The Rhodesian Ridgeback is an all-purpose hound dog originated in Africa. Considered a “Renaissance Hound,” the Rhodesian Ridgeback is whip-smart and adaptable, leading to them being ranked 41st of 193 breeds by the American Kennel Club.
The Rhodesian Ridgeback was created in Southern Africa in the late 1800s to guard homes and hunt prey; they also were used to track lions (although never to hunt them). Their fearless nature made them ideal partners when out tracking game since they were unafraid to face up with and temporarily confuse lions, giving their companion enough time to take down their hunt before the lion could first. They easily kept up with horses and were ideal protectors, chasing off smaller predators like leopards and baboons.
By the early 1920s, big game hunting was fading in popularity, and as such, the Rhodesian Ridgeback was on the bring of extinction. A meeting was convened to bring together as many Ridgebacks as possible to create the breed standard; the dogs from this meeting were used as the standard for the Rhodesian Ridgeback as we know it today.
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE RHODESIAN RIDGEBACK
The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a very distinct breed; here is some further information about their appearance and temperament.
Rhodesian Ridgebacks are a large breed, capable of reaching 25 to 27 inches in height, and up to 85 pounds in weight. They are strong and muscular, as one might expect of such an active breed. They are handsome and athletic, fast and powerful. This hound’s trademark feature is the ridge of backward-growing hair along their spine. They come in just one color, wheaten – the color of any wheat field, from a light white to a wheaten red.
They have short coats, and their grooming needs are minimal; regular brushing to remove dead hair and keep their coat looking shiny, and occasional baths to keep them clean and healthy. With adequate outdoor exercise, their nails often wear down naturally, but it is still prudent to make sure they are kept short. Many Ridgebacks react negatively to nail clippers, however, so nail grinders are often a better choice.
Rhodesian Ridgebacks are dignified, even-tempered hounds as adults; as puppies, they are a bit more rambunctious, so when young they aren’t as good around small children. Once they’ve matured, they make for great companions to children, and they will be happy to go out and play and then come inside and nap in their bed. They are devoted and affectionate to their family and loved ones, and often protective. They were bred for guarding homes, so they make for good watchdogs, and if cared for and socialized properly, will valiantly protect you and your family from any danger that it senses. Their average life expectancy is 10 years.
Ridgebacks can be aggressive towards dogs of the same sex; they are better with cats when brought up with them in the home, but stray cats are a different story. The hound in them means they have a mind of their own and like doing things their own way. Your Ridgeback will test boundaries; set them early and don’t ever stop enforcing them. Give your Ridgeback an inch and it will take a mile. Train them with a calm, but fair, hand. Be sure to train them well and socialize them so their wariness of strangers does not turn into aggression. These are great family dogs, but they are not the best choice for a novice dog owner.
CARING FOR A RHODESIAN RIDGEBACK
Rhodesian Ridgebacks make for a great addition to any family; here is some more information about their nutrition, exercise, training, and health needs, to make sure they live a long and happy life.
Rhodesian Ridgebacks do best on a high-quality dog food, whether it’s a store-bought dry dog food or a home-made raw diet. Be sure to feed your Ridgeback an age-appropriate food (puppy, adult, senior). Do not leave food unattended on counters, as Ridgebacks are tall and athletic and will go after anything that’s out. How much your Ridgeback needs to eat will depend on their age, size, and activity level. The more active, the more food they will require. As always, treats are a useful tool for any training regimen, but be careful not to overdo it so as to prevent problems with obesity.
Rhodesian Ridgebacks are athletic dogs; as such, they require a moderate amount of exercise. Daily activities such as long walks, games and training sessions, and runs around the dog park are great ways to keep your Ridgeback mentally and physically engaged. Even though they are a larger breed, when adequately exercised they can adapt to just about any living situation, be it large home or small apartment. Ridgebacks develop deep bonds with their owners, so they particularly enjoy activities you can enjoy together, such as agility, tracking, and other canine sports that are both intellectually and physically stimulating.
As with all breeds, Rhodesian Ridgebacks should ideally be started in puppy and obedience training classes at a young age. They should also be socialized and introduced to new people, places, and situations while young. Due to their strong prey drive, they should be kept on-leash when in public spaces. When in an enclosed area, such as a fenced-in yard or dog park, they will enjoy the space to run free. Ridgebacks are independent, strong-willed dogs; as such, they can be domineering. Combat that by establishing yourself as a calm, even-keeled leader. Be firm, but patient, when training your Ridgeback. Ridgebacks, just like every other dog, respond best to positive reinforcement.
Rhodesian Ridgebacks are generally healthy dogs but are prone to certain ailments. Be sure to work with a respected breeder who tests for common genetic disorders such as thyroid function, hip dysplasia, eye ailments, dermoid sinus, etc.