Welcome to the BarkPost guide to dog breeds where we belly flop straight into the depths of dog breed origin, evolution, and purpose. Follow along each week as we publish new guides that highlight the strangest, most interesting, and most surprising stuff about these creatures who have been our best buds the last 30,000 years.
Intro / Overview
(All dogs are individuals, which means any single dog from any breed can be any number of ways, both good and not so good. Keep that in mind as we discuss breed generalities!)
The Rhodesian Ridgeback, named for the stripe of backward-growing hair along their backs, are all-purpose hounds who can hunt and track with the best of them, but are also known to be gentle and loving family dogs, as well as athletic and energetic companions.
While these independent pups can be too much hound for inexperienced dog owners, those seeking a companions through all-walks of daily life, and who are willing to be a firm yet fair leader when needed, will enjoy the boundless friendship of these “Renaissance Hounds.”
Also Known As...
African Lion Dog. African Lion Hound. "Whoa, that does has a full-body mohawk!" "Yeah, pretty cool, right?"
Once known as the African Lion Hound, the Rhodesian Ridgeback was created by South African farmers who required hunting dogs that could withstand extreme terrain and temperature, as well as low water rations at times, and also protect property and serve as a companion to the family. Having many attributes common with hounds, Ridgebacks were found to be particularly skilled tracking big game such as lions, bears and boar, and holding them at bay until hunters arrived.
The average height for Rhodesian Ridgebacks is 22 - 25 inches for females and 24 – 27 inches for males.
The average weight for Rhodesian Ridgebacks is 70 pounds for females and 85 pounds for males.
These all-purpose hounds make for gentle, affectionate, and faithful friends. Though they can also be stubborn, independent thinkers, and sometimes domineering. Strong and confident, these reserved pups aren’t much for barking unless the guard dog in them feels the need to alert you to something. While young Ridgebacks, like any puppy, are seemingly always energetic and active when awake, with age, they settle into the dignified and even-tempered personalities they are known for. They’ll still want to run whenever given the chance, but a lazy lap dog afternoon is also time well spent. Sensitive to their human’s moods and emotions
Intelligence / Trainability
Highly intelligent but also strong-willed and independent, first-time dog owners may have more than they can handle with a Ridgeback. These dogs require firm but fair guidance from puppyhood. Early socialization and puppy training classes that utilize positive reinforcement will help ensure that these pups develop into the wonderful companions they are known to be. Tracking, agility, and obedience classes, all which these dogs can excel at, are wonderful opportunities for training, exercise and socialization.
While Ridgebacks can adapt well to various living situations, apartments are less than ideal as these are strong and athletic dogs with a moderate energy level. While adult Ridgebacks certainly happy to lay around with their humans, they do require daily outings and physical activity such as running and playing. It is strongly advised to keep them on a leash whenever they are not in a secure enclosure to do their strong prey drive. In fact, yards should have a high fence to prevent escape.
Good For Families And Kids?
These cherished family dogs are protective of their loved ones. A ridgeback makes for an endlessly affectionate, quiet, and gentle companion, though they are always willing to defend their family if necessary. This breed is not meant to live outdoors, and being left out of the group for too long can lead to destructive behavior and, most-likely, escape.
Ridgebacks are very tolerant of children though their play may be overpowering for toddlers. Young children should, of course, always be supervised with any dog to assure that both dog and child are behaving in a respectful manner.
The average life expectancy for Rhodesian Ridgebacks is 10 - 13 years.
Rhodesian Ridgebacks are generally a healthy breed, of course all breeds have possible health issues to be aware of and discuss with your vet. For Ridgebacks, those include elbow dysplasia and elbow dysplasia, both heritable conditions affecting the joints. The congenital skin defect, Dermoid Sinus, can also be found in some Ridgeback puppies.
Although adult Ridgebacks enjoy kicking back on your lap, these big game hunting dogs are also fast and powerful athletes. They love to get outdoors and stretch their legs and are great companions for hikes and jogs. No need to worry about them keeping up. These dogs love to run and can even keep pace with a running horse for 30 miles. Their intelligent minds also require mental stimulation, and boredom can lead to destruction behaviors such as digging.
Friendly With... (Dogs, Strangers, Cats, Other Pets?)
Reserved and dignified with strangers, these guardian dogs are not as interested in making friends as they are the well-being of their people. Ridgebacks are accepting of pets they are raised with. Still, they may chase a family cat that runs, but a few swipes from the cat will earn it the respect that felines demand. While Ridgebacks were bred to hunt in packs, and so naturally get along with other dogs, even training may not curb occasional reactivity toward strange dogs, especially between two unneutered males.
