Rhodesian Ridgeback: Breed of the Week
Rhodesian Ridgebacks are a breed I know a lot about.
Two of my best friends have been parents to Ridgebacks. Sergio, has had several Ridgebacks: Maverick, Jada, and now Mila. My former roommate Jim had Kobe, and now Amos. I’ve babysat and walked all five of those dogs and when I lived with Jim, I was Kobe’s unofficial “godfather!”
Large, powerful, and noble-looking, I have always loved these majestic dogs.
According to the American Kennel Club they are a cross 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.
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 most appealing traits, their gentleness. Kobe was a particularly large Ridgeback: 150 pounds of lap dog! Walking the streets with him people were in awe of his size and beauty. Many stared and others timidly moved to the other side. His look totally belied his sweet cuddly personality.
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. They have voracious appetites and are very food driven. (Many Ridgeback owners say it’s like living with another person, one who loves to eat.)
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.
Ridgebacks require an experienced dog owner, as they will take control if you’re a novice. If you are not experienced and still interested, I recommend hiring a trainer who can assist you with training, as these dogs 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.
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.
Do your homework with these dogs and 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.
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. Check out this video from Juan Fernando Rengifo of Colombia and his two Ridgebacks Duma and Kenya.