Rhodesian Ridgeback Dog Breed: History, Temperament, Care, Training & more

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Rhodesian Ridgeback Dog Breed Information
also known as Lion Dogs or African Lion Dogs

Rhodesian Ridgeback
Level of Energy    
Exercise Needs    
Level of Affection    
Climate Tolerance   
Good With Children     
Tolerance of Animals      
Suitable as Watch Dog  

Rhodesian Ridgeback – Just The Facts

  • AKC Popularity:  39
  • AKC Breed Group: Hound
  • Size of Male:  85 lbs., 25-27 in.
  • Size of Female:  70 lbs., 24-26 in.
  • Color:  Light Wheaten to Red Wheaten (Golden Tan to
    Reddish Tan)
  • Average Lifespan:  10-13 years
  • Breed Origin:  South Africa
  • Purpose:  Guard Dog, Lion Hunting Dog

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General Description

To identify a Rhodesian Ridgeback is easy. Simply look for a hound with a distinct strip of hair at its back. The hair forms a 5 centimeter wide ridge, which is how the dog got its name in the first place. If you’re the assertive, outdoor person with plenty of time to bond with a pooch, this brave, loyal and protective breed may be the right choice.

Origin and History

There might not be any place named Rhodesia on the map today, because Rhodesia is the old name for present-day Zimbabwe. This Southern African nation is home to the Rhodesian Ridgeback. A painting on the Voortrekker Monument gives you a first glimpse of the dog.

From the 16th to the 17th century, Boer settlers worked on producing a breed that could survive with little water and tolerate both hot and cold climates. In the late 19th century, the dogs earned the moniker “lion dogs.”

They didn’t actually hunt lions all by themselves, but harassed and distracted the wild cats as human hunters went for the kill. The breed continues to enjoy the distinction of being able to hunt both by scent and by sound.

Rhodesian Ridgeback Temperament

Deemed the most territorial of all hounds, the breed generally sports a strong temperament and lines of aggression, which can become a problem if you’re the novice pet owner. On the plus side, the adequately socialized Ridgeback is usually calm.

The dogs are quite protective and devoted, too. Their rambunctious nature makes them a joy outdoors (and a chore for couch potatoes!). Be warned that the hounds rarely tolerate rough play. As such, they get along better with older children than with toddlers.

Care, Grooming, Diet & Exercise

Living Environment – These large dogs can do quite well with home living. However, the breed’s chasing instincts and hunting history hint of the need for a securely fenced, mid-sized yard at the minimum. You need not worry much about climate changes. Rain or shine, warm or cold, these dogs are a hardy breed.

Grooming – Since the dog is bred to survive hunting trips, coat care for the short-haired Rhodesian Ridgeback is minimal and easy. You just have to remove dead hairs with the use of a brush or a damp cloth. You should also avoid using topical treatments for fleas and ticks. The breed is sensitive to pesticides found in most instant-relief solutions.

Diet & Exercise – A native fare of South African game, such as the meat of horses and gazelles, appears to be optimal yet costly. Experts suggest instead that a blend of the following meats be used as a substitute: chicken, turkey and pork. Avoid serving beef and potatoes.

Exercise should be part of your dog’s daily routine. The breed is bursting with energy and needs a regular outlet to channel its zest for life. Unfulfilled exercise requirements translate to destructive behavior. Engage the dog in vigorous play. Off-leash games in your yard or a hunting expedition will make their day.

Health – A rare congenital condition called “dermoid sinus” is associated with this dog breed. This rare skin disease can lead to meningitis and even death. The dogs also have a predisposition to bloats, cataracts, cancer, deafness and thyroid problems. Despite these health-related hurdles, Rhodesian Ridgeback dogs usually live past a decade.

Rhodesian Ridgeback Trainability

Early socialization is necessary for the breed to avoid associating their protective instincts with aggression or suspicion. In the dog training department, you will find the breed a bit challenging to handle.

The dog’s hounding history, coupled with a willful nature, requires the leadership of an assertive and confident master. Be prepared to invest a lot of time with obedience training, and you’ll be amazed with what the intelligent Rhodesian Ridgeback will show you.