Rhodesian Ridgeback Guide

Hound Dog Breeds

Slightly longer than tall, the Rhodesian Ridgeback combines speed, power and endurance. The Ridgeback must have an athletic build to enable it to catch up to a lion and then harass it without being hurt. Because the lion is not the only quarry of the Ridgeback, the dog must also be strong enough to bring down other large game. Its stride is efficient and long. The short glossy coat is adapted for working in hot climates. A distinctive feature is the clearly defined ridge, which should start with two identical whorls just behind the shoulders and taper to a point between the hipbones.

The Rhodesian Ridgeback is the hound group's answer to a somewhat protective dog. Not only is it a keen and versatile hunter, but it is a loyal guardian. It is good with children, especially protective of those in its family, but it is sometimes overly boisterous in play for small children. It is strong-willed and powerful; some can become domineering. It is reserved with strangers and can be aggressive toward strange dogs and animals.

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

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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

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The Ridgeback loves to run, and it needs daily mental and physical exercise to keep it from becoming frustrated. It can be a good jogging or hiking companion. The Ridgeback can live outdoors in temperate or warm climates, but it is usually much happier sleeping indoors and dividing its time between the house and yard during the day. Coat care is minimal, consisting only of occasional brushing to remove dead hair.
• Major concerns: dermoid sinus
• Minor concerns: CHD
• Occasionally seen: deafness, elbow dysplasia
• Suggested tests: breeder check for dermoid sinus, (hip)
• Life span: 10 – 13 years
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When European Boer settlers arrived in South Africa in the 16th and 17th centuries, they brought with them such breeds as the mastiff, Great Dane, bloodhound, pointer, staghound and greyhound, among others. These settlers needed a dog that could withstand both hot and cold temperatures, limited water and rough bush, while performing the duties of guard dog and hunting dog. By breeding their European dogs with native Hottentot tribal hunting dogs (which were distinguished by a ridge of hair growing in the opposite direction along the top of their back) they produced just such a dog. These dogs hunted by both sight and scent and were devoted protectors of the entire family. In the 1870s, several were taken to Rhodesia to hunt lions, chasing and harassing the lion until the hunter could shoot it. The "lion dogs" were so successful that they soon became popular, their distinctive ridge becoming a trademark of quality. By the 1920s, so many different types of ridged lion dogs existed in Rhodesia that a meeting was held to elucidate the most desirable points of the breed, which became the basis for the current standard. Dogs meeting the standard criteria were known as Rhodesian Ridgebacks (the dogs' former designation as lion dogs was deemed to sound too savage). The breed was introduced into England in the 1930s and America soon after. In both countries, it gained recognition in the 1950s and quickly attracted admirers. In the 1980s, the breed received recognition as a sighthound and became eligible to compete in sighthound field trials. Today it is among the more popular hounds, undoubtedly because it combines the abilities of hunter, protector and companion in a sleek handsome body.
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