The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a medium sized hound breed characterized by a combination of stamina, speed and power. It is strong, muscular and very active, distinctly branded by a clearly defined ridge of fur along the back growing in opposite direction to the rest of the coat. The ridge is made up of fan-like area formed by two coils of hair called “crowns” opposite each other with an average width of 2 inches (5 cm) that tapers from behind the shoulders to the hips. The Ridgeback also features a fairly long, flat skull with well defined stop, a long and deep muzzle and a black or brown nose. The eyes are round, bright and can either be dark or amber, depending on the coat colour and offer an expression of intelligence. The highly set ears are wide at the base, gradually tapering to a rounded point and carried close to the head. It has strong jaws with regular and complete scissor bite while the fairly long neck compliments the long head. The body features a moderately wide and very deep chest with a powerful and muscular back supported by perfectly straight and heavy-boned front legs and well muscled back legs. The legs are supported and cushioned to the ground by compact, round and tough feet with elastic pads. Hair between the toes and pads provide additional protection for the breed in harsh terrains. The tail tapers towards an end and is carried slightly curved upwards but not curled. The short and dense coat is glossy but not woolly nor silky and comes in light wheaten to red wheaten in colour.
The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a native breed of South Africa where it has been known to exist since the 1500s. The native Hottentot tribe (known also as the “Quena” or “Khoikhoi” tribes) were the first known masters of this breed. The Ridgeback was discovered by early European explorers when they first explored the mainland on the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa, describing a “domesticated dog living with the Hottentots having the notable peculiarity of hair on his spine being turned forward.” The development of the breed is credited to Cornelius Van Rooyen of Plumtree, Rhodesia, using two ridged, rough coated bitches given to him in 1879. Based on historical records, the Rhodesian Ridgeback is thought to be a result of crossing between the Khoi dog, the greyhound, the bulldog, the collie, the pointer, and Airedale and Irish terriers. It is also possible that the Great Dane, mastiff, bloodhound and deerhound played an important role in the development of the breed along the way. The Ridgeback was used to hunt down lions, often sent out in a pair or larger groups in a pack to wear down a lion by teasing and driving it into confusion for the hunter to shoot. The dogs worked in alternating shifts to keep the lion at bay until the hunter arrives for the kill, but they themselves did not typically kill lions. Today, the Ridgeback is seen as a beloved household pet, guardian and herder when it is not on the hunt.
The Rhodesian Ridgeback is an extremely loyal and obedient breed which makes it highly trainable. The Rhodesian Ridgeback is also an extremely intelligent breed with a fondness for mischief, often escaping kennels, opening cabinets and doors, stealing food behind-your-back, etc. Although it is not recommended for a novice pet owner, the same mischievous traits make it appealing to experienced dog owners. It is also a very adaptable breed that can withstand a wide variety of environmental conditions due to its African heritage. However, it will do best with a human companion.
The Rhodesian Ridgeback, being an intelligent breed will not tolerate excessive harsh treatment but it will readily accept correction if it is fair and justified and as long as it comes from a trusted person.
Grooming requirement is very minimum and straightforward. Occasional brushing with a firm bristle brush and bathing only when necessary will do the trick.
The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a hardy breed with an average lifespan of 10 to 12 years. However, such a hard breed is not free from health issues like most dogs are. It has been known to be affected with canine hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, cataracts and certain types of cancer. Dermoid sinus, a genetic, autosomal skin condition is also known to affect the breed. Bloat or gastric torsion or the buildup of gas in the stomach is also reported, which can be fatal.
Pork, chicken, lamb, wheat, and brown rice provided as a base diet will do best for the Ridgeback.
The Ridgeback possesses an unlimited amount of energy and may need to channel this energy into rigorous physical and mental activities, so that large amount of exercise is required. It makes an excellent jogging companion, but will also enjoy swimming if given the chance. It will do fine in an apartment dwelling as long as it is taken out on a daily basis for long runs or an hour of play in a secured, open area. Due to its African heritage, the Ridgeback will do best in warmer climates and with a house that has a yard to roam about.
It is very brave and protective of its human family, property and territory, considering that it is a hound breed and may be reserved with strangers; characters that makes is an excellent guard dog. If not properly trained and socialized at an early age, it can have the tendency to be wilful and strong-headed. However, early socialization is the key for this breed to be tolerant of other pets. It does well with older, more considerate children but can prove to be a little too much for young children.