Interview with Robert Russell, Breeder of Parnassus Rhodesian Ridgebacks
Where do I live? How many years in dogs? How many years as a breeder?
Robert Russell: I currently live in Mukwonago, Wisconsin. I acquired my foundation Rhodesian Ridgeback bitch, CH Penelope II, ROM in 1990, and had my first litter in 1995. She was selected by the Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of the United States to represent the breed in the 2006 edition of AKC’s The Complete Dog Book, and in 2023, as one of the Distinguished Dams of the Breed.
What is my kennel name? How many dogs do I currently keep?
Robert Russell: My kennel name is Parnassus, named after Mount Parnassus, the home of the muses in Greek mythology. I currently have four active show dogs.
Which show dogs from the past have been my noteworthy winners?
Noteworthy winners include:
- CH Penelope II, ROM – Multiple AOW at National Specialties, Multiple Best Veteran in National and Regional shows, No. 1 Brood Bitch at National Specialty, BOS at Westminster
- 2004 BISS CH Helios of Parnassus, a Group-winning liver nose
- CH Isis of Parnassus – Multiple AOMs at Nationals, First Place Bred-By at Eukanuba and BOS, in top rankings of RR bitches two years in row
- Australian and American CH Hercules of Parnassus – Multiple Group Placements, Multiple Best Stud Dog in Australian National and Regional shows
- Canadian and American CH Utopia of Parnassus. No. 1 ranked Canadian Ridgeback Bitch in 2005, No. 1 Brood Bitch at 2009 Canadian National Specialty
- CH Luvakis Ekundu of Parnassus – In Top 10 US RR Bitches 2006 and 2007, BISS Brace
- International Champion of Beauty BISS Jupiter of Parnassus – Multiple Group-Placing, Multiple Best Veteran, Multiple No. 1 Stud Dog in Polish National and Regional shows
- BISS Boccaccio of Parnassus – Group-winning Top 20 RR, Best Bred-By and Select Dog at Royal Canin and AKC National 2021
Which have been my most influential sires and dams?
Robert Russell: CH Penelope II, ROM – RRCUS Designated Distinguished Dam and CH Kwetu’s Boomerang, ROM – RRCUS Designated Significant Sire.
Can I talk a bit about my facilities? Where are my puppies whelped? How are they raised?
Robert Russell: I am a hobby breeder. My dogs share my home and a small indoor/outdoor kennel. All puppies are whelped indoors in a convenient room off the kitchen or living room. They are raised in my home and fenced yard.
What is my “process” for selecting Show Puppies? Performance Puppies?
Robert Russell: I begin to evaluate puppies at birth and the process continues to 8 or 9 weeks. Starting at about week five, I take stacked shots and observe their movement. I am especially interested in evaluating their skeletal structure for promise in developing properly angulated fronts and rears.
Do I compete in Companion Events? Performance Events?
Robert Russell: No and no. Several of the pups I have placed in show homes, however, do compete with winning results.
Is “performance” part of my decision-making when it comes to breeding?
Robert Russell: Not in terms of the AKC events, but in terms of performing in free-play in open spaces, I can evaluate all aspects of their movement and agility.
How would I define “conditioning” as it relates to my breed?
Robert Russell: I have been lucky that in my line, the musculature needs little systematic conditioning in order to be and appear fit. A good dose of free-play exercise each day, in a space that is amenable to full-speed chases, is all the typical Ridgeback needs.
Are there any health-related concerns in my breed? Any special nutritional needs?
Robert Russell: As a breed club, we have taken many health initiatives to address dysplasia, dermoid sinus, DM, Hyper/hypothyroidism, EOAD, and cardiomyopathies of various sorts.
Do I think my breed is supported by a sufficient number of preservation breeders?
Robert Russell: I am concerned at the moment that the pursuit of various kennels to define their style of Ridgeback is undermining the preservation of classic breed type, as depicted by our Standard.
Is my breed well suited to be a family dog? Who are the best candidates to own my breed?
Robert Russell: Ridgebacks are great family dogs when acquired as a pup by owners who enroll in Obedience training. Families that are active and have fenced space for the dog to exercise are preferred.
What is the biggest misconception about my breed? What is my breed’s best-kept secret?
Robert Russell: These dogs were bred to neither take down a lion nor chase down rabbits. They were meant to have a fair amount of speed, to have enough bone and brawn to take down a family meal (African deer-sized prey), to have the endurance to trot for hours, and to have the agility and courage to bay big cats. They were formidable in packs.
If I could share a comment or two with judges of my breed, what would I like to say to them?
From our Breed Standard: strong, powerful, muscular, handsome, athletic (of overall appearance); fairly strong (of the neck); very deep and capacious (of the chest); powerful and firm (of the back); strong and muscular (of the loins); slightly longer than tall (of critical proportions); sloping, clean, muscular (of the shoulders); straight, strong and heavy in bone (of the forelegs); clean and well-defined (of muscling in the hindquarters).
REFINED does not appear in our Standard. Excessive length-to-height proportion is incorrect, even if eye-catching on the go-around.
Do I have any words of wisdom to pass along to newer breeders?
Robert Russell: Carefully study the Standard and pedigrees, and seek out honest, critical feedback about your pairings and their results.
For a bit of fun, what’s the most amusing thing I’ve ever experienced with a Hound?
Robert Russell: I always get a kick out of my RRs when they encircle the TV to bay the lion on the screen.
Are you looking for a Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy?
The best way to ensure a long and happy relationship with a purebred dog is to purchase one from a responsible breeder. Not sure where to begin finding a breeder?
Contact the National Parent Club’s Breeder Referral person, which you can find on the AKC Breeder Referral Contacts page.
Want to help rescue and re-home a Rhodesian Ridgeback dog?
Did you know nearly every recognized AKC purebred has a dedicated rescue group? Find your new best friend on the AKC Rescue Network Listing.
Rhodesian Ridgeback Breed Magazine
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