The Rhodesian ridgeback was developed in Southern Africa, Zimbabwe. Its European roots can be traced to early pioneers of the Cape Colony of Southern Africa. They crossed their dogs with the semi-domesticated hunting dogs of the Khoikhoi. Because of its ability to keep a lion at bay while it waited for its master to make the kill, in earlier parts of its history the Rhodesian ridgeback has also been known as the African lion hound, African lion dog or Van Rooyen’s lion dog. In 1922, the original breed standard was drafted by F.R. Barnes, and was based on that of a Dalmatian.
The most distinguishing feature of the breed is its ridge of hair that runs along its back in the opposite direction from the rest of its coat. The ridge is normally about 2 inches in width at its widest point. It consists of a fan-like area that is formed by two whorls of hair called “crowns” It tapers from directly behind the shoulders down to the level of the hips. The male ridgebacks normally stand between 25-27 inches and weigh about 85 pounds. The females normally stand 24-26 inches tall and weigh about 70 pounds. The ridgeback is muscular and has a light wheaten to red coat. The coat should be sleek, glossy, short and dense, and should not be woolly or silky. He ridgeback will sometimes have a dark mask, and the nose should be black or brown, staying within the same color as the dog. The ridgeback’s eyes are round and should reflect the dog’s color. The tail is smooth, and strong and is normally carried in a gentle curve backwards.
The ridgeback is somewhat aloof to strangers, however is loyal and intelligent. As the dog requires good socialization and consistency, and positive, reward based training, the breed may not be suitable for inexperienced dog owners. This is a strong-willed and intelligent breed and many seem to have a knack for causing mischief, however they are loving dogs. If not socialized properly they can become aggressive, however if trained well they can be excellent guard dogs as they are very protective of their owners and families. This breed has a sensitive side, despite its athletic and sometimes imposing exterior. The dog is obedient and will accept correction as long as it is fair, justified, and comes from someone he knows and trusts.
The average lifespan of the breed is 10.25 years. Health concerns within the breed include hip dysplasia, dermoid sinus, degenerative myelopathy, hypothyroidism, and bloat.