Everything about your Rhodesian Ridgeback

  The Rhodesian Ridgeback is easy to spot among a canine crowd: He’s the one with the tiny Mohawk running down his spine. Expressive eyes reflect the sensitive spirit of this large, intelligent dog who loves to run and play. He’s not a barker, but a Ridgie will protect his family.



  Derived from Africa, the Rhodesian Ridgeback was bred to guard and protect children and family when parents were away. Designed to hunt lions and retrieve needed objects, the breed does well hunting with humans when on horseback. Doing well in African climates, the breed was brought to America in 1950. With high endurance and the ability to outlast humans, this dog is a strong, smart and loyal breed.
  As a pup, the Rhodesian Ridgeback is active and exuberant, but he matures into a dog with moderate exercise needs. Give him a vigorous walk or game of fetch a couple of times a day, plus a chance to run in a safely fenced area a couple of times a week, and he’ll be satisfied — at least in terms of physical exercise. This intelligent breed also needs mental stimulation: a bored Rhodesian Ridgeback is a destructive Rhodesian Ridgeback.


  • The Rhodesian Ridgeback is tolerant of kids, but can be too rambunctious for toddlers.
  • Because of their size, intelligence, and power, Rhodesian Ridgebacks aren’t recommended for first-time or timid owners.
  • If a Rhodesian Ridgeback is raised with other pets, he’ll be accepting of them. However, he can still be aggressive toward strange animals outside the family, even if he’s well socialized and trained. Males can be aggressive toward other males, especially if they’re not neutered.

  • If bored, the Rhodesian Ridgeback can become very destructive.
  • The Rhodesian Ridgeback needs a high fence to keep him from escaping and roaming. An underground electronic fence won’t contain him.
  • Rhodesian Ridgebacks shed little, and you can keep them clean with a weekly brushing and a wipedown with a damp cloth. They also need regular nail trims and tooth brushing.
  • Training can be difficult if you don’t start at a very young age. Rhodesian Ridgebacks can be stubborn and strong willed, but if you’re consistent, firm, and fair, you can train your Ridgeback to a high level.
  • The young Rhodesian Ridgeback is energetic and active, but with maturity and training, he generally becomes a calm and quiet dog. He needs at least a half hour of daily exercise.
  • Rhodesian Ridgebacks can adapt to a number of living situations, including apartments, if they’re properly exercised. The ideal is a home with a large fenced yard.
  • Ridgebacks generally don’t bark a lot. Many will bark to alert you to something unusual, and some will bark when they are bored, but for the most part, this isn’t a yappy breed.
  • Rhodesian Ridgebacks aren’t serious diggers, but they’ll dig a large hole if they’re bored or to escape the heat.
  • To get a healthy dog, never buy a puppy from a puppy mill, a pet store, or a breeder who doesn’t provide health clearances or guarantees. Look for a reputable breeder who tests her breeding dogs to make sure they’re free of genetic diseases that they might pass onto the puppies and who breeds for sound temperaments.
rhodesian-ridgeback1-8387641Other Quick Facts

  • The Ridgeback is the only dog who has a ridge of hair running down his spine in the opposite direction from the rest of his coat, though some purebred Ridgebacks do not have ridges.
  • The Ridgeback was created to help big game hunters go after lions, which is why he’s sometimes called the African Lion Hound.
  • Comparable Breeds: Bullmastiff, Great Dane

  The Rhodesian Ridgeback, once known as the African Lion Hound, was developed in South Africa by Boer farmers. The farmers needed a versatile hunting dog who could withstand the extreme temperatures and terrain of the bush, survive when water rations were low, protect property, and be a companion to the entire family.


  They started by crossing dogs they’d brought from Europe — such as Great Danes, Mastiffs, Greyhounds, and Bloodhounds — with a half-wild native dog kept by the Khoikhoi, a pastoral people. This dog had a distinctive ridge of hair along its back, and breeders noticed that crosses who had this ridge tended to be excellent hunters.

  At first, the Boers primarily used the dogs to flush partridge or bring down a wounded buck. When big-game hunting became popular, they found that the dogs were well suited for accompanying them when they hunted lions from horseback. The dogs would hold the lion at bay until the hunters arrived.

rhodesian2bridgeback2b3-1994102  A hunter named Cornelius von Rooyen began a breeding program in what was then known as Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). A breed standard — a written description of what the breed should look and act like — was set down in 1922, and it’s changed little since then. In 1924, the Rhodesian Ridgeback was officially accepted by the South African Kennel Union.
  Some Rhodesian Ridgebacks may have made it to the United States as early as 1911, but it wasn’t until after World War II that large numbers were imported to the U.S., Britain, and Canada. The first Rhodesian Ridgeback registered by the American Kennel Club (AKC) was Tchaika of Redhouse, in 1955. The AKC recognized the breed that same year.
  Today, the Rhodesian Ridgeback ranks 54th in popularity among the 155 breeds and varieties recognized by the AKC. The Ridgeback is quite popular in South Africa, where he first began his journey as a breed.

