An impressive, muscular appearance with great agility and impressive stamina – this is exactly what many people want in their dream dog. The Rhodesian Ridgeback can inspire with all these qualities. The so-called “ridge” is a ridge of hair on the back of the dog, reaching from the shoulders to the hips, which is the dog’s trademark. In this area the hair grows against the regular direction of growth, which explains the upright position.
This dog is a real eye-catcher. It is not intended for beginners only.
Character of the Rhodesian Ridgeback
The Rhodesian Ridgeback belongs to the rough diamonds among dogs. He is very intelligent and eager to learn, so that he is just waiting to be taught a new, another lesson. However, he absolutely does not accept pressure in socialisation and also in learning. If he feels he is under pressure, he immediately refuses to cooperate further. This is due to his sensitivity on the one hand, but also to his independence. If a task is not obvious to him, he will express this by means of his stubborn side.
Due to his originally bred characteristics for hunting big game, he is ideally suited as a guard dog. He is also ideally suited as a family and companion dog. A prerequisite for this, however, is optimal socialisation and basic training in puppyhood.
The historical background of the Rhodesian Ridgeback
The home of the Rhodesian Ridgeback is in South Africa, in what is now Zimbabwe, formerly known as Rhodesian. His English name is “African Lion Dog”, because he has the ability to literally stand up to the lion in a hunt. Already at the time of colonial rule, these dogs had the eponymous ridge. But records of the ancient Egyptians already testify that its origin goes back much further than we can imagine.
The colonial masters quickly went about cross-breeding, including Mastiffs and also Great Danes. The breedings produced this tough, persistent and courageous dog we know today. He is fearless, making him the perfect dog for guarding and hunting. A self-reliance helps him to always make the right decisions. Even though he is recognised as a hunting dog in many countries of the world, he has not yet received this honour in UK.
Besides the Rhodesian Ridgeback, we can find other Ridgebacks: The Thai Ridgeback as well as the Phu Quoc Ridgeback, which are, however, independent dog breeds.
The colours of the Rhodesian Ridgeback
The colour pattern of the Rhodesian Ridgeback is wide-ranging. It ranges from a so-called “light wheaten” to a “red wheaten”. Sometimes there are some white hairs on the toes or on the chest. According to the standard description, the coat should be smooth, glossy and very dense. An undercoat is not present in the Rhodesian Ridgeback.
Grooming is very easy due to the length and lack of undercoat. It is advisable to take this opportunity to check the agile dog for injuries, ticks or similar. The length of the coat makes this task easy, so it can be done quickly.
What are the requirements of the Rhodesian Ridgeback?
Even though many breeders say that dog experience is not absolutely necessary, it is still recommended at this point. With or without previous experience, it is important to work intensively with this dog during the first two to three years of life in order to achieve a solid education. A considerable amount of time must be planned for this. It is not to be called a “problem”. Rather, it is a fundamental character trait of the Rhodesian Ridgeback. For this dog has been kept and bred for centuries as a hunting and guard dog.
Accordingly, these instincts are still strongly pronounced. They must therefore be brought into the right channels with consistency, so that they do not lead to problems when living together with humans, especially in a very densely populated area like UK.
Let’s not forget that he was bred for independence to do a good job on the big game hunt. A self-reliance that is sometimes very resented in the UK countryside. For this dog has no problem at all in solving his conflicts, whatever they may be, all by himself.
The Rhodesian Ridgeback’s urge to move is very great. Accordingly, it is necessary to have a large, fenced-in area so that the dog can have sufficient exercise at all times.
In addition to this exercise, however, he must still be given physical exercise in order to feel comfortable. Long walks, jogging, cycling or horse riding – he needs the physical challenge. But his intellect also needs to be challenged. This should not be forgotten.
There is one more point that must be kept in mind: The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a dog that is well acquainted with warm / hot temperatures and can cope very well health-wise. However, due to the lack of undercoat, the cold and wet season can be very hard on him. Therefore, a warming dog coat is absolutely necessary for the winter. A light, but water-repellent dog coat should also be part of the dog’s equipment for rainy summer phases. Better safe than sorry.
