AKC Dog Breeds: Rhodesian Ridgeback

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Hound  Group
Height:24-27 inches   Weight: 70-160 pounds  Color: solid colors of blue, black, red/fawn, or beige

A large and muscular dog, the Rhodesian Ridgeback was not only developed as hunter but also as a family protector. Originally bred to hunt lions the breed is also known as the African Lion Hound. A native of South Africa, the Rhodesian Ridgeback was bred by the Boer farmers to fill their specific need for a serviceable hunting dog in the wilds. In 1877 Reverend Helm introduced two Ridgebacks into Rhodesia where big game hunters found them outstanding in the sport of hunting lions on horseback. They raised and bred these dogs with an appreciation for their exceptional hunting qualities, the ridge on their back becoming a unique trademark. In 1950 outstanding specimens were imported to the United States and the breed was admitted to registration by the AKC in 1955.

General Appearance
The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a large, handsome, muscular hound. Its name describes its most unique characteristic, a clearly defined symmetrical ridge running the length of its back, formed by hair that grows in the opposite direction from the rest of its coat. The short, sleek coat comes in light to dark wheaten, sometimes with small white markings on the chest and feet. The head is long, the skull is flat and broad with extremely powerful muzzle and jaw. Ridgebacks have well developed teeth, and a marked stop. The bright, sparkling eyes are round with an intelligent expression. The nose color should be either black or brown, depending on the color of the coat. The front legs should be very straight and strong, with heavy bone. The strong tapered tail is fairly long and curves slightly upward.


The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a dog that has plenty of energy, especially as a puppy, and needs an owner that can provide plenty of stimulation and interaction. These dogs are friendly, but aggression can be a problem in some lines, which means that early socialization is essential. Serious, sensible, and dignified, the Rhodesian Ridgeback is a very independent and confident breed, and is best suited to owners with confidence, assertiveness, and experience in dog ownership. He is an intelligent dog and is quick to learn, but training may prove a challenge as he can also be very testing. This is a dog that demands respect in order to give respect, and can be a dominant, demanding, and controlling. However, with the right owner and the right training, he can be a well balanced, loving family pet and companion. The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a very loyal and protective dog. His suspicion of strangers makes him an effective protector. He will get along well with children when brought up with them, but younger children are not recommended, as these dogs do not like to be handled roughly. With early socialization he tends to get along okay with other animals, although he may be bossy with them. A devoted sight and scent hound, the Rhodesian Ridgeback is prone to wander off of something stirs his curiosity, and therefore a safe, secured area is essential unless he is on a leash. With early socialization, consistent training, and a confident, assertive owner, the Rhodesian Ridgeback can make a very good family pet.


Average shedding, the Rhodesian Ridgeback is easy to groom. A wipe down with a washcloth or dry towel will suffice and remove some loose hair. Bathing only when necessary, this breed's coat does not trap dirt well and is generally clean.

Health Problems and Life Expectancy

The number one major health concern for the Rhodesian Ridgeback is dermoid sinus, with a minor concern as hip dysplasia. Dermoid Sinus in the Rhodesian Ridgeback is also called dermoid cyst, hair cyst, and African cyst. The Dermoid Sinus is similar to Spina Bifida in humans, and is a congenital condition that is present at birth, located on the midline of the neck, back, and tail along the spinal column. The abscess will form and resulting swelling will rupture the puppy's skin, which is not only painful but can be life threatening. The life expectancy of the Rhodesian Ridgeback is around 12 years.

Activity Level
Exercise is a high requirement for the Rhodesian Ridgeback, even though it is not as high on the level as their watchdog ability or protection abilities. Very hardy dogs built to run and hunt, this is a breed that requires constant and very consistent exercise. Owners such as runners or joggers would make excellent owners for this breed as they can run for very long distances without tiring. And if this is available, make sure their are lots of room for the Rhodie to run and play in, such as a large running yard or walking to parks or special area. This is a breed that needs exercised from the time they are young. They respond well to what their owners want, so working with them is mandatory at a very young age while spending lots of time with them at play.


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