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  • Temperament: Affectionate, Dignified, Even-Tempered
  • AKC Breed Popularity: Ranks 42 of 192
  • Height: 25-27 inches (male), 24-26 inches (female)
  • Weight: 85 pounds (male), 70 pounds (female)
  • Group: Hound Group

    The AKC has grouped all of the breeds that it registers into seven categories, or groups, roughly based on function and heritage. Breeds are grouped together because they share traits of form and function or a common heritage.

Rhodesian Ridgeback standing sideways facing left
Rhodesian Ridgeback head and shoulders facing forward, head turned slightly left
Rhodesian Ridgeback sitting facing left, head turned forward
Rhodesian Ridgeback lying in three-quarter view

GENERAL APPEARANCE

The Ridgeback represents a strong, muscular and active hound, symmetrical and balanced in outline. A mature Ridgeback is a handsome, upstanding and athletic dog, capable of great endurance with a fair (good) amount of speed. Of even, dignified temperament, the Ridgeback is devoted and affectionate to his master, reserved with strangers. The peculiarity of this breed is the ridge on the back. The ridge must be regarded as the characteristic feature of the breed.

HEAD

Should be of fair length, the skull flat and rather broad between the ears and should be free from wrinkles when in repose. The stop should be reasonably well defined. Eyes – should be moderately well apart and should be round, bright and sparkling with intelligent expression, their color harmonizing with the color of the dog. Ears – should be set rather high, of medium size, rather wide at the base and tapering to a rounded point. They should be carried close to the head.

BODY

The neck should be fairly long. It should be strong, free from throatiness and in balance with the dog. The chest should not be too wide, but very deep and capacious, ribs moderately well sprung, never rounded like barrel hoops (which would indicate want of speed). The back is powerful and firm with strong loins which are muscular and slightly arched.

FOREQUARTERS

The shoulders should be sloping, clean and muscular, denoting speed. Elbows close to the body. The forelegs should be perfectly straight, strong and heavy in bone. The feet should be compact with well-arched toes, round, tough, elastic pads, protected by hair between the toes and pads. Dewclaws may be removed.

COAT

The hallmark of this breed is the ridge on the back which is formed by the hair growing in the opposite direction to the rest of the coat. The ridge must be regarded as the characteristic feature of the breed. The ridge should be clearly defined, tapering and symmetrical. It should start immediately behind the shoulders and continue to a point between the prominence of the hips and should contain two identical crowns (whorls) directly opposite each other.

HINDQUARTERS

In the hind legs the muscles should be clean, well defined and hocks well down. Feet as in front.

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About the Rhodesian Ridgeback

The Rhodesian Ridgeback’s defining characteristic is the ridge that runs along the its back, formed by hair growing in the opposite direction of the rest of the coat. Beneath the ridge is a whole lot of hound. Ridgebacks are fast and powerful athletes who can weigh between 70 and 85 pounds. The glossy wheaten coat tightly hugs the big guy’s rippling muscles.

The formidable Ridgeback can be strong-willed, independent, and sometimes domineering. Ridgebacks must be guided with a firm but fair hand from puppyhood. They are faithful friends, protective of their loved ones and meltingly affectionate with those whom they trust. Still, a Ridgeback can be too much hound for the novice dog owner.

Breed Clubs and Rescue

Want to connect with other people who love the same breed as much as you do? We have plenty of opportunities to get involved in your local community, thanks to AKC Breed Clubs located in every state, and more than 450 AKC Rescue Network groups across the country.
Rhodesian Ridgeback

Find a Puppy: Rhodesian Ridgeback

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Care

NUTRITION

The Rhodesian Ridgeback should be fed a high-quality dog foodappropriate for his age (puppy, adult, or senior) and activity level. Ridgebacks are notorious “counter surfers,” so be sure not to leave human food unattended. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet or the dog’s breeder if you have any questions or concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should always be available.

GROOMING

The Rhodesian Ridgeback does shed somewhat, but overall his grooming needs are minimal. A regular weekly brushing will help to remove loose hair and keep the coat glossy, and an occasional bath will help to keep the Ridgeback clean and looking his best. The nails should be trimmed often if not worn down naturally, as overly long nails can cause the dog discomfort and problems walking and running. Many Ridgebacks resist nail clipping, and many respond more positively to a nail grinder.

Grooming Frequency

Occasional Bath/Brush
Specialty/Professional
Weekly Brushing

Shedding

Infrequent
Frequent
Seasonal

EXERCISE

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are strong, athletic dogs who require a moderate amount of exercise, and they can adapt well to various living situations when provided with daily outings such as long walks and play sessions with their owner. They love to run, and they need physical activity to help keep them healthy and happy. The breed can also exercise mind and body by participating in canine sports like trackingagility, and other activities that dog and owner can enjoy together.

Energy Level

Couch Potato
Needs Lots of Activity
Regular Exercise

TRAINING

Because of their very strong prey drive, Rhodesian Ridgebacks should always be in a safely enclosed area when off leash. The Ridgeback is a devoted companion and needs to live indoors with his human family. They can be strong-willed, independent, and sometimes domineering, and must be guided with a firm but patient hand from early puppyhood. Early socialization and puppy training classes using positive reinforcement are recommended and help to ensure that the dog grows into a well-adjusted, well-mannered companion.

Trainability

May be Stubborn
Eager to Please
Agreeable

Temperament/Demeanor

Aloof/Wary
Outgoing
Alert/Responsive

HEALTH

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are generally healthy dogs, and responsible breeders screen their dogs for hip and elbow dysplasia, thyroid function and eye anomalies. Dermoid sinus is a tube-like opening in the skin that is occasionally present at birth; an experienced breeder can palpate, or feel, for this defect.

Recommended Health Tests from the National Breed Club:

  • Hip Evaluation
  • Elbow Evaluation

Read the Official Breed Club Health Statement.

Rhodesian Ridgeback
Rhodesian Ridgeback
Rhodesian Ridgeback
Rhodesian Ridgeback
Rhodesian Ridgeback
Rhodesian Ridgeback

History

In 1652, Dutch traders established a shipping hub at South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope. