Rhodesian Ridgeback – Dog Breed Facts, Pets Compatibility & Care

Rhodesian Ridgebacks Traits

Bred in South Africa at the start of the 20th century, this hound is probably one of the most daring hounds that you will encounter. The initial idea was to obtain a lean, strong, muscular dog with enough grace to win a pageant but enough strength and willpower to keep a fully grown adult lion at bay until the master delivers the killing blow. This was exactly what they got, and more.

Nicknamed “the lion dog”, the Rhodesian Ridgeback has been, and still is, building an impressive and outstanding heritage both in South Africa and in other parts of the world.

Breed Characteristics

Rhodesian Ridgeback
Dog Breed Group: Hounds
Height: 2feet
Weight: 70-85 lbs.
Life Span: 10-12 years


The main way of recognizing a Rhodesian Ridgeback is by its muscular body and its iconic short golden coat. It is an appealing and attractive dog breed; however it is so in a subtle way, allowing you to appreciate its beauty without getting distracted by it.

Moving on from its aesthetics, we need to keep in mind that this dog does not go by on its looks alone. This dog is smart and adaptable, and even though the breed itself was developed at the start of the 20th century for hunting reasons, this dog has seen a lot of action outside the hunting grounds as well.

Rhodesian Ridgeback

Rhodesian Ridgebacks have played a significant role in the huge civil war that shook South Africa down to its core, they helped carry correspondence through the zones that were at war with each other, their loyalty and their courage served them well as they were both willing and able to stand up to groups of heavily armed guerilla fighters in order to defend their families, and they managed to do so successfully.

It’s safe to say that this is not your average hunting dog, but rather looks, courage, loyalty and focus wrapped into a nice four legged canine package.

It’s not all fun and roses with this dog breed though. The Rhodesian ridgeback is not exactly easy to train because of its pure stubbornness and the fact that he or she will simply downright not listen to anything or anyone that is not the master.

Australian Ridgeback Breed

It should also be said that this is not exactly the perfect dog for life in an apartment.

Just by looking at its muscles and the shape of the body that this dog is rocking, you will see that individuals from this dog breed require quite a bit of daily exercise and quite some attention in the physical department.

Main Highlights
  • It’s a very powerful and muscular dog, capable of packing a lot of power as well as a lot of stamina, endurance and agility
  • It’s a very clever dog, capable of reading tells from all around him or her, and adapting accordingly
  • It’s a hunting dog, which means that it has a taste for hunting, pursuing prey and even stalling said prey until you get to it
  • It’s an intelligent animal, capable of making his or her own decisions on the go and actually reading and assessing situations
  • It’s a very active breed, which means that it needs a lot of exercise in order to ensure the physical wellbeing of the dog
  • It’s a bit difficult to train because of its intelligence and strong will
  • It requires socialization from an early age with other dogs and human in order to stave off any unwanted future aggression
  • It is a very brave dog, which feels right at home taunting and harassing fully grown lions, so there’s no need to worry about the dog cowering off for any unknown reason
  • The dog is easy to groom and requires next to no effort in ensuring its wellbeing, apart from the basics
  • This is a large dog, a hound if you will, and it does not do well in small apartments or closed spaces
  • Never, under any circumstances, be aggressive towards or physically hit or abuse this dog, especially while it’s a puppy, otherwise you will get a rather nasty and unbalanced dog.
  • This is a very loyal dog, however it will only be loyal to his or her master, not anyone else.
Breed History

The history of this breed is a rather long one, and it goes without saying that it is not a mundane one. Initially, the breed was discovered by the Dutch settlers that came to South Africa around the mid and end of the 18th century. It was not exactly the Rhodesian Ridgeback that we know and love today, but a more rough and un-chiseled ancestor of the breed, used by the Khoikhoi people that inhabited the area at the time.

It was noted as being “a very rough and ugly dog, however capable of chasing and taking down a fully grown lion, running as fast if not slightly faster than a wild horse, immune to insect bites, and extremely loyal to the owner or handler”.

As time went on, and more and more European nations descended upon South Africa, so did various other dog breeds, like the Greyhounds, Great Danes, Bloodhounds, terriers and various other hunting breeds.

Hunting was a must in order to survive in colonial South Africa, and the ancestor of the Rhodesian Ridgeback was crossed with a multitude of breeds in order to enhance its capabilities and breed out any defects that might appear in the process.

In the early 1900s, the very first representatives of the Rhodesian Ridgeback were being bred, and later on in 1922, the official “Rhodesian Lion Dog” standards were drafted. Only 3 years later these standards were officially approved, and the breed was officially dubbed “The Rhodesian Ridgeback”.

In the years that followed, the Rhodesian Ridgeback has seen a lot of action, and has even played major parts in the South African civil war, rescuing and protecting a lot of people in the process.


This dog breed is a large one to say the least. It is not among the largest breeds out there, however its size has allowed nature to give it a lot of qualities over the years. The average height for a Rhodesian Ridgeback is 2 feet, and they weigh between 70 lbs. and 85 lbs.

Because of its size, its evolution was a bit special, and it now boasts heavy and dense bones, as well as reinforced vertebras with strong muscular augments around them, making them stronger, more agile, and at the same time more robust and resilient than other dogs.

Personality and Character

The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a very smart dog, capable of adapting on the fly, making snap decisions, and able to assess a situation and turn it in his or her favor every single time.

The fact that the individuals are smart is no surprise given the fact that this is a hound bred primarily for hunting and defense, however this dog manages to take it a bit further. He is actually a free thinker, and will constantly challenge you at every single step of the way, questioning your decisions and more often than not deliberately disobeying your orders and commands in order to do his or her own thing. Indeed, this could lead to some unfortunate and rather problematic mishaps, which is why it is highly recommended that this particular dog breed be taken in by experienced dog owners, familiar with obedience training, adapting and consistency.

