Rhodesian Ridgeback: Breed of the Week

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are a breed I know a lot about: I was “godfather” to my friend Jim’s boy, Kobe, and another friend, Sergio, has owned several Ridgebacks: Maverick, Jada, and now baby Mila! Large, powerful, and noble-looking, I have always loved these majestic dogs.

Rhodesian Ridgeback
Rhodesian Ridgeback

According to the American Kennel Club they are crossed between Great Danes, Greyhounds, Bloodhounds, and Mastiffs. Boer settlers brought these dogs’ ancestors with them from Holland to South Africa in the 1800s. They were crossbred with the dogs of the Hottentots, who were the natives of the region. In 1922, a group of Rhodesian breeders established the standard for Ridgebacks, which has remained virtually unchanged ever since. They are also known as the African Lion Dog.

Rhodesian Ridgeback
Rhodesian Ridgeback

I think one of the things that many find fascinating about Ridgebacks is their power and courage, which is a complete contrast to what may be one of their strongest traits, gentleness. Kobe, my part time Ridgeback, is 150 pounds of lap dog. Walking the streets with him people are in awe of his size and beauty. Many stare and others timidly move to the other side. His look totally belays his sweet cuddly personality.

Rhodesian Ridgeback
Rhodesian Ridgeback Puppy
After the Jump: Just How Big do Ridgebacks Get?

If you are thinking of getting a Ridgeback there are some things to consider. They can be very large dogs: males often reach 27-29 inches and exceed 100 pounds. These dogs have voracious appetites and are food driven. (Many Ridgeback owners say it’s like living with another person, one who loves to eat.)

Rhodesian Ridgeback
Rhodesian Ridgebacks at the ACK National Championship

They are a hardy breed; their short coat is able to withstand warm days and cold nights. What distinguishes this breed is the ridge of hair down its back which grows in the opposite direction of the rest of its coat causing a ridge, thus the name Ridgeback.

Rhodesian Ridgeback
A Ridgeback’s Ridge

They require an experienced dog owner, as they will take control if you don’t. If you are not experienced and still interested, I recommend hiring a trainer who can assist you with training, as they can be very determined. They score “Average” when it comes to understanding new commands. They obey first command about 50% of the time according to Stanley Coren, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia who studies dog behavior. That means it takes about 25 to 40 repetitions for them to learn new commands.

Canine Extravaganza AKC Dog Show Urban Dog
Rhodesian Ridgeback

Ridgebacks live from 10 to 12 years. They are susceptible to many of the ailments common to large breed dogs: hip dysplasia, dermoid sinus, and cysts. Also mast cell tumors may become a problem. Surprisingly enough, they are quite adaptable to city living and apartment dwelling, provided they get enough exercise. Inside they are complete couch potatoes; outside they are marathoners.

Rhodesian Ridgeback
Mama Ridgeback and Puppies

Do your homework with this one, find a reputable breeder. Sergio, who has owned several Ridgebacks, likes Kengali Rhodesian Ridgebacks. If his girls Jada and Mila are any indication, they do an amazing job.

Rhodesian Ridgeback
Rhodesian Ridgeback

Here is Animal Planet’s Dogs 101 segment on Ridgebacks.

And we’ll leave you with some video to show you what great runners they are. First check out this video from Juan Fernando Rengifo of Colombia and his two Ridgebacks Duma and Kenya.

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3 comments

  1. Rhodesian Ridgebacks are great dogs…ours was a mix of Mastiff/Ridgeback he weighed an astonishing 170 and lived to age 12. He was smart and gentle…but knock on the door and you knew he was very protective! Beautiful dogs!

  2. I know this breed to be incredibly loyal, loving, and completely adorable! We have 3 on our street in 2 different households. ‘Scrappy’ wandered away from home and we kept him for a couple of hours. He was ready to play with my intimidated vizslas and once they realized he was a sweetie, fun was had by all!

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