Rhodesian Ridgeback – Everything You Need To Know

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are purebred, huge sighthounds and scent hounds bred in Southern Africa. The hallmark of this breed is their “ridgeback,” with hair growing backward on the back. Presently, Rhodesian Ridgeback is the only registered breed indigenous to Southern Africa. They are great family dogs who demand independence, bear a strong prey drive, and can be too tough to handle by novice owners. 

The term “ridge” has come from his European – African dog legacy. They have the distinguishing ridge. Ideally, Ridgebacks were developed to hunt lions, boars, and bears. These canines compete in different kinds of canine sports, including lure coursing, agility, obedience, and tracking.

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are great jogging and hiking partners. They are reticent to strangers. A physically and mentally stimulated Rhodesian is a happy Rhodesian. Owing to his intelligence, size, and stamina, he will not be a dog that is suitable for everyone.

Rhodesian Ridgeback Overview

Rhodesian Ridgeback is a forbearing dog who co-exists with other pets. They are great family companions; however, one should be cautious as they can be alpha dogs. Their hyperactive nature can be a threat to small children at home. Those who do not want a barking dog can choose these Ridgebacks. 

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are great athletes. These dogs are experts at making cavities in your backyard to make their summer cool. Rhodesians are odorless dogs and are easy to maintain. They bear a minimal shedding coat. Finally, one thing the owner must take care of is to keep him from overeating.

Rhodesian Ridgeback Pros and Cons

Minimal grooming needsEscape artists
Loyal and protectiveGreat hunters

Rhodesian Ridgeback Basic Information

  • Name: Rhodesian Ridgeback
  • Origin: South Africa
  • Group: Hounds
  • Size: Medium to high
  • Height: Male: 25-27 inches Female: 24-26 inches 
  • Weight: Male: 80-90 lbs Female: 65-75 lbs  
  • Coat: Short, dense, and sleek
  • Color: Light wheaten to red wheaten
  • Energy: Medium to high
  • Activities: Hunting, guarding
  • Barking Level: Low
  • Shedding Level: Medium to high
  • Hypoallergenic: No
  • Litter Size: 7-8 puppies
  • Other Names: Lion Dog, African Lion Hound, Renaissance Hound, Ridgeback
  • Breed’s Original Pastimes: Hunting Lions
  • Life Span: 10 – 12 years

History of Rhodesian Ridgeback

Rhodesian Ridgebacks, or the African Lion Hounds, date back to the 16th century. The Hottentot tribes lived with partially domesticated canines with hair growing reverse along their spines. Hence, they are known as the “Ridgebacks.” Genetically, the Great Danes and the Rhodesian Ridgebacks fell under the same genes. However, today’s Ridgeback descends from various breeds crossed by the South African settlers and Rhodesians with the native dogs of the Hottentot tribe. The striking ridge results from the cross between the native ridged Khoikhoi dog and the European breeds of Dutch colonists and the Boers, including Greyhounds, Bloodhounds,  Mastiffs, Great Danes, and various Terriers. 

Further, Boer farmers bred these dogs for hunting, heavy pulling, and guarding farms against wild animals or prowlers during the night. The farmers also were on the lookout for a dog that was short-coated to keep the ticks away. By 1955, the Rhodesian was ranked the 112th breed admitted to the AKC.

Types of the Rhodesian Ridgeback

The Phu Quoc Ridgeback is a rare dog breed from the island Phu Quoc, Southern Vietnam. FCI or any other essential clubs do not recognize this dog. However, the Vietnam Kennel Association accepts this breed.

The Thai Ridgeback: The Thai Ridgeback is the National dog of Thailand. Coming from Thailand, the Ridgeback is one of the three dogs with a ridge of hair running reverse along its back, besides Rhodesian Ridgeback and Phu Quoc Ridgeback.

