Despite its name, the Rhodesian Ridgeback resides mainly in South Africa, not Rhodesia. “Ridgeback” refers to its unique feature – the distinctive, dagger-shaped line of hair running along its back, growing in the opposite direction relative to the rest of its coat.
How was the Ridgeback breed created? Its formation is credited to those who settled in Europe back in the 16th and 17th centuries. At that time breeds such as Mastiffs, Bloodhounds, and Terriers were exported to South Africa. Hence, it is known that interbreeding mixed these aforementioned breeds with the African Hottentot Hunting Dogs along with breeds from other local stock.
The Ridgebacks have a great amount of stamina and can go more than 24 hours without water. Such dogs can adapt well to extreme temperature changes as found to occur in Africa. Packs of these dogs were proven to be powerful when hunting antelope, buffalo, and leopard, and because they can pursue lions with great success, they are also called the Rhodesian Lion Dog.
The temperament of the Rhodesian Ridgeback is sharp-witted and friendly making it a popular choice as a family pet. Although it is known to be a formidable fighter when roused, essentially it is rather a quiet, calm, and obedient dog that rarely barks. Some of them dislike children who play too rough, especially those that knock them down. Yet, they are known to be smart and highly skilled dogs that act like loyal family members.
This breed must be trained by a master who serves as a great pack leader who is firm, but confident. Its trainer must be consistent, especially laying down the rules of what the Ridgeback can and cannot do. It is for certain that these dogs should be trained and introduced to non-canine pets when they are puppies and young enough to be easily managed. Trying to train an adult can be very difficult. The master should not be too lenient or attempt to treat the dog like a human instead of a canine. This will make such a dog uncontrollable and combative with other canines.
What sets the Rhodesian Ridgeback apart from other dogs is its ridge-backed appearance. Its coat is glossy, short, smooth, and dense with light wheaten to red wheaten color tints. Yet, small patches of white can be found on its toes and its chest.
The body has a deeply recessed chest and a powerful, distinctively, muscular shape. Their legs are strong and straight with well-defined muscles and their feet are compact with well-arched toes, with thick and tough pads. Its tail is fairly long, tapering, and strong at the root, but curled upwards when the dog is in motion.
A Rhodesian Ridgeback’s head is long with strong, level jaws and a flat-top skull. Its facial characteristics are: a black or brown nose, depending on eye color; a long, deep muzzle; eyes that are round, set wide apart, and dark brown or amber in color, with an expression that is bright and sparkling; and ears that are medium-sized, triangular in shape, set high, and carried close to the head.
Adult Ridgebacks grow to be 24 to 27 inches tall, weigh between 65 and 90 pounds, and live 10 to 12 (human) years. Such dogs need to be taken for long, brisk walks on a daily basis. Just remember, you’ll tire out long before they do. Though they can remain calm in an apartment for many hours at a time, it is best to keep them in a large, fenced-in yard. Ridgebacks need the opportunity to run, especially without a leash. If they are not exercised daily, they are prone to develop behavioral problems and destructive habits.
When it comes to shedding, Ridgebacks are in the “moderate” category and they should be combed often with a firm-bristled brush occasionally. Bathe and shampoo as needed.