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Rhodesian Ridgeback

Rhodesian Ridgeback | Big Dog BreedsHistory

The Rhodesian Ridgeback was developed thousands of years ago in South Africa. These large dog breeds were used by the Koi people and the South African Bushmen. These dogs were medium in size and were reddish brown with a distinctive ridge of hair running down the center of their backs. They were used for hunting, herding and guarding their livestock from wild predators. They became exceptional at fighting off lions and leopards, especially when their owners were threatened.

In the mid-1600s, European settlers came to South Africa bringing dogs of their own such as Mastiffs, Bloodhounds, Great Danes, Pointers, Staghounds, Irish Wolfhounds and Greyhounds, among others, who they bred with the local Khoi dogs to develop a breed better adapted than the European breeds to life in Africa and especially well-suited to track wild game. They needed a dog that was resistant to local diseases; able to thrive in spite of extreme temperatures, limited water, rough bush, and relentless ticks; and an extraordinarily brave and cunning hunter, all while being a loyal family dog. Mating European breeds to native ridged Khoi hunting stock, the Boers produced unique dogs that hunted by both sight and scent and were devoted family guardians.

The breed came to England in the 1930s and to the United States shortly thereafter. It rapidly gained popularity.

Height & Weight

Male Ridgebacks stand 25 to 27 inches at the shoulder and weigh 85 pounds. Females stand 24 to 26 inches at the shoulder and weigh 70 pounds.


Rhodesian Ridgebacks are naturally wary of strangers, but are calm and easy going with their own family members. They need to be properly socialized early on so that this natural wariness does not turn into aggression and so that they know guests are welcome in the house.

They are often aggressive toward other dogs and non-family pets. They will get along with your cat, but if your neighbor’s cat comes into the yard, they will definitely chase it. It is important that you take them to puppy school and the dog park to socialize them when they are young, as this can stave off dog aggression.

Ridgebacks will let you know when they are bored and not getting enough exercise, which is something you definitely want to avoid since they are prone to destructive chewing. If you see them starting to chew household items or furniture you know they are not being exercised enough and when you leave them alone you want to make sure they have plenty of toys and bones to chew on.


Rhodesian Ridgebacks are distinguished, athletic dogs who look as if they are always deep in thought. Created in Africa, this breed was used to track corner and old lions, and is still used for hunting in some areas today; however they have come to be more of family companion than anything else. When they are puppies they are full of endless energy, but as they become adults combined with proper exercised and training they grown into calm, distinguished companions. It takes a lot of time and energy to properly train this breed and they are not for the first time dog owner. They are ideal companions for those who are experienced and who are already committed to an active lifestyle, the Rhodesian Ridgeback can be an ideal family dog.


The Rhodesian Ridgeback is an independent thinker who has a tendency to show dominance and can be a challenge to train. To establish leadership they need to be trained with firmness, but never harshness, because this will cause them to shut down and completely ignore. You must be absolutely consistent with them because they will constantly test boundaries, and if you bend once, they will take that as a sign that they can run the house.

Exercise Requirements

To maintain health, happiness and an even temperament this breed needs a lot of vigorous exercise. Originating from Africa, this breed can withstand a lot of activity in very high temperatures without slowing down. They need several walks a day and a lot of time to run around outside. They are athletic and will enjoy going for a jog or accompanying a biker. As they get older they wont need to run as much, but will always need daily activity. Without enough exercise they will become anxious and destructive.

Hunters can use Rhodesian Ridgebacks in the field to track and point for small game, or to track and corner large game. Non-hunting families should enroll their Ridgebacks in organized activities like agility or lure coursing. They make excellent hiking and camping companions, happy to engage in outdoor fun and will guard you faithfully while you picnic or sleep.


When it comes to grooming Rhodesian Ridgebacks are very low maintenance. Brushing them once a week with a rubber brush and then wiped with a damp cloth will keep their coats healthy and clean. They should be bathed as needed, which if you are brushing/rubbing them down once a week, you will only need to do twice a year.

Their ears should be checked regularly for wax buildup, irritation or infection, and cleaned with cotton ball and a veterinarian-approved cleanser. Their teeth should be brushed weekly to prevent tartar buildup, promote gum health and keep bad breath away. Nails should be trimmed monthly if they are not naturally worn down outside.

Health Issues

The average life expectancy for the Rhodesian Ridgeback is between 10 and 12 years. Breed health concerns may include Cataracts, Cerebellar Degeneration, Deafness, Dermoid Sinus, Entropion, Eversion of the Cartilage of the Nictitating Membrane, Elbow Dysplasia, Hip Dysplasia and Hypothyroidism.

Recommended Reading For More Information
Rhodesian Ridgebacks (Barron’s Complete Pet Owner’s Manuals)

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