Rhodesian Ridgeback Highlights

  • Rhodesian Ridgebacks are great family companions.
  • They are kid-friendly but will be boisterous with kids.
  • Rhodesians are not suitable for first-time owners.
  • They are pet friendly and can co-exist with other pets.
  • Early socialization and training are mandatory for these dogs as they can be rambunctious.
  • A bored Rhodesian Ridgeback can be a destructive dog.
  • Rhodesians are great escape artists.
  • Grooming-wise, they are easy to maintain as they shed minimally.
  • Although they can adapt to apartment living, large homes with fenced yards are ideal.

Rhodesian Ridgeback Personality

Ridgebacks are sturdy dogs who weigh between 65 to 90 pounds. These canines come only in one color that varies in shades ranging from wheaten to red wheaten. Ridgeback’s nose contains two colors – black and rarely brown. The Rhodesian Ridgeback fur is short and smooth and has no odor. A few Ridgebacks bear black on their ears, muzzle, and eyes.  

Friendliness Overview

Affection level Medium to high
Family-friendly High
Kid-friendly Medium to high
Pet-friendly Medium to high
Stranger -friendly Medium

Adaptability Overview  

Good for apartment living Low 
Good to new owners Low to medium
Sensitivity level Medium to high 
Tolerates being alone Low to medium
Cold-tolerance Medium
Heat-tolerance Medium

Rhodesian Ridgeback Physical Features

Head: Their head is broad, flat in between the medium-sized ears that are set high. Their muzzle is long, deep, and has a defined stop. Their nose is either brown, liver, or black, coinciding with the coat of the Rhodesian. Their eyes are round, generally brown, and tongues are black. 

Neck: Their neck is sturdy and quite long without throatiness.

Topline: The topline is straight and narrow and has a clearly defined ridge that begins with two indistinguishable whorls at the shoulders back. 

Body: Their chest is wide and deep with ribs well sprung. Their back is strong with powerful loin that are slightly arched and muscular. 

Tail: The tail is long, stockier at the base, curving slightly upward. 

Forequarters: The forequarters are very straight and sturdy. Dewclaws are often removed.

Hindquarters: The hindquarters are bent and strong, and the hocks are well down. 

Coat: The coat is short, sleek, glossy, dense, and has a perfectly aligned ridge of hair growing opposite from the middle to the back. The ridge contains two whorls, and these whorls are called crowns. A Rhodesian that has only one crown / more than two crowns gets a meager chance in the show ring.

Color: The coat colors range from light wheaten to hues of red. Often a little white on the chest and toes.

Gait: Their stride is free, long, and unhindered. Their gait is dignified and is a symmetrical balance of elegance and power.

According to AKC standards,


  • White on the toes and chest is acceptable. 
  • Rhodesian’s nose can be either liver or black, coinciding with the color of the coat.


  • The black guard hair or ticking.
  • Other colored noses are not permissible. (A brown color nose is due to the recessive genes)
  • Ridgelessness
  • Coat color- black and tan, brindle, blue (claimed as “rare” or “exotic”)

Rhodesian Ridgeback Temperament

As affectionate and independent dogs, Rhodesians are loyal companions who indulge themselves in protecting their loved ones. Ridgebacks are tough for new owners owing to their high intelligence. Rhodesians can be great with kids but must be left together under supervision. They bark very little. Apart from these, they have an unsurpassed ability to herd and hunt. In a nutshell, they are:

  • Loyal
  • Independent
  • Affectionate
  • Calm
  • Watchdogs
  • Protective
  • Easily trainable
  • Wary of strangers

Rhodesian Ridgeback Training

Rhodesians can be great human and pet companions when trained and socialized early. Their intelligence can be an added advantage while training. They can herd small animals so training them on a leash is vital to keep their hunting instincts in check. Their training methods should include:

  • Leash training  
  • Crate training  
  • Potty training
  • Firm training and consistent training
  • Positive training method with rewards and treats
  • Training for obedience
  • Early socialization
  • Training for wanderlust tendencies

