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How Fast Can Rhodesian Ridgebacks Run? Facts & Comparison Chart

Written by: Patricia Dickson

Last Updated on April 8, 2024 by Dogster Team

rhodesian ridgeback dog running on the meadow

How Fast Can Rhodesian Ridgebacks Run? Facts & Comparison Chart

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are known for being patient, loyal, and loving and make great watchdogs. They’re also known for being fast canines, but just how fast? Rhodesian Ridgebacks can run 30 miles per hour (mph), which is a bit slower than Greyhounds. They can run up to 45 mph. While that’s much slower than the Cheetah, which can run up to 75 miles per hour, that’s still quite fast for a dog.

If you’re wondering about the Rhodesian Ridgeback’s running speed and other facts, join us as we further explore the incredible Rhodesian Ridgeback.

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How Fast Can a Rhodesian Ridgeback Run?

The Rhodesian Ridgeback is an impressively fast animal, coming in as one of the top 20 fastest dog breeds. While it comes in at the lower end of that list of the 20 dogs, they’re still quick, with their top speed at 30 mph. You most likely don’t have any frame of reference for how fast that is, especially compared to other animals. Fortunately, the chart below compares the Ridgeback’s top speed to other animals.

rhodesian ridgeback dog running in the meadow
Image By: Vera Zinkova, Shutterstock

The Rhodesian Ridgeback Compared to Other Animals

Rhodesian Ridgeback  30 mph
Greyhound  45 mph
Greater Roadrunner  26 mph
Polar Bear  25 mph
Cheetah  75 mph
Lion  50 mph
Human  27.5 mph

The Greyhound, the world’s fastest dog breed, runs at a top speed of 45 mph, only 15 mph faster than the Rhodesian Ridgeback. Meanwhile, the fastest land animal, the Cheetah, has a top speed of 75 mph, which is 45 mph faster than the Ridgeback. You might think the Ridgeback isn’t that fast since its top speed is only 2.5 mph faster than humans. But it’s important to realize that 27.5 mph is the top speed a human has ever accomplished.

The Rhodesian Ridgeback is faster than the fastest human being ever, Olympic athlete Usain Bolt, whose top speed was 27.5 mph. The average human can run 5 to 6 miles per hour, significantly slower than the Rhodesian Ridgeback. The Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) recognizes 360 breeds, making the Rhodesian Ridgeback faster than 340 other dogs.

Humans purposefully created most dog breeds to fulfill certain tasks; this begs the question, “Why were Rhodesian Ridgebacks bred to be so fast?”

rhodesian ridgeback dog standing on grass
Image Credit: SubertT, Shutterstock

The Rhodesian Ridgeback’s History and Why They’re So Fast

The Rhodesian Ridgeback originated in 19th century Rhodesia, today known as Zimbabwe, where they were prized by big game hunters. When Dutch colonists brought dogs from back home to the colony, they bred with the native dogs. These native dogs, called Khoikhoi, were formidable, hardy dogs with a forward-running ridge of fur along their backs.

Cornelius Van Rooyen

Two hundred years later, a reverend named Charles Helm brought his family and two female dogs, the descendants of Dutch dogs and the Khoikhoi, to Rhodesia. There he met Cornelius Van Rooyen, a famous big game hunter. Occasionally the reverend’s business would require him to travel back to South Africa; during these trips, he would leave his dogs with Van Rooyen and allow them to breed with Van Rooyen’s many dogs.

Big Game Hunting

As a big game hunter in Africa, Van Rooyen hunted lions and needed a team of dogs. Some of the reverend’s puppies joined his team of lion hunters, a job which they were very well suited for. As they came to be known, Van Rooyen’s Lion Dogs needed to be brave enough to come face to face with a lion, fast enough to keep their distance and keep the beast distracted, and intelligent enough to retreat if things weren’t going their way.

Autumn Dog Rhodesian Ridgeback
Image Credit: dezy, Shutterstock

Today’s Ridgebacks

While the Ridgebacks of today are very different from Van Rooyen’s Lion Dogs, due to breeders in the 20th century aiming for a protector and companion as opposed to a lion hunter, the dog retains many of their ancestor’s traits. They retain the courage, intelligence, and speed they used to hunt lions in the African bush 200 years ago.

So, the Rhodesian Ridgeback wasn’t purposefully bred but resulted from the right combination of breeds coming together by happenstance. The dog may not have been bred for speed, but it’s one reason they appeal to competitive and adventurous owners. The Rhodesian Ridgeback is so fast because it had to be to survive hunting lions.


Wrap Up

The Rhodesian Ridgeback Dog can run up to 30 miles per hour, making it one of the fastest dogs on the planet, next to the Greyhound. The Greyhound only runs 15 mph faster than the Rhodesian Ridgeback at 45 mph. Although they’re not as fast as the top dogs, they’re among the few breeds with a history of lion-hunting. If you’re considering giving a Rhodesian Ridgeback Dog a forever home with you and your family, ensure you have plenty of room in your yard for them to gallop around.

Featured Image Credit: Osetrik, Shutterstock

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