The Rhodesian Ridgeback (also known as the African Lion Hound) was bred in Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia) and is named for the distinctive ‘ridge’ on its back, which is formed by hairs running in the opposite direction to the rest of its coat. European settlers of Rhodesia in the 1700’s found a domesticated dog with such a ridge among the native Khoisan tribe. They adapted the Rhodesian Ridgeback to the purpose of hunting lions and other large game. The resulting breed could run at great speeds, withstand harsh weather conditions, and hunt by sight or scent. The first breed standard for the Rhodesian Ridgeback, based on the Dalmatian, was drawn up in 1924, and American Kennel Club recognition followed in 1955. Today, the Rhodesian Ridgeback is a popular show dog, companion, and hunter. A large and muscular dog, the Rhodesian Ridgeback was not only developed as a hunter, but also as a family protector.
The Rhodesian Ridgeback has a shoulder height of 24-28 in and weighs 70-85 lbs. It has round eyes, a flat, broad skull, highly set ears, and pronounced stop (point at which the muzzle meets the forehead). Rhodesian Ridgebacks have small feet and a strong tail which is slightly curved upwards. They should have a black nose and dark eyes or liver nose and amber eyes.
The Rhodesian Ridgeback has a short, thick, glossy coat of light or red wheaten with a dark mask. Some standards permit white markings. The Rhodesian Ridgeback’s distinguishing feature is the ridge running along its spine composed of hair pointing in the opposition direction of the rest of its coat.
The Rhodesian Ridgeback is loyal, intelligent and straightforward. Rhodesian Ridgebacks are independent, brave, and cautious around strangers. They respond well to positive, fair, consistent training, keeping in mind that positive does not mean permissive. Because of this intelligence, an untrained Ridgeback can become a nuisance. Trained, he is a pleasure as a companion, a hunting partner, a show dog or performance competitor. Ridgebacks have an innate ability to protect his family, so he should not be trained as a guard dog. Instead, the natural protective qualities should be supplemented with elementary obedience training.
The Rhodesian Ridgeback should be socialized with cats and other dogs when young to prevent problems later.
The Rhodesian Ridgeback should be brushed periodically to remove dead hairs, more often when shedding. The Rhodesian Ridgeback has a lifespan of 9-11 years, though some live up to 15 years. Like other large breeds, it is susceptible to elbow and hip dysplasia. Other potential problems for Rhodesian Ridgebacks are cataracts, cancer, and Dermoid sinus, a fatal skin condition associated with the ‘Ridge’ which should be screened for by your breeder.
The Rhodesian Ridgeback’s tremendous stamina makes its exercise needs rather substantial. Regular long walks are required, as well as other outdoor activities where it can burn off energy.