A Rhodesian Ridgeback is a medium to large member of the hound group; well muscled, energetic and agile he is distinguished by a ridge along his back formed by hair growing in the opposite direction to the rest of his coat. The distinctive feature of the breed is the ridge which should be tapering and symmetrical, containing two crowns or whorls directly opposite each other at the top.
Originating from early European sporting breeds and the local Hottentot hunting dogs of the Cape Colony of South Africa, the Rhodesian Ridgeback was refined in Rhodesia where the breed standard was drawn up in 1922. The colour of a ridgeback is wheaten, Definition of Wheaten: like the yellowish to golden brown seen in a field of ripe wheat or in South Africa & Zimbabwe like the dry winter grass veldt. The coat colours or shades almost match those colours of the lion – light wheaten to red wheaten – never brown.
To live with a Ridgeback you should be, considerate, affectionate, alert, have a sense of humour as they have, but most important of all you need to be sensible. If you want a guard dog then a Ridgeback is not for you, for although an impressive looking hound, they are sensitive creatures. Easy going characters content to laze in the sun or by the fire; immediately alert at the squeak of the garden gate or sound of someone at the door, they are not noisy dogs tending only to bark when there is something worthwhile to bark about.
They are an ideal housedog and family protector, requiring only that the owner has control over him to be an effective watch dog (correct training is all important whilst young and it is essential that their amiable nature is not ruined by harsh or rough treatment). Intelligent, faithful, devoted to their owners they can be stand offish or reserved with outsiders, mellowing upon being properly introduced. Unlikely to attack without being provoked their penetrating dark eyes and loud bark act as deterrent enough. A gregarious animal, enjoying the company of other dogs – but beware of having several males as this volatile situation can lead to power struggles. He can be very good with cats if brought up with them, but very effective in defending his territory of stray dogs and cats. Hounds are instinctive hunters, usually they will chase anything running away from them and being a tad energetic sometimes bowl over smaller animals. A hunters inherent nature is to think for themselves and act independently, becoming bored quickly. Generally obedient and trainable they will never be submissive like the working breeds and if you throw a ball or stick you can expect to have to bring it back yourself!
Very athletic, easily able to clear high fences unless the owner has taken proper precautions to see that does not occur. A proficient swimmer, he can become an annoyance if his master is not an understanding pool owner. He does not tend to be a nuisance digger, but can create quite a tunnel to escape the summer heat if always left out-of-doors. A Ridgeback can become a roamer out of boredom, often falling victim to traffic. Being a large hound, the Ridgeback does well when given an adequate amount of exercise for his size. he can be kept in very satisfactory condition by your finding someplace safe where he can get the exercise he needs, by owning 2 (or more) dogs so that they can play and exercise each other, or by your participation in sports such as walking, hiking, jogging or horse-back riding where you can take the dog along (but beware of this until at least 9-10 months old).
The Ridgeback is an extremely tolerant, excellent companion for children, able to amiably withstand a great deal of pulling, poking and tugging from even the smallest of toddlers, frequently just getting up and moving away without even a growl when he’s had enough. However, it is important that children should NEVER be allowed to pester or tease dogs and it is a wise parent who curtails too much abuse from a child, as the Ridgeback will often put up with more than its fair share. Like people their attitude varies, most like children, some tolerate them and a few are not too keen.
An extremely clean dog, having little odour, and not being a profuse shedder due to his short coat. (In general, a house-dog of any breed sheds a little all year round, while an outside dog will shed a lot seasonally.) He is not a drooler. He is usually very easy to housetrain. He will quickly become master of the furniture unless his owner discourages this right from puppyhood! A happily wagging tail will easily clear off low coffee tables. A Ridgeback loves to ride in the car, rarely becoming sick even on the first outing, and revelling in both short and long trips.
‘Most Ridgebacks have to be dead before they won’t eat.’ Contrary to what was said previously, he can drool effusively while his (or your) dinner is being prepared. If you expect manners at feeding time, don’t watch a Ridgeback – he can inhale his food in seconds! Consequently, it is important for a conscientious owner to curtail food intake if he doesn’t want an overweight dog. Sometimes, a good cupboard lock is of necessity in keeping a clever dog from unauthorised self-feeding.
If you are considering letting a Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy become part of your life we suggest you do your research carefully before buying a puppy. First of all be patient, read as much as possible about the breed (there are a number of good books available), talk to Ridgeback owners, visit ridgebacks in their home environment and see just how big that cuddly little puppy will grow, then visit some of the shows to see large numbers of Ridgebacks. Ensure that when you do buy it is from a responsible breeder.
Finally if you have fallen for the charms of a Rhodesian Ridgeback contact our Puppy Co-ordinator of reputable breeders for news of any recently born litters.
See contact details on our committee page.