Why Own A Ridgeback?

Black and white photo of Rhodesian Ridgeback puppies.


Why Own A Ridgeback?

Be it by coincidence or design, the power, strength, and feline agility of the Rhodesian Ridgeback is evident the moment he takes his first steps.

The Rhodesian Ridgeback owes his heritage to Dutch Boers who began settling in Colonial Southern Africa. A number of different breeds contributed to the gene pool of the Ridgeback. Among them were Greyhound, Bloodhound, various Mastiff types, Airedale, and Africa’s Hottentot Dog and others. By the 1900s, a type had been successfully set, part by accident, part by design, and entirely out of need. The European settlers needed a multi-purpose dog, a truly fearless hunting hound, on the African veldt, a watch dog on the farm, and a gentle companion in the home… but, he is most famous for being used to track and hold the lion at bay, waiting for the hunter.

A black and white photo of a puppy.

This required amazing courage, agility, tenacity, and endurance. He is the only breed of dog that can hold the lion at bay, yet stay out of harm’s way. His color—all different shades of wheaten—was chosen to blend in with the surrounding grass and bush of the veldt. His coat is short and sleek, so as to not become entangled and to allow for easy maintenance and parasite removal. He is neither too big to be clumsy nor too small to render him unproductive in hunting large game.

He is a swift runner, able to run at thirty miles an hour! With all of his athletic ability and functional purpose, the Rhodesian Ridgeback is also beautiful to look at; graceful, regal, and fearless in appearance. The hallmark of this breed is the ridge of hair which runs, backwards, along his spine; a cowlick that has two whorls (crowns) opposite each other in the upper third of this ridge.

A Rhodesian Ridgeback and a puppy sitting on the floor.

In 1924, the South African Kennel Union registered the first Rhodesian Ridgeback. In November 1955, the American Kennel Club admitted the Rhodesian Ridgeback to its Stud Book as the 112th breed to be accorded AKC registration facilities. The Ridgeback Standard describes a dog that stands between 25 and 27 inches at the withers and weighs around 85 pounds. Females should be 24-26 inches at their withers and weigh about 70 pounds.

The Ridgeback is a wonderful breed of dog; however, not the best choice for all families. Asked if this dog can sleep in a doghouse in the yard, my answer is: “Yes, if you are sleeping there too.”

When you tell me you have a two-acre fenced-in backyard, I will warn you that your Ridgeback will most likely scratch the siding off your house, trying to get back into the house to be with you, or bark at the door, annoying neighbors, or dig out under the fence or leap over it (without a running start, this athlete can clear a six-foot high fence) and knock down every trash can in the neighborhood, if it does not first get killed in traffic (they are not bright about the dangers of the streets). And being a territorial breed, he will bark at every dog that approaches his territory and note that his territory includes everywhere his eyes can see.

Three Rhodesian Ridgeback laying on a pillow in a room.

Your dinner is no longer safe, unless you lock him out of the dining room during meals. And your microwave has become your bread box. And you follow the rule that all defosting of meat is done in the refrigerator. And if allowed to sleep on your bed, be warned that the cute little puppy will one day become an 85-pound bed hog.

The Ridgeback is strong-willed, sensitive, and independent. This stems from his ability to hunt independently of human direction; a trait that was very valuable in his native land.

By now you are probably wondering why anybody would want to live with a Ridgeback.

If you admire the beauty of the breed, and appreciate an independent spirit, the Ridgeback may be for you. Some people mistake the Ridgeback’s headstrong independence for a lack of intelligence, but he is, indeed, a very clever dog who is sensitive to his owner’s moods and emotions.

The Ridgeback is a “People Dog” and wants to be at his owner’s side. He is often called a “Velcro dog.” He’s an affectionate dog who needs the human companionship of his owner, yet is quite aloof with strangers. He responds to positive training methods. Harsh treatment does not work with this breed. This is a hound and he possesses many of the typical hound characteristics.

The Ridgeback has a quiet, gentle temperament, rarely barking. He enjoys spending the day with his owner, lounging in front of the fire or curled up in the corner. However, when alerted and in action, he can quickly become a graceful and powerful hunter or guard dog. As a guard dog he is protective of his family and is every bit as intimidating as dogs that are known to be fierce watchdogs.

He tends to bond with one person; however, he will extend his affection to other loving and caring family members who treat him well. He will be devoted to his own family and friends, but aloof and dignified with strangers (although temperaments can range from quiet to clownish). Early, positive socialization is an important part of developing a healthy and stable temperament.

A puppy is playing with a stuffed lion.

He has an innate love for children—if they have been taught how to behave around dogs. His love will extend to every family member who treats him well. This is a hound and he possesses many of the typical hound characteristics. The adult Ridgeback has a quiet, laid-back temperament and rarely barks.

He is a dog for all reasons. He can successfully chase the lure and he excel at Obedience Trials. During Obedience training, the Ridgeback can become bored with constant repetition and tends to “tune out” when he has had enough. Exercises must be kept short, fresh, and interesting, and should always be ended on a high note. Many patient owners have been rewarded with advanced Obedience titles, dispelling the myth that a hound will not do Obedience. The breed also does well in Agility, and if Conformation is where your interest lies, an owner can still handle his own dog to a championship in the Ridgeback ring.

Another plus is there is minimal grooming for the Ridgeback. These dogs have a dirt-resistant coat, and frequent bathing is unnecessary. Using a hound brush on them, regularly, should keep them clean and odor-free.

But watch out, they are like eating potato chips. You can’t stop with just one.

  • Barbara Sawyer-Brown, one of the Rhodesian Ridgeback’s principle breeder-judges in this country and a contributor to SHOWSIGHT Magazine, passed away on March 24, 2023. We are grateful once again to be able to share one of her articles here, which first appeared in the March 2013 edition of SHOWSIGHT, for the benefit of new and long-time readers.

  • Show Comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

comment *

  • name *

  • email *

  • website *

You May Also Like


Akita: The Heart of the Breed

The Heart of the Breed | First Akita in the United States was gifted ...

japanese chin origin

History of the Japanese Chin

Far Eastern traditions shroud the Japanese Chin's origin. Small dogs traveled the Silk Road ...

Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen moving in a dog show ring

Rustic French Hound – Casual and Tousled

Discover the controversy around grooming the Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen breed with insights from ...

Vizsla: The Versatile Velcro Dog

Vizsla: The Versatile Velcro Dog

The incredible Vizsla has been a significant part of my life ever since I ...

Your Cart

No Item Found
Subtotal $0.00
Shipping $0.00
Tax $0.00
Total $0.00