Rhodesian Ridgeback

by Michelle Jones

The year is 1922. The place, South Africa. European settlers and explorers cross-bred five well-established hounds and native African dogs to produce a large, powerful dog used for big game hunting who became known as the Rhodesian Ridgeback…Although he’s nicknamed the “Lion Dog,” the Ridgeback was never really used to hunt lions, but was very adept at trailing big game like wild boars, holding the prey at bay and barking to attract the hunter’s attention to his location. Not only could the Ridgeback track and hold a large animal, he could also defend himself with his great strength and courage.

This hound is named for the strip of fur on his back that runs forward towards his shoulders instead of backwards towards his rump. The Ridgeback is a tall, long, muscular dog that has plenty of speed, endurance and agility that allows him to bring down wounded and/or fleeing big game like bears, elks and moose. He hunts by both sight and scent. Today he is one of the most popular hounds because of his agile tracking ability handsome build and short, golden coat, and protectiveness of his family. He was introduced to America in the 1940’s and recognized by the AKC soon afterwards.

In temperament, the Ridgeback strong-willed and independent. Although he’s very protective of his family, he’s not an overly affectionate dog while still making a good, loyal companion. He is good with children and other dogs, but needs to be supervised around household cats and mammals. He is a superb watchdog with aggressive protection from strangers. Although the Ridgback is not a mean-spirited dog, he can cause injury to strangers in his territory.

The Ridgeback is not recommended for first-time dog owners; he needs firm, assertive handling and socialization lest he develop an overly-dominant attitute. Nor is he appropriate for apartment living. In cities, the Ridgeback needs a large, contained yard; it’s best to put a “Beware of Dog” sign on his fence. In recent years, the Ridgeback has become the target of Breed-Specific Legislation in some cities; BLS laws prohibit owning targeted dogs that are known for aggressive tendencies. Still, this is a gentle, non-aggressive dog with the right owner and with correct training in socialization. He responds well to obedience training that is patient and consistent. He has a high energy level and likes lots of exercise, and can be playful and fun-loving.

This hound is sturdy and healthy, with no major health problems except occasional hip and elbow dysplasia. He requires minimal upkeep that includes exercise time, good food and plenty of water, especially in hot climates. His smooth coat needs only to be brushed weekly to remove dirt and dead hair. After a rowdy playtime, he likes nothing better than stretching out in a sunny spot for a nap!

The handsome and intelligent Rhodesian Ridgeback makes a fine companion dog and personifies the saying of “the right dog for the right owners.”