. During the 1980s, the breed garnered recognition as a sighthound and became eligible to compete in sighthound field trials.
Today, the Rhodesian Ridgeback is one of the more popular hounds. Many believe this is because it combines the abilities of the hunter, protector, and companion in a sleek athletic body.
Rhodesian Ridgeback Breed Facts
Temperament: Many consider the Rhodesian Ridgeback to be the hound group’s answer to a protective dog. In fact, it is both a skilled hunter and a loyal guardian. It is good for children and rather protective of the entire family. However, it can be a little too animated for small children. These dogs are strong-willed and powerful. In fact, some can be domineering. They’re also reserved with strangers. They’re OK around other dogs. However, males may jostle for dominance. Ridgebacks are great with cats if they’re raised together.
Upkeep: The Rhodesian Ridgeback loves to run. For instance, it needs to be mentally and physically stimulated to keep it from getting bored. They’re excellent jogging and hiking partners. Coat care is not excessive, consisting only of occasional brushing to remove dead hair.
Family: Sighthound, Scenthound
Origin: South Africa
Date Developed: 1800s
Past Function: Hunting large game, guard dog
Current Function: Lure coursing, companion
Other Names: African Lion Hound
Life Expectancy: 10–12 years
Weight: Male: 85 pounds; Female: 70 pounds
Height: Male: 22–27 pounds; Female: 24–26 pounds
Color: Light wheaten to red wheaten; nose can be black, brown, or liver
Group: The Hound Group
The Rhodesian Ridgeback is slightly longer than it is tall. It is a breed that combines features of speed, power, and endurance. According to the breed standard, it must possess an athletic build, enabling it to bring down wounded game. Also, the dog’s physique enables it to do extremely well in performance events. Its stride is efficient and long. Also, they do very well in hot climates thanks to their glossy coats. A distinguishing feature is a defined ridge, which should start with two matching swirls just behind the shoulders and taper to the hips’ eminence.
Energy Level: 3/5
Exercise Requirements: 3/5
Tolerate Other Dogs: 2/5
Tolerate Other Pets: 3/5
Ease of Training: 3/5
Tolerate Strangers: 1/5
Watchdog Ability: 4/5
Guard dog Ability: 4/5
Grooming Requirements: 1/5
Ability to Tolerate Cold: 3/5
Ability to Tolerate Heat: 3/5