  Rhodesian Ridgebacks are dignified, athletic dogs whose expressive eyes always look deep in thought. Developed in Africa, this breed was used by lion hunting parties to track, corner, and hold lions. The breed is still used for hunting in some circles, but has come to be more of a family companion than anything else. As puppies they have energy to spare, but with proper exercise and training grow into quiet, dignified housemates. They are not for novice dog owners, as it takes a lot of time and energy to properly train this breed, but for those who are experienced and who are already committed to an active lifestyle, the Rhodesian Ridgeback can be an ideal family dog.
Health Problems


  The biggest health concern for Rhodesian Ridgeback presents at birth. The condition is Dermoid Sinus, one that is closely related to Spina Bifida found in humans. Painful and sometimes fatal, most puppies born with this condition are put to sleep. If not, surgery is necessary and not always successful.
  As a house pet, it is a wonderful family member. The Ridgeback prefers to sleep indoors, spending its days both out in the yard and indoors. The Ridgeback is a good hiking and jogging companion. Fond of running, the Ridgeback needs physical and mental exercise daily, to prevent boredom setting in. Coat care for the dog is minimal, requiring occasional brushing to get rid of dead hair.
Living Conditions
  Rhodesian Ridgebacks will do okay in an apartment as long as they get enough exercise. They are relatively inactive indoors and do best with a large yard.
  Training a Rhodesian Ridgeback can be a challenge. They are independent thinkers who also have a tendency to exhibit dominance. They need to be trained with firmness to establish leadership, but never harshness. Strong discipline will cause a Ridgeback to shut down and ignore you completely. 100% consistency is also crucial when training because Ridgebacks will constantly test boundaries, especially in adolescence, and if you bend the rules just once, he’ll take that as an invitation to rule the house.
Exercise Requirements


  It may not be able to chase lions in your neighborhood, but your Ridgeback needs daily exercise. To release pent up energy, take your dog for a long run or jog. Tire them out with play time – get your kids involved in the fun. You’ll need to put aside time every day in order to ensure your Rhodesian Ridgeback gets enough exercise.
  Ridgebacks have an easy-care short coat. A Ridgie will shed a bit all year long, but it’s not bad. Run a brush over his coat once a week, and bathe him when you think he needs it. Brush his teeth with a vet-approved pet toothpaste, clean his ears, and trim his nails regularly, and that’s it.
Children And Other Pets
  The Rhodesian Ridgeback is tolerant with children of all ages, but he’s large and can be too rambunctious for a toddler.
  As with any dog, always teach children how to approach and touch your Rhodesian Ridgeback, and supervise all interactions between dogs and young kids to prevent any biting or tail pulling from either party.
  The Rhodesian Ridgeback does well with other pets if he’s raised with them. Males tend to be aggressive to other males, especially if they’re not neutered. It’s important to properly socialize a Rhodesian Ridgeback to other dogs and animals — expose him to lots of other creatures beginning in puppyhood — because the tolerance he shows animals in his home is often not extended to animals outside his family.
Is this breed right for you?
  A strong and protective breed, the Rhodesian Ridgeback is a great family pet. Playful and sometimes rough, he’s best with older children. Athletic and in need of space, he does best living in a home with a large and spacious fenced-in yard. In need of exercise, he must be walked and jogged daily. If not given proper leadership from his master, he may become mischievous and begin to rebel. Best with cats when raised with them, the Rhodesian Ridgeback is a natural hunter. An excellent jogging and hiking companion, this pup is extremely loyal and loving.
Did You Know?


  Ridgebacks are also known as the African Lion Hound. Big-game hunters found that the dogs were good at distracting a lion, allowing the hunters to take a shot.
A dream day in the life of a Rhodesian Ridgeback
  Waking up in the bed of his owner, he’s ready for his morning jog. Back at the home, he’ll eat breakfast with the family prior to taking a run in the backyard. After ensuring that all is well and in its place, he’ll head back inside for playtime with the kiddos. A snooze on the couch and he’ll be up for any type of love that you can give him. After a hike later in the day, he’ll be happy to watch TV while snuggled on the couch with the family.

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