Rhodesian Ridgebacks have large, balanced and muscular frames with short, sleek coats. Bearing the trademark “ridgeback,” they have a line of hair along the spine that grows counter to the other hairs. Their long heads have flat, broad skulls and deep muzzles. Their eyes, somewhat set apart, have a bright and radiant expression, and their noses are black, brown or liver depending on the color of the coat. They have strong, somewhat lean necks, solid backs and strong tails that hang low and curl up slightly. Their glossy coats come in wheat or red. Overall, Rhodesian Ridgebacks carry themselves with equal amounts of dignity and athleticism.
After a few high-energy puppy years, Rhodesian Ridgebacks can turn into pretty mellow pals. However, they are far from lazy. Ridgebacks have an incredible amount of energy and stamina. During long walks, runs or hikes, they will stay at your side and then some, making them the ideal jogging partner. They also appreciate the opportunity to break free and run through wooded areas, fields or canyons.
Rhodesian Ridgebacks are gentle around the home. They play very well with children and have a reserved but gentlemanly way with strangers. However, they are super-protective, making them very effective watchdogs.
Rhodesian Ridgebacks can be a little stubborn. They need consistent and patient training from someone willing to dedicate the necessary time and attention. Alert and intelligent, Rhodesian Ridgebacks learn quickly. Because they have very active minds, they need plenty of tasks and games to prevent boredom.
Ridgebacks have powerful hunting instincts. Unless you’re in a controlled area or out in the countryside, always keep them on a leash. Also remember that these dogs were bred to hunt lions: They are fearless in almost any situation, especially around other dogs.
A healthy Rhodesian Ridgeback can live as long as 12 years. Common health issues include hip dysplasia and heart problems. Overall, they are healthy and hardy. Their glossy coat is easy to groom, but they do shed quite a bit. Ridgeback hair can be tough to remove from carpets and furniture, so regular brushing outdoors is a good idea.
Named after the “ridge” of hair along their backs, Rhodesian Ridgebacks were developed by South African Boer farmers to hunt large game. In the 16th century, European immigrants to South Africa brought Great Danes, Mastiffs, Greyhounds and other breeds. These were bred with native South African dogs to create the Ridgeback. In 1922, a group of Rhodesian breeders set a standard for the Ridgeback. Registered by the AKC in the 1950s, they have just recently become popular in the U.S.