It goes without saying that training is a must for this particular dog breed, and it should start from as early as possible. However beginning the training is not enough, and even though there are other intelligent dog breeds out there, this one takes the cake when it comes to the consequences of relaxing the leash or letting your guard down.

You will have to persist in your training and constantly practice with the dog, making sure that he knows that you are the pack leader and that you are the one commanding him or her, not the other way around.

Obedience training as well as advanced training will help you get a perfectly balanced, obeying, and all around great dog, while the practice and constant learning, the time invested and the effort behind the practice itself, will help you maintain that dog on the level and even help you teach him or her new tricks and new commands. Do remember that this is quite a smart dog, and you might as well make the most out of it rather than fighting with the dog over control constantly.

Another thing to note here is the fact that this dog simply does not give up. On one hand, this is to be expected from a dog which can outrun wild horses and stand toe to toe with a fully grown lion. Beware of eventual stubbornness and expect some difficulties when trying to get the dog to do whatever you want. Training will help with this aspect, but there are slim chances that training alone will make this issue go away.

Health and Potential Problems

Health-wise, this is a very robust breed. It is capable of withstanding extreme heat and temperatures that other dogs can only dream of, without even breaking a sweat. It can also deal with insect bites so well, that it is virtually immune to them.

Something to note here is the fact that this is a very active dog breed, and it needs at least 1 – 1.5 hours of exercise per day in order to keep his or her mood up, make sure that all the energy is properly burned out of his or her system, and in order to ensure that the dog will have a healthy and long life.

Lack of exercise is actually dangerous for the dog, because the Rhodesian Ridgeback body is made, from head to toes, in such a way that it can withstand the harsh terrain, the infernal conditions and the rugged life that a hunting dog has to deal with in South Africa. If the dog is not properly exercised, it will use the built up energy in destructive ways, often causing a lot of mayhem around the house, and it will become even harder to control.

There are no actual health risks with this breed, and the vast majority of health problems have been bread out over the years.

Care Features

Caring for this particular dog breed is effortless to say the least. First off, the coat is very small, and at the same time rather thin, reducing shedding to an absolute minimum, and causing the dog to be odorless and generally clean. A quick bath every now and again, once or twice per week, would ensure that the dog is clean and that the coat, as well as the skin, is properly washed.

The most important thing with this dog breed is training and, trust me when I say that, you will need to train this dog constantly and consistently. Another key feature with this dog is the level of activity that he or she needs in order to be happy. Yes, they are affectionate, yeas they are very playful and yes, they will drain the juice out of your batteries, however if left unexercised, they will cause some destruction and some problems around the house.

Feeding Schedule

Feeding a Rhodesian Ridgeback is not an easy thing to do. This dog requires 2 full meals per day; one in the morning and one in the evening. If the dog is more active and does all the exercise that he or she needs, then switch to 3 meals per day.

Unlike the rest of the dog breeds, this one needs a lot of proteins and a lot of vitamins in order to keep its legendary strength up. So, instead of going for the standard can of processed dog food, or the pack of dry dog food, you might want to consider actually cooking something for your dog using actual meat and vegetables, instead of the processed leftovers from some random unknown slaughterhouse.

Coat, Color and Grooming

The coat of a Rhodesian Ridgeback is Golden Brown, and it is quite short in length. Because of this feature, shedding is at an absolute minimum, and grooming is relatively painless.

However, keeping your dog clean is an important thing and, because of the very short coat, the Rhodesian Ridgeback requires a short bath once or twice per week.

Children And Other Pets Compatibility

Before getting yourself a dog, you have to take into account how well the specific breed is able to interact, coexist and even function along with other dogs, other pets in general, or children. The last thing you want to do is invite a disaster in your home, so let’s take a look at how the Rhodesian Ridgeback handles these things.

First off, if the dog received proper training, then you have yourself a very balanced dog. By default, the Rhodesian ridgeback is a very faithful and loyal dog, and it is actually rated as being one of the best dogs to have around children. They are loving, playful, and thoughtful when it comes to the little ones.

These dogs also get along quite well with other dogs and other pets, because they tend to be playful and rather full of energy, constantly trying to get the other pet to play with them.

Remember that, while the dog itself is rather playful and happy to be around other pets, it is also very brave, very stubborn, very resilient and generally capable of staring death in the face and charging at it. If by any chance, the other dog or pet is more aggressive, and you are hoping that the Rhodesian Ridgeback will help him or her snap out of it and calm down, then you are in for a surprise. The Rhodesian Ridgeback will not hold back, and when faced with aggression, he or she will fight back. That being said, it is not the Rhodesian Ridgeback you have to worry about, but rather the other pet.


The Rhodesian Ridgeback is probably one of the best dogs out there. It has a history stretching right through some of the bloodiest and harshest conflicts in the world, in which this dog has made a difference several times.

Mother nature was more than generous with this breed, giving it a solid frame, incredible stamina, a metric ton of endurance, a trainload of bravery, and the speed and agility which allow the dog to not only cover an unfathomable amount of ground, but also outrun wild horses and stand toe to toe with the kings of the jungle, the lions, and hold them back while their masters take the shot.

It was nicknamed “The African Lion Dog”, it was and it is still being referred to as “The Navy Seals of dog breeds”, and make no mistake about it, this dog will go to hell and back, then back again for you because of the loyalty, faithfulness and outstanding level of devotion that it possesses for its master.