Rhodesian Ridgeback | Dog Breed Information & Facts


The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a large, active dog with short, straight fur that has a distinct ridge on the back.

The Rhodesian Ridgeback breed is worthy of respect for its strength and courage. After all, these dogs are ready to fearlessly rush into battle with the lion itself. Therefore, the second name of the Ridgeback is “African lion hound” or simply “lion dog”.

Rhodesian Ridgeback

Once the Rhodesian Ridgeback participated in the lion hunt, now it is mainly used as a guard dog

Rhodesian Ridgeback dogs are very popular in their homeland. In Africa, they are still used as hunting dogs and are indispensable safari participants. In other countries, representatives of this breed are in most cases kept as companions, guards, watchdogs and police dogs.

Origin of the Rhodesian Ridgeback

Its origin is between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when Europeans colonized South Africa. It is the only registered breed in South Africa. The ancestors of the Rhodesian Ridgeback were dogs from the Cape Colony of South Africa, crossed with pioneer dogs and Hottentot ridge dogs.

From these crossings was born the dog who today bears the name of Rhodesian Ridgeback, although its name was used for the first time in the middle of the twentieth century. Formerly, this dog was known as the “lion dog”. Indeed, during its work as a hunting dog in small packs, it followed the tracks of prey, like lions, with great agility.

The breed standard was written by F. R. Barnes in Bulawayo, Rhodesia, in 1992. It was based on the Dalmatian breed, approved by the South African Kennel Union. Currently, most Rhodesian Ridgeback dogs are excellent pet dogs.

Rhodesian Ridgeback

Characteristics of the Rhodesian Ridgeback

According to the standard of the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI), the Rhodesian Ridgeback is a balanced, strong, muscular, agile and active dog with a symmetrical silhouette. His head should be wrinkle-free during rest and the nasofrontal depression is moderately defined. The nose is black when the eyes are dark and it is brown when the eyes are amber. The eyes are round, shiny and their color harmonizes with the color of the fur. The ears are medium, broad at the base, with rounded ends and a high insertion.

The body is strong and muscular but slender. The back is powerful, while the spine is solid and slightly arched. The chest is very deep, but not very wide. The tail is of medium insertion, thick at the base and of moderate length. The coat of the Rhodesian Ridgeback dog is short, dense, smooth and shiny. Its color can vary from light wheat to reddish wheat. Small white spots on the chest and fingers are allowed. Dark ears and muzzle are also allowed.

According to the FCI, the measures concerning the Rhodesian Ridgeback dog are as follows:

  • Males: between 63 and 69 centimeters at the cross, with a weight of 36.5 kilograms.
  • Females: between 61 and 66 centimeters at the cross, weighing 32 kilograms.
Rhodesian Ridgeback
Rhodesian Ridgeback puppies

Character of the Rhodesian Ridgeback

The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a strong and powerful dog that can be determined and stubborn. Although it is rather calm and confident at home, it is also very careful with strangers. This is not a breed recommended for beginners: it needs an experienced owner to care for and train it, as well as an early and conscientious socialization.

This dog owes much of its character to its hunting dog past. It is a curious dog, very loyal and energetic, sometimes independent or reserved for foreigners. To avoid aggressive behavior or related behavioral problems, it will be very important to socialize the puppy.

The Rhodesian Ridgeback is usually a dog very attached to its family, with whom it creates a very strong bond. The treatment with the children is excellent, but because of its energy level, it can be difficult to treat it. Of course, it’s a very protective dog.

Rhodesian Ridgeback

The Rhodesian Ridgeback loves to run, jump, fool around, but not wallow in the mud – he is very clean

Rhodesian Ridgeback Health

The main feature of the Rhodesian Ridgeback is precisely the crest of its back. The truth is that this detail is an anomaly of the fur: some hairs grow in the opposite direction and offer the appearance of “crest”. However, this feature makes the breed prone to the spinal sinus, a congenital malformation.

The spinal dermal sinus is present from birth and if the dog suffers, it is possible to observe a small fossa in the spine. A lumen is usually seen, but vascular lesions and suppuration may also occur. This condition can cause more serious health problems and requires surgical treatment.

Other hereditary diseases of the Rhodesian Ridgeback Dog are:

  • Hip dysplasia
  • Deafness
  • Elbow dysplasia
  • Haemophilia

It is advisable to consult the veterinarian every 6 or 12 months to quickly detect any health problem and carry out basic follow-up tests. It will also be essential to follow the vaccination schedule and regular deworming, both internally and externally.

The life expectancy of the Rhodesian Ridgeback dog is 9 to 15 years.

Rhodesian Ridgeback

Basic care

The Rhodesian Ridgeback does not tolerate the cold well. It is not surprising, because this dog is from hot Africa, it is easier for him to endure the heat than the frost. His coat without an undercoat cannot protect against cold temperatures. Therefore, keeping a ridgeback on the street is not recommended, unless you provide your pet with an insulated booth and a spacious aviary.

In a cramped apartment, an active lion dog will also not be comfortable, since in such conditions it is constrained in movement. The ideal option for keeping in this case is a private spacious house with a fenced garden plot.

In any case, the Rhodesian Ridgeback needs regular physical activity, training, walking. It needs to be walked daily. A high degree of physical activity is vital for Ridgebacks.

