The words Dog Breed Info with the letter D inside of a black paw print

The Purebred Rhodesian Ridgeback

Information and Pictures

The right side of a liver-nosed, tall Rhodesian Ridgeback that is standing on a rock and it is looking forward and to the right. There is a tree behind it

Bryaba Says Whatchamacallit aka Shisma, a liver-nosed, red wheaten Rhodesian Ridgeback at 3 years old

Other Names
  • Ridgeback
  • Lion Dog
  • African Lion Hound
Pronunciation

roe-DEE-zhuhn RIHJ-bakspeaker

Description

The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a large, muscular hound. The broad head is flat between the ears. The muzzle is long and deep, with a defined stop. The nose is black, brown or liver, depending on the coat of the dog. This breed sometimes has a black tongue. The eyes are round and are usually brown, depending on the shade of the dog. The medium-sized ears are set high, dropping down, wide at the base and tapering to a point. The chest is deep. The front legs should be very straight and strong. The tail is fairly long, thicker at the base, tapering to a point and curving upward slightly. Dewclaws are sometimes removed. The coat is short and dense with a clearly defined symmetrical ridge of hairs growing in the opposite direction down the middle of the back. Coat colors include light wheaten to shades of red sometimes with a little white on the chest and toe and black. Purebred black Rhodesian Ridgebacks are very rare but do sometimes occur.

Temperament

A fine hunter, the Rhodesian Ridgeback is ferocious in the hunt, but in the home it is a calm, gentle, obedient, good dog. It is good natured, but some do not do well with small children because they may play too roughly and knock them down. They are intelligent, skillful and straight-forward dogs that are loyal to the family. They are brave and vigilant. Can be reserved toward strangers, so socialize well. They possess considerable stamina and without enough mental and physical exercise they can become high strung and unmanageable. This breed needs a firm, confident, consistent pack leader who can provide rules the dog must follow and limits as to what it can and cannot do. Meek and/or passive owners, or owners who treat the dog like a human rather than a canine will have a hard time controlling this breed and may also cause them to become combative with other dogs. When given what they need as the canine animal they will be excellent companion dogs, but are not recommended for most people, as most do not have the time nor energy to put into them. Ridgebacks react best to an extremely consistent and firm but calm approach to training. They are intelligent and learn quickly, but will be stubborn and willful if they are stronger-minded than the humans. Training should be gentle, but firm and should start young while the dog is still small enough to manage. They are also very good watchdogs, but not suggested for guard dogs. They are very protective of owners. This has to be addressed during their early training. This breed can be more destructive than a Lab if not given enough exercise and is not convinced the humans are his authority figure. Do not overfeed this breed. Provided this dog meets cats and other pets when it is young, any potential problem will be prevented. Ridgebacks make excellent jogging companions.

Height, Weight

Height: Males 25 - 27 inches (63 - 69 cm) Females 24 - 26 inches (61 - 66 cm)

Weight: Males 80 - 90 pounds (36 - 41 kg) Females 65 - 75 pounds (29 - 34 kg)

Health Problems

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are a hardy breed, able to withstand dramatic changes of temperature, however they are susceptible to hip dysplasia, dermoid sinus and cysts. Also prone to mast cell tumors.

Living Conditions

Rhodesian Ridgebacks will do okay in an apartment as long as they get enough exercise. They are relatively inactive indoors and do best with a large yard.

Exercise

These dogs have great stamina and you will tire long before they do. They need to be taken on daily, long, brisk walks or jogs. In addition, they need plenty of opportunity to run, preferably off the leash in a safe area. If these dogs are allowed to get bored, and are not walked or jogged daily, they can become destructive and start to display a wide array of behavioral problems.

Life Expectancy

About 10-12 years

Litter Size

About 7-8 puppies, average of 6

Grooming

The smooth, shorthaired coat is easy to groom. Brush with a firm bristle brush and shampoo only when necessary. This breed is an average shedder.

Origin

The Rhodesian Ridgeback originated in the Kingdom of the Matabele before it became Rhodesia and then Zimbabwe. It worked as a hunting dog and as a retriever, took care of children and guarded property. It descended from crosses between ridgebacked dogs that were imported by Boer settlers in the 16th and 17th centuries that were originally kept by native tribes in South Africa along with breeds such as the Khoikhoidog, Mastiff, Deerhound and possibly the Great Dane. Its standard, fixed in Matabeleland, dates from 1922. Reverend Helm introduced two Ridgebacks into Matabeleland in 1877. Big-game hunters soon discovered, that if used in packs they were excellent in hunting lions on horseback, hence the breed's other name, the "African Lion Hound." The dogs did well in the African heat of the day and the damp, cold nights. The breed was imported to the United States in 1950. The Rhodesian Ridgeback was recognized by the AKC in 1955.

Group

Southern, AKC Hounds

Recognition
  • ACA = American Canine Association Inc.
  • ACR = American Canine Registry
  • AKC = American Kennel Club
  • ANKC = Australian National Kennel Club
  • APRI = American Pet Registry, Inc.
  • CKC = Canadian Kennel Club
  • CKC = Continental Kennel Club
  • DRA = Dog Registry of America, Inc.
  • FCI = Fédération Cynologique Internationale
  • KCGB = Kennel Club of Great Britain
  • NAPR = North American Purebred Registry, Inc.
  • NKC = National Kennel Club
  • NZKC = New Zealand Kennel Club
  • RRCUS = Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of the US
The right side of a tall Rhodesian Ridgeback that is standing in patchy grass and it is looking to the right.

Riana the Rhodesian Ridgeback at about 3 years old

Front view - A Rhodesian Ridgeback is standing in grass and it is looking to the left.

Riana the Rhodesian Ridgeback at about 3 years old

Front view - A small brown with white Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy is sitting on a tan tiled floor and it is looking up and to the left.

Zuri (Swahili for “beautiful”) the Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy at 8 weeks old

A large breed solid black dog with a line of hair going down her back that sticks up, soft ears that hang down to the sides and dark round eyes standing outside in dirt and grass.

Hannah, a rare black purebred Rhodesian Ridgeback—Photo courtesy of David Hancock

A big black dog with a shiny solid soft black coat laying down in grass. The dog has a line down her back where the hair goes in a different direction.

Hannah, a rare black purebred Rhodesian Ridgeback—Photo courtesy of David Hancock

Two Rhodesian Ridgeback puppies are sitting and standing poolside. They are looking forward with their heads tilted in opposite directions.

Four-month-old Rhodesian Ridgeback puppies Leo (at front) and Lucy (at back)

See more examples of the Rhodesian Ridgeback