Rhodesian Ridgeback: Breed of the Week

Are Rhodesian Ridgebacks Good City Dogs?

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.

Rhodesian Ridgeback
Rhodesian Ridgeback

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.

rhodesian ridgeback veterinarian Lisa Lippman
Dr. Lisa Lippman and Chloe (Photo: Natalie Siebers)

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
Rhodesian Ridgeback’s Ridge

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.

Do Rhodesian Ridgebacks Bark? Are Rhodesian Ridgebacks Good Apartment Dogs?

If you are thinking of making a Ridgeback your Urban Dog, 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.)

Rhodesian Ridgebacks
Rhodesian Ridgebacks at the AKC Dog Show

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. 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.

It is super important for your city dog to be well-behaved. You want your dog to be well-behaved in your building’s common areas. Rhodesian Ridgebacks 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.

They can be aloof with strangers and can dominate other smaller animals, so it’s very important to have your puppy socialized early.

They are rambunctious puppies, but tend to be much calmer and quieter as adults.

Rhodesian Ridgeback Mother and Puppies
Rhodesian Ridgeback Mother and Puppies

They are not really known as dogs who bark at inappropriate times. They’ll bark if there’s something to bark at. Click here for more on Urban Dog’s take on barking.

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.

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.

Rhodesian Ridgeback

For tips on how to find a pet-friendly apartment in New York and other cities read Urban Dog’s guide. Big dogs pose a particular challenge, but don’t worry, you can find places that accept large breed dogs.

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.






  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!

  3. These dogs are adorable! I know them to be loyal and loving as well -reminds of a golden retriever 🙂

    /Adam – The Doggy Institute

  4. If I could pick one breed for a post apocalypse type scenario, it would be the RR! I picked one up from a breeder who was throwing her away. She isn’t show quality so they were getting rid of her for 100 bucks. Best 100 bucks I ever spent, doesn’t matter whether these dogs qualify for show or not, they’re like the green berets of dogs! So fast and strong!

  5. There is no other dog breed remotely like the Rhodesian Ridgeback. Regardless of alleged scientific studies of dog breed intelligence, I’ve never come across a more intelligent breed, able to problem solve at their level. On the other side, they have a heart and mind full of thoughts of mischief and adventure. They are truly rogue clowns.

    They fill your house with joy and affection and they show loyalty like no other to the alpha of their pack.

    A well bred Ridgeback is slim and muscular, and lightning fast like a greyhound, yet they love to cuddle and be covered with YOUR blanket, preferably pressed up against you.

    For me there is no other breed.

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