Lots of dogs chase cats, but only the Rhodesian Ridgeback can chase down lions. (No wonder it's also called an “African lion dog” and is known for helping keep lions at bay on African plains.) In the United States, it's a favorite for active athletes and individuals who love getting out for at least an hour of exercise every day.
This breed takes its name from the the ridge of hair that grows against the grain along her spine. Bred to withstand extreme African weather and cover long distances, this dog can keep pace with a running horse for over thirty miles. They're also immune to bug bites. We should all be so lucky!
Originally from South Africa, this medium-sized breed can grow to between 70-85 pounds and lives an average of 10-12 years. The breed is recognized by the American Kennel Club and classified as a member of the Hound group.
AKC Recognized: Y
Breed's Original Pastime: Hunting, Guardian
Origin: South Africa
Breed Group: Hound
Average Lifespan: 10-12 years
Bark Factor: Rarely barks, if ever
AKC RANKING 53
FAMILY sighthound, scenthound, Southern (sight)
AREA OF ORIGIN South Africa
DATE OF ORIGIN 1800s
ORIGINAL FUNCTION large game (including lion) hunting, guardian
TODAY'S FUNCTION lure coursing
AVERAGE SIZE OF MALE Height: 25-27 Weight: 85
AVERAGE SIZE OF FEMALE Height: 24-26 Weight: 70
OTHER NAME African lion hound
Energy level Medium energy
Exercise needs Medium
Playfullness Moderately playful
Affection level Moderately affectionate
Friendliness toward other dogs Shy
Friendliness toward other pets Shy
Friendliness toward strangers Shy
Ease of training Moderately easy to train
Watchdog ability High
Protection ability Very protective
Grooming needs Low maintenance
Cold tolerance Medium tolerance
Heat tolerance Medium tolerance
BEHAVIOR & TRAINING
WHAT IS A RHODESIAN RIDGEBACK'S PERSONALITY LIKE?
An even-tempered and dignified dog, the Rhodesian Ridgeback is protective and loyal. This breed is affectionate toward their chosen people. They often enjoy children, but their exuberance might overwhelm a small one. These dogs can be wary of strangers.
WHAT IS RHODESIAN RIDGEBACK BEHAVIOR LIKE?
Rhodesian Ridgebacks are fairly active and will need a long walk or run every day. These are strong, fast, athletic dogs who thrive with lots of socialization and exercise.
This is a fairly quiet breed that seldom barks. Rhodesian Ridgebacks are alert (they look out for lions, after all!) and that makes for wonderful watchdogs. They're also calm and polite housemates as long as they get enough exercise, but can be a challenge for novice dog parents.
HOW EASY IS IT TO TRAIN A RHODESIAN RIDGEBACK?
Rhodesian Ridgebacks respond well to training, but can be tough for novices to take on. If you're considering one, it might be a good idea to start immediately with an experienced trainer. They are strong-willed and independent-minded, so it's important to be patient and consistent with your pup from day one.
These dogs respond well to positive reinforcement, especially food treats. Many Rhodesian Ridgebacks are a little much for the pack at the local dogpark, but some do just fine. They rival Greyhounds in their lure coursing abilities.
CARE & HEALTH
HOW MUCH DO RHODESIAN RIDGEBACKS SHED AND WHAT ARE THEIR GROOMING NEEDS?
Rhodesian Ridgebacks are seasonal shedders. They don't shed much, however, and require little grooming. Plan to brush them once a week and bathe them as needed.
WHAT HEALTH PROBLEMS DO RHODESIAN RIDGEBACKS HAVE?
As a breed, Rhodesian Ridgebacks are generally healthy. These dogs are sometimes prone to autoimmune disease, hypothyroidism, eye ailments, and hip dysplasia. Some tend toward obesity, so be conscientious about meals and snacks. Deafness and a skin condition that may require surgery to correct (dermoid sinus) are also sometimes found in Rhodesian Ridgebacks.
Breed history has moved while this section is under construction. Please check out the first tab for fun facts about this breed's history. You can also read on to learn about this breed's ideal family situation.
ARE RHODESIAN RIDGEBACKS GOOD FOR PEOPLE WITH ALLERGIES?
The American Kennel Club doesn't list Rhodesian Ridgebacks among its breeds recommended for allergy sufferers.
Remember that no breed is 100% hypoallergenic, and any breed can aggravate allergies. You can reduce your furry friend's impact on your allergies with frequent baths and brushings to reduce loose hairs and aggravating proteins in your pet's dander. Use a damp cloth to wipe off your dog after you've been playing outside. Smaller dogs have less surface area, and so produce comparatively less dander than larger breeds — definitely something to keep in mind with a dog as large as a Rhodesian Ridgeback!
WHAT IS A RHODESIAN RIDGEBACK'S BEST DAY?
Your Rhodesian Ridgeback would love to go running with you for as long as you can keep up with her. Her best day involves being with you, but also doing lots of activities that keep her body and mind fit. She'll gladly curl up on the couch with you after that, if you'll let her, but only after going that extra mile.
SHOULD I ADOPT A RHODESIAN RIDGEBACK?
Though loyal and sweetly devoted to her chosen family, a Rhodesian Ridgeback is a lot of dog for a novice dog owner. Making sure this breed gets enough mental and physical exercise and training will need to be a major part of your day, every day. If that doesn't phase you, there's a lot to recommend about this dog. They have short coats, but Rhodesian Ridgebacks are fairly well-suited to warm and cold temperatures. They are beautiful both in appearance and in temperament. They don't shed or bark much, and require very little grooming.
If you can keep up with them, Rhodesian Ridgebacks make excellent canine companions. (Bonus: they'll keep your yard lion-free, almost guaranteed.)
Have you decided that a Rhodesian Ridgeback is the perfect dog for you? Why not be your new best friend's hero and adopt a rescue! Be sure to check out our article on what to expect when you're adopting a dog or cat.