The Rhodesian Ridgeback and its health
Basically, the Rhodesian Ridgeback is a robust dog, which should show good health with a species-appropriate husbandry and a balanced diet. However, it is unfortunate that some hereditary diseases have developed over the centuries.
Certainly there are attempts at back-breeding, but not everything that would be desirable is possible in this area. These hereditary diseases include hip joint dysplasia (HD) and elbow joint dysplasia (ED).
It is suspected that the dermoid cysts, which occur more frequently in the Rhodesian Ridgeback, are associated with the gene responsible for the development of the ridge. This dog is also prone to deafness, thyroid problems and degenerative myelopathy.
Advantages and disadvantages of the Rhodesian Ridgeback
The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a dog that is quite easy to train if you show a certain amount of dominance and loving consistency. Although he is not a “real” beginner dog, it is not necessary to have years of dog experience to get along with him.
The attitude is absolutely uncomplicated, as he is relatively undemanding. Nevertheless, one should never forget that he has a great hunting and running instinct. These must be channelled in time so that the dog can be taken out in public without any problems.
The perfect person for a Rhodesian Ridgeback
- loves exercise
- loves to be outdoors
- likes to occupy himself with the dog also on an intellectual level
- takes the dog as a matter of course as an additional member of the family
- is the absolute alpha of the family and therefore also of the dog
- is an absolute fan of this dog breed
- owns a house with a (preferably large) garden
- is not afraid to spend hours a day with the dog to keep it physically and mentally active.
Buying the puppies
Let’s be honest: Rhodesian Ridgeback puppies are among the most expensive puppies on the dog market! But in return you get a very exclusive dog, which also demands a lot from you. It is by no means a beginner’s dog. Keeping these dogs requires expertise, a knack for dogs and the love of a demanding dog.
For the serious breeder, from whose hands a Rhodesian Ridgeback should be taken exclusively, it is a matter of course to inform the prospective buyer completely about the breeding line and to prove this also voluntarily. This includes the papers of the breeding animals, the membership in a breeding club which is either affiliated to the VDH or the FCI, as well as breeding according to the standards of the VDH or FCI.
For the serious breeder, the dogs are not just an option to earn money. These dogs are family! Therefore, he is happy to assist the interested party with all the information one needs about this extraordinary dog breed. This starts with food and care and doesn’t stop there.
Some breeders even offer the “all-round carefree package” and take care of the later adult animals during holidays or in case of illness. Because no serious breeder can part with “his” little ones so completely.
It is advisable to ask the breeder openly about these items before getting into something.
- Dog collar
- Dog harness
- A good leash for dogs, in addition possibly a robust drag line
- Dog coat, warm, water-repellent
- Water and food bowl, easy to clean if possible
- Dog bed / blanket for lying on
- Short hair brush
- Comb for dogs / lice comb
- Dog food
- possibly toys
- possibly treats
First the positive: The Rhodesian Ridgeback will eat anything!
Now the negative: He tends to be overweight! So you have to actively ensure that he gets a balanced diet in sufficient quantities – and no more!
The advantage for the owner is that this dog can be fed well with any type of food. So it is entirely up to the owner which type he chooses: Wet food, dry food, BARFEN or cooking it yourself. It is best to ask the breeder from whom you are taking over the puppy or its previous owner what kind of food it has been fed so far and whether there have been any problems or dislikes in this respect.
As a general rule, avoid foods with a lot of fillers, grains, colourings, additives or added sugar. For such an exclusive dog, the best possible food should be used. Even if it has to be fed to him.
How much does a Rhodesian Ridgeback cost?
The Rhodesian Ridgeback is not one of the “everyday” dog breeds. No wonder that it should be a well-considered decision already at the time of purchase. A puppy from a reputable breed costs between 1,500 and 2,000 pounds.