Trainability Overview 

Easy to train Low to medium
Intelligence Medium to high
Mouthiness tendencies Medium
Barking and Howling tendencies Low
Prey drive High
Wanderlust tendencies High

Rhodesian Ridgeback Exercise Needs

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are active dogs. As a puppy, he would be very playful and grow into a quiet dog. They need a secured high fence as they are great escape artists and would require moderate exercise needs. An idle Rhodesian Ridgeback is a destructive dog. Therefore, engaging him physically and mentally is mandatory to keep him happy. Remember, the Rhodesians would need a house with a large area or a strongly fenced backyard to play. If you live in an apartment, ensure you take them outdoors to exert their energy.

Exercising Rhodesian Ridgeback is essential mainly for three reasons:

  • To keep the pet mentally and physically stimulated.
  • Avoid any other destructive behavior.
  • To keep the pet away from obesity.

Exercise Needs Overview

Energy level Medium to high
Exercise needs High
Intensity Medium to high
Playfulness High

Rhodesian Ridgeback Grooming

Rhodesian Ridgeback sheds moderately and is an odor-free dog. Therefore, the chances of matting are relatively low in these dogs. Their grooming regime will include brushing them weekly. Trim their nails, check and clean their eyes and ears, and maintain their dental hygiene as a part of regular grooming. It is enough to bathe him once or twice annually with a mild bath shampoo for dogs. Remember that excessive bathing can remove the natural oils from your canine’s skin. Some grooming product suggestions for your pet:

Grooming Kit
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Dog Shampoo
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WAHL Dry Skin & Itch Relief Pet Shampoo for Dogs
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Earth Rated Dog Wipes, Plant-Based and Compostable Wipes for Dogs
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Vet’s Best Enzymatic Dog Toothpaste
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Arm & Hammer for Pets Tartar Control Kit for Dogs
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Dudi Dog Nail Clippers and Trimmers
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Grooming Overview

Easy to groom High
Drooling tendency Low
Amount of shedding Medium to high 

Rhodesian Ridgeback Health

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are relatively healthy breeds. However, like any other breeds, they are prone to health conditions stemming from their lineage. Thus, to keep them healthy, it is vital to take your dog to the veterinarian for regular health checkups and ensure that he is updated with vaccinations. The lifespan of Rhodesian Ridgeback is 10 – 12 years. Some inherited health problems are listed below:

Dermoid Sinus is a predominant and congenital health issue seen in Rhodesian Ridgebacks. It is also referred to as pilonidal sinus, a tubular skin fault caused by the imperfect separation of the nervous system and the skin during embryonic growth. 

Elbow Dysplasia: Elbow dysplasia occurs when the elbow joint bones don’t align properly. This misalignment causes abnormal pressure at the joint, leading to chronic rubbing and being prone to severe osteoarthritis. Symptoms include: 

  • Mild to moderate pain  
  • Lameness in the forelimbs  

Although the symptoms begin to show as early as four months, some dogs will not show these signs until later in life. Further, the disorder may also injure the elbows, but one of them may be heavily affected. 

Hip Dysplasia: A disorder that affects canines in their growing phase. It leads the hip joint to relax, resulting in discomfort and dysfunction. In addition, the cartilage and bones in the dog’s hip start to wear away as he develops. This leads to arthritis, muscular atrophy, and decreased mobility over time.

Degenerative Myelopathy, commonly known as chronic degenerative radiculomyelopathy (CDRM), is a spinal cord illness that causes weakening and paralysis in the hind limbs. Degeneration of the spinal cord’s white matter causes the symptoms. 

Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus: A life-threatening condition that affects deep-chested dogs, especially if they have an overfed meal, eat rapidly, drink excessive amounts of water, or exercise vigorously after eating. Gastric Dilatation Volvulus leads to bloating in the stomach. Your dog cannot vomit to get rid of excess air in his stomach, and blood flow to the heart is prevented. Blood pressure lowers, and the dog goes into shock. Without immediate medical attention, the dog may die. Suspect bloat if your dog is drooling excessively and is not throwing up. He might be restless with rapid heartbeats. If you notice the above symptoms, take your furry friend to the vet as soon as possible.

