Breed Group: Hound
Height: 24 to 27 inches at the shoulder
Weight: 75 to 80 pounds
Life Span: 10 to 12 years
The Rhodesian Ridgeback is easy to spot among a canine crowd: He’s the one with the tiny Mohawk running down his spine. Expressive eyes reflect the sensitive spirit of this large, intelligent dog who loves to run and play. He’s not a barker, but a Ridgie will protect his family.
Did You Know the Rhodesian Ridgeback is an Easy-Care Dog ?
Ridgebacks are also known as the African Lion Hound. Big-game hunters found that the dogs were good at distracting a lion, allowing the hunters to take a shot.
The Rhodesian Ridgeback takes his name from both the part of the world from which he originates and the distinctive hair that runs down his back. (Although if you’re counting on that ridge you may be disappointed: A lot of purebred Ridgebacks don’t have them!) A sleek and powerful dog, the Ridgeback has transitioned from African farm dog and hunter to popular companion dog in American homes of all types and sizes.
It’s hard to categorize the Rhodesian Ridgeback. He’s a big dog, weighing as much as 100 pounds. He’s a fast runner but needs surprisingly little exercise. He has a strong protective instinct, but he rarely barks, even when someone’s at the door. He will put his well-muscled body between his human family before barking, snarling, or attacking. He tends to get along not only with other dogs but also with cats he lives with. Though strange cats he spots outdoors, however, are still seen as prey.
The Ridgeback can be a child’s best friend, though a dog of this size and power can be too much for the smallest children. Most Ridgies can learn to modulate that power when they’re around toddlers, but it’s up to adults to make sure dog and child are safe together.
The Ridgeback is an easy-care dog. His smooth coat, which comes in shades of tan and red, sheds, but his grooming needs are minimal. A quick weekly brush and occasional bath, as well as regular nail trims and teeth brushing, are all he needs. Keep his hanging ears clean and dry, and seek veterinary attention for itching, redness or discharge, or if your dog is pawing at his ears or shaking his head.
Mature Ridgebacks love to run, hike, and play, but can get by with a romp in the backyard and a daily leash walk, with occasional trips to the park or beach. Young Ridgebacks and puppies need a lot of exercise, but they need it in safe places. The urge to chase is strong, and that impulse is likely to override any amount of training a young dog has had.
By the time he’s older, if you put the effort into training him to come when called, you may be able to give him a bit more freedom. Hounds are notoriously unreliable off-leash and although Ridgebacks might be a bit better than most, you shouldn’t try it unless you’ve trained your dog consistently from an early age and you are in an enclosed area such as your own yard or a dog park that allows off-leash activity. And training consistently is very important for these somewhat hard-headed dogs. People who aren’t familiar with hounds and who are used to similar-size bird dogs such as the Retrievers, will find training a rough road. Just keep lessons short and frequent, and your sense of humor high.
Rhodesian Ridgebacks love their human families and don’t do well as outdoor dogs. Life in a backyard is too boring for them, and they’ll entertain themselves by uprooting trees the size of a midlife redwood and scaling fences in a single bound.
Something else Ridgies love to do: Eat. There has never been enough food to convince a Ridgeback he’s full, and if allowed, he’ll literally eat himself sick. He’ll also happily eat himself fat, in which case, you’re going to be in charge of putting the world’s hungriest dog on a diet. Instead, give him plenty of exercise and practice portion control in order to spare your hound the pain and health risks that come with canine obesity.
Other Quick Facts About the Rhodesian Ridgeback
The Ridgeback is the only dog who has a ridge of hair running down his spine in the opposite direction from the rest of his coat, though some purebred Ridgebacks do not have ridges.
The Ridgeback was created to help big game hunters go after lions, which is why he’s sometimes called the African Lion Hound.