Coat & Grooming
Ridgebacks have short and dense coats that appear sleek and glossy. Wheaton is the one and only cover of the Ridgeback coat, however, the shades are as varied as any wheat field. And, of course, the tapering ridge of hair along their backs grow grows in the opposite direction, earning the breed its name. Ridgeback coats are low-maintenance, only requiring a weekly once-over with a rubber curry brush to remove loose hair.
While most Ridgeback noses are black (and boopable!), some are brown instead (also boopable!). Weekly nail trimmings as well as brushing their teeth 3 – 4 times a week is also recommended.
While Ridgebacks will sometimes dig holes out of boredom, they also will also dig themselves a hole to lounge in to cool down from the summer sun. They also have webbed feet which help them walk across sandy surfaces.
And then, of course, there's the aforementioned strip of hair down their backs. It's kind of their thing.
Toys Rhodesian Ridgebacks Would Like Best
While every dog is different, Ridgebacks are generally powerful players and often require Super Chewer Toys to give those big ol' chompers a challenge. Meanwhile, you can never go wrong with throwing a good Fetch Toy.
Check out our “23 Heavy-Duty Dog Toys for Monster Chewers” post for more durable recommendations.
Recommended Diet Or Supplements
Feeding your Rhodesian Ridgeback (or any dog) the freshest whole food diet you can afford (trying to eliminate fillers, grains, or inflammatory proteins such as chicken), can go a long way to decrease health issues and increase longevity.
Coconut oil can also help to prevent inflammation, and can help protect the nervous system, while locally-sourced, season-appropriate honey can help with allergies.
These delicious, vet-formulated chews are made with all-natural ingredients including Omega 3, 6, 9, and Vitamin E. They are designed to support immune health, provide relief from itchy allergic skin, and promote a healthy coat. ($19.99)
BARK's Full Spectrum Hemp Oil is made of organically grown whole plants, grown in Colorado, and is non-psychoactive. It comes in 100mg, 250mg, and 500mg varieties, and can help with pet anxiety and pain relief. ($17.99-22.99.)
For Rhodesians with joint issues - or any dog who just loves to lie around! - a nice comfortable bed with orthopedic support is probably a good idea.
This ultra plush orthopedic dog bed provides support for even the most active of dogs! The combination ergonomic memory foam and gel foam relieves pressure points, and helps ease body aches caused by hip dysplasia, arthritis and other orthopedic issues. It offers the best therapeutic support for your Ridgeback. ($27.99-64.99.)
Notable Rescues To Find The Rhodesian Ridgeback Of Your Dreams
- Rhodesian Ridgeback Rescue Inc. (RRRInc) has been dedicated to the rescue, care, and adoption of Rhodesian Ridgeback dogs since 1970. This all-volunteer organization operates throughout the U.S. and Canada. RRRInc volunteers alsoj assist Ridgeback owners in raising happy healthy dogs by providing information on the breed, and assisting with training and care throughout a dog's life.
- Ridgeback Rescue of the US is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the identification, rescue, rehabilitation and rehoming of neglected, lost, surrendered or otherwise homeless Rhodesian Ridgeback Dogs in the United States.
- Texas Independent Rhodesian Ridgeback Rescue (TIRRR) is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to the rescue, care, and rehabilitation of abandoned, neglected, abused, mistreated, nervous, and misunderstood dogs. Their dogs include Rhodesian Ridgebacks, as well as mixed breed and special needs dogs.
- Adoptable Rhodesian Ridgebacks on Petfinder
Notable Instagram Rhodesian Ridgebacks
Mr. Pig & The Monkey! @mrpigandthemonkey
These handsome Rhodesians are living it up in Australia while also (more or less) teaching at a law school. Come on, that's impressive!
Maya and Major! @life.with.a.ridge
Follow Maya (9yo) and Major (1.5yo) as they enjoy doing all the things that Ridgebacks love: hiking, running, playing, chilling, sleeping, and, um, I guess hanging out with a cat.
Sam is 2-year-old heartbreaker living in Munich. A big fan of both the sun and snow, this good boy is usually on some outdoor adventure with friends, or helping his Veterinary student human study the great mysteries of the canine.
Follow this 1-year old good girl from her earliest days of puppyhood as she plays, prances and poses along the beautiful German beaches and countryside.
***Looking for a gift to blow your pup’s mind? Spoil them with a Super Chewer BarkBox! Every month BarkBox delivers 2 super-durable toys, designed in-house, 2 full bags of all-natural treats, and 2 (!!!) meaty chews. Sign up here and receive a free extra toy every month.
Featured image via MrPigAndTheMonkey/Instagram