Deafness: Dogs, like people, can develop hearing loss as they age. This is usually a slow process, so it might be challenging to observe. The eardrums become less flexible, and sounds are less efficiently transferred. In addition, chronic ear infections cause some dogs to lose their hearing.

Hypothyroidism is when a dog’s metabolism is slowed due to the lack of thyroid hormone production. Symptoms are: 

  • Lethargy 
  • Gaining weight 
  • Reluctance to work out 
  • Hair loss 

Cancer: Cancer can be cured by surgical removal of tumors and chemotherapy. However, it is essential not to ignore the symptoms and diagnose them earlier. Various cancer types affecting your pet are:  

  • Lymphoma: A severe illness that affects lymphocyte cells. 
  • Hemangiosarcoma: This is a hazardous form of cancer that originates in the lining of blood vessels and the spleen. It most commonly happens in middle-aged and elderly dogs.   
  • Osteosarcoma: Osteosarcoma is a malignant bone cancer common in large and giant breeds.  

Health Overview

Overall health Medium to high 
Weight gain tendencies Medium
Size Medium to high

Recommended Tests for the Rhodesian Ridgeback

  • Hip Evaluation
  • Elbow Evaluation
  • Thyroid Evaluation
  • Dermoid Sinus Evaluation

Rhodesian Ridgeback Diet and Nutrition

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are high-energy dogs and require two ¾ to four ⅜ cups of high-quality dog food divided into two meals. Several commercial kibbles are high in proteins, but consider supplementing the kibbles with rich quality lean meat and canned dog food. Depending on his size, age, weight, and activities, consult your veterinarian and feed him the amount of food he will need. You can divide his meal time into two or three per his veterinarian’s suggestions.

Rhodesian Ridgeback Living Condition

The Rhodesian Ridgebacks will require the following living conditions to lead a happy and healthy life:

  • A fenced yard or ample space to run around.
  • A regular exercise regime.
  • If you live in an apartment, you must ensure that you provide time for his physical exertion.
  • Experienced pet owners.

Did You Know?

  • Errol Flynn was the first movie star to breed Rhodesian Ridgeback.
  • The only dog that has hair running reverse down the spine.
  • Purebred black Rhodesians are infrequent but do occur sometimes. 

Rhodesian Ridgeback Club Recognition

  • ACA – American Canine Association Inc.
  • ACR – American Canine Registry
  • AKC – American Kennel Club
  • ANKC – Australian National Kennel Club
  • APRI – American Pet Registry, Inc.
  • CKC – Canadian Kennel Club
  • CKC – Continental Kennel Club
  • DRA – Dog Registry of America, Inc.
  • FCI – Fédération Cynologique Internationale
  • KCGB – Kennel Club of Great Britain
  • NAPR – North American Purebred Registry, Inc.
  • NKC – National Kennel Club
  • NZKC – New Zealand Kennel Club
  • RRCUS – Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of the US
  • KUSA- Kennel Union of Southern Africa

Adding a Rhodesian Ridgeback to Your Family

Adding Rhodesian Ridgebacks to your family will need proper research about their parent breed, cost, breeders, health, and certificates. Then, get your Rhodesian Ridgebacks from a reputable breeder who will provide you with vaccination and gene testing certificates. Also, ensure the health of the puppy’s parent breeds.

Rescue Groups

Rhodesian Ridgeback Rescue Inc

Ridgeback Rescue of the United States

Rhodesian Ridgeback
Find a Dog

Rhodesian Ridgeback Images

Rhodesian Ridgeback Videos

Rhodesian Ridgeback – Top 10 Facts

Rhodesian Ridgeback Pup Unleashes His Hunting Instincts | Too Cute!


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