Facing the Ridgeback for the First Time in the Ring
First of all, before entering any ring, we should be thoroughly familiar with procedure. Once we have mastered that, we can concentrate on the specimen before us rather than being side-tracked by anything else.
So, we look at the outline first: balance, symmetry, moderate head—neither heavy and Mastiff-like nor narrow or Greyhound-like. Underjaw visible. Strong, long neck with smooth shoulders blending into body, level back continuing with a slight rise over the loin (which one should feel upon examination) falling gently away over the croup, ending with a well-set, tapering tail without kinks or excessive curl.
Underline is not exaggerated, herring-gutted or Greyhound-like, and the hindquarters should be rather broad and powerful (first and second thigh well developed).
As we examine our Ridgeback, remember to always approach from the front, not rear—after all, this is a sighthound. He is aloof with strangers and he must see you. We want to find intelligent expression—round, dark eyes harmonizing with the color of the pigment and overall dog. That means black-nosed dogs should have dark brown eyes and liver/brown-nosed dogs should have amber eyes, again harmonizing with pigmentation. Ears should frame the head. Black or dark brown muzzle in a liver/brown-nosed dog is equally acceptable and so are clear-faced dogs.
We want to look for that ever-eluding shoulder layback and shoulder, and return of upper arm being close to equal in length. The ideal ridge starts close behind the shoulder blades, contains two whorls opposite each other and tapers close to the pin bone. The thorax should be capacious, giving lung room and should have plenty of length before reaching a relatively short loin without cramping his hindquarters.
The dog should appear off-square—not rectangular (slightly longer than tall). The croup is moderate with a smooth tail insertion. The tail is tapered, without kinks or excessive curls, reaches to the hock and is never carried in a gay fashion while on the move.
Rear quarters are broad, strong, muscular, and the inner thigh is well-developed. The Ridgeback must possess good feet with thick pads, sloping, strong pasterns for shock absorbing—splayed or flat feet are taboo in this breed.
Color should be immaterial as long as it falls within the light wheaten to red wheaten color. While white should be kept to a minimum, white sox on an otherwise quality Ridgeback is a nonfunctional fault and is to be judged accordingly. The same goes for some occasional black bibbing. There should be no preference to overall color.
While there are no size disqualifications, we need to reward the dog that is close to the prescribed standard.
The gait needs to be smooth and effortless, exhibiting power, strength coupled with agility and covering ground efficiently. Topline must remain constant, while legs converge toward
single-tracking at a fast trot. True breed type demonstrates an effortless stride, enabling the dog to go all day.
We must try to put emphasis on the positive points rather than fault judge and not dwell on the shortcomings. The Breed Standard is the blueprint, the breeder is the builder, and the judge is the building inspector. We must also recognize that success in the breed depends to a large extent on proportion, balance symmetry coupled with motivation, temperament, character, and showmanship.
Ridgebacks were not bred to kill lions but, rather, to have them track them, keep them at bay, and wait for the hunter to come and do his job. Today he is a loyal companion to the family. The gait of the Ridgeback is methodical, smooth, never cumbersome or racy. He is confident, alert, proud, maintaining an enthusiastic attitude without being exaggerated in body or obnoxious in spirit.
The winning combination is a team between dog and handler. The outstanding Ridgeback in the show ring possesses all of the above-mentioned attributes, including mental and physical soundness as well as character and showmanship.
An untypical Ridgeback that is sound is useless. A typical Ridgeback that is sound is priceless!