Unfortunately, there are always puppies of this breed that can be found for a “friendship price” of less than 1,000 pounds. Hands AWAY from these offers. These are dubious breeders who do not pay attention to the health and temperament of the parents and breed only for money. The health of the puppies is not important to them either, so you don’t know if you are getting Pandora’s box in your house.
Look for a reputable breeder, possibly through the VDH, with whom they should be registered. Then you can’t go wrong.
Where does the Rhodesian Ridgeback come from?
The Rhodesian Ridgeback originated in Rhodesia, which is now called Zimbabwe. This makes this dog the only recognised dog breed that originates from the south of Africa.
How old does the Rhodesian Ridgeback live?
In principle, the Rhodesian Ridgeback has the possibility to reach the rather high age of ten to twelve years. However, the owner has to do a lot to keep his dog relatively species-appropriate. This means, in particular, a high-quality diet and sufficient, adequate activity. Actually, the struggle for years already begins by choosing the right breeder with an appropriately robust and long-lived breeding line. Good health and an affable temperament are crucial for a long life.
How big and heavy does the Rhodesian Ridgeback grow?
The males reach an impressive height of 63 to 69 centimetres. The bitches are smaller. They are between 61 and 66 centimetres tall. So the difference is not that big.
For the males, a weight of 35 to 37 kilograms is desirable. The bitches may be a little lighter and weigh “only” 32 kilograms. On the whole, they are visually somewhat more delicately built.
How many puppies does the Rhodesian Ridgeback have?
The average litter of a Rhodesian Ridgeback produces four to six puppies.
Is the Rhodesian Ridgeback a hunting dog?
The FCI has placed the Rhodesian Ridgeback in group 6. Here we find the running and sweat dogs. This clearly points out that this dog belongs to the hunting dogs and should also dedicate itself to this task. Thus many hunters use the Rhodesian Ridgeback to do common tracking and sweat work. This is not only important for the hunt itself. Often a sweat dog can also help when an injured game has to be recovered after a car accident. This is done, among other things, to spare the animal pain and suffering, if this is possible or necessary.
Although Rhodesian Ridgebacks were bred as hunting dogs for big game and many UK breeders train their dogs for hunting, the Rhodesian Ridgeback is not recognised as a hunting dog in UK. However, this should not be an obstacle to taking the appropriate test after good training.
Is the Rhodesian Ridgeback a family dog?
The Rhodesian Ridgeback has a very calm disposition. Nothing really seems to upset him. He is rarely aggressive. In addition, he is extremely devoted and loyal to his family. He is surprisingly uncomplicated in handling. However, he is quite reserved towards strangers. If necessary, he will protectively stand between them and his family. In this respect he is extremely reliable. Children are very dear to him. With them he shows the true extent of his patience.
However, it should be pointed out that he can only bring out all these positive qualities if he is well trained. Furthermore, he is not a dog for beginners. He can demand a lot from his owner during training. Either the owner has enough dog sense or a visit to a good dog school is highly recommended.
Can the Rhodesian Ridgeback be kept in a (city) flat?
The Rhodesian Ridgeback was bred in the vastness of Africa. This laid the groundwork for him to not only like to move around, but not be confined in the process. Thus a flat or, even worse, a kennel is out of the question for him. There, great discomfort would quickly arise, which could lead to misbehaviour or quirks. It should also be noted that any climbing of stairs should be avoided for the Rhodesian Ridgeback. This is due to his “natural” curvature of the spine, called the ridge.
The Rhodesian Ridgeback also has little to do in the city. Certainly, he would not be upset because of his even temperament. But it is basically too crowded for him in the city. A dog of his size should not have to live in the city.
The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a fantastic companion and family dog, if trained and kept correctly and with understanding. No, it is certainly not a dog that belongs in beginner’s hands or cannot be exercised. But you can be sure that reputable breeders only hand out animals with a strong character, so that with good training and lots of love, it will become a wonderful companion that no one will want to miss.
But it is important to be aware of the responsibility and to be aware of the potential of this dog. For responsible owners, the Rhodesian Ridgeback is a wonderful dog with whom one can experience many great “adventures”.