Rhodesian Ridgeback | Information & Dog Breed Facts


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

Rhodesian Ridgeback
Rhodesian Ridgeback

The Rhodesian Ridgeback is characterized by the crest of inverted hairs which it shows along the back. It is the only South African breed registered by the FCI, previously known as the “lion dog”. It is a very faithful dog, but also a very reserved breed.

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
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

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
Rhodesian Ridgeback

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
Rhodesian Ridgeback


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
Rhodesian Ridgeback

Rhodesian Ridgeback grooming

The care of the ridge fur of the Rhodesian Ridgeback does not require a great effort on the part of the owners. Just brush it every week with a rubber comb (so as not to hurt its dermis) and wash it every 2 to 3 months with specific dog products.

We can improve its appearance by occasionally offering certain foods, such as salmon oil, olive oil or egg white.

Finally, it should be noted that this breed of dog tolerates well warm or temperate climates, but does not adapt to cold climates. It is therefore important to pay attention to the dermis during the coldest seasons.

Rhodesian Ridgeback
Rhodesian Ridgeback

Rhodesian Ridgeback Dog Breed Highlights

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.

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.


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