While walking in crowded places, such a pet cannot be released from the leash. The Rhodesian Ridgeback takes small dogs, cats and other small animals for game and can start hunting. With large, similar dogs, he will try to get involved in a fight.

You need to find an opportunity to take it out into nature, for example, in a forest or grove. In a deserted area, the dog will be able to run a lot.

During the cold season, the Rhodesian Ridgeback will need clothing. When going outside in frosty weather, dress him in overalls or other special clothing for dogs.

Rhodesian Ridgeback

The Rhodesian Ridgeback can live both in the yard and indoors – he is not afraid of wind, heat, rain, but in cold weather he needs clothing

Caring for the appearance consists in simple procedures, these procedures not only promote beauty, but also maintain the health of our Rhodesian Ridgeback:

  • We comb the short hair once a week. It is convenient to remove dead hairs with a rubber brush. This procedure makes the coat shiny and smooth.
  • We bathe the dog twice a year. If you use detergents more often, it will damage the skin.
  • After each walk we wash and wipe our dog’s paws, if we walked in nature, you need to carefully examine the paw pads for injuries and splinters.
  • We cut the claws as they grow.
  • The eyes and ears are regularly examined for inflammation and trauma. We clean the auricles once a week with special products.

Such a wayward dog as a Rhodesian Ridgeback must be taught to the above procedures from puppyhood. Otherwise, it will be difficult to cope with leaving.

A fairly large and active Ridgeback spends a lot of energy, this is good for him, but provided he has a proper balanced diet.

When compiling a diet, the owner should take into account that a Rhodesian Ridgeback dog often has digestive problems. Also, the ridge is prone to gluttony. If you do not regulate portions, your dog will quickly gain weight, leading to health problems.

You can feed the representatives of the breed with high quality dry food or natural products. In the second case, meat products make up 50% of the total diet. There must be vitamin and mineral supplements.

Rhodesian Ridgeback

It takes a strong will and desire to raise a Ridgeback. But you should not expect that even after successful training, the ridge will become an obedient slave – he is independent


The Rhodesian Ridgeback requires between 2 and 3 daily walks to maintain its muscles. It is also indicated that it can exercise at least once a day. In addition to classic games, such as the ball, we can also introduce the dog to agility, running or other activity promoting muscle development.

It will also be interesting to enrich your dog’s daily life with games of intelligence or reflection, for example.


Large breed dogs, in addition to having a great appetite, need a different nutritional balance, including minerals and vitamins, than smaller dogs.

Remember that if the level of activity of the Rhodesian Ridgeback dog is very high, it will need a specially formulated diet for sporting dogs or an increase in its daily amount.

The Rhodesian Ridgeback is prone to swelling and suffering from stomach problems. Providing less abundant and more frequent meals can minimize this risk.

Rhodesian Ridgeback

Training and education

The African lion dog is distinguished by waywardness and stubbornness. He is smart, learns commands quickly. Therefore, it is not difficult to train him, if only the trainer is a strong, strong-willed person, able to insist on his decision.

The Rhodesian Ridgeback needs training. It is recommended to start training it as early as possible. From puppyhood, the owner must teach the ridge to obedience. In the educational process of such a serious dog, rigor is necessary, but not rudeness.

From birth in the blood of a Ridgeback is the independence and passion of a hunter, a fearless fighter. To raise an adequate, obedient dog from such a puppy, it is imperative to undergo a general training course under the guidance of an experienced dog handler on a special site.

If the further purpose of the lion dog is to hunt wild animals, separate training will be required. In this case, the owner needs to take care of the training of the dog for hunting.

Rhodesian Ridgeback Dog Fun Facts

Rhodesian Ridgebacks did not pursue prey alone when hunting lions or other wild animals. These were several lion dogs, which, having overtaken the target, skillfully stopped it and held it until the hunter arrived.

The only South African dog breed recognized by the ICF is the Rhodesian Ridgeback.

Rhodesian Ridgeback

Rhodesian Ridgeback Dog Breed Highlights

The Rhodesian Ridgeback is completely unsuitable for weak-willed people who have no experience with large, wayward dogs of people. A lion dog can only become a pet for a strong, strong-willed, self-confident person who knows how to behave with such animals. Below are the main pros and cons of the African Ridgeback.

Positive points

  • The Rhodesian Ridgeback is extremely loyal and dedicated.
  • It is one of the best guard dogs.
  • This dog is sweet at home and makes a great pet.
  • The Rhodesian Ridgeback needs a lot of vigorous daily exercise and is a great choice for people who lead an active lifestyle.
  • This dog is smart and easy to train in good hands.
  • It’s a dog breed with an easy-care coat.
  • This is a strong and fearless dog.

Negative points

  • Rhodesian Ridgeback puppies are extremely turbulent and mature quite slowly.
  • The Rhodesian Ridgeback is best suited for families with older children.
  • It must receive a ton of mental stimulation and daily exercises.
  • Rhodesian Ridgeback puppies must be well socialized from an early age.
  • This dog is extremely territorial and protective.
  • It is a hunter by nature, so has a strong sense of prey.
  • It is not the best choice for new owners.
  • The Rhodesian Ridgeback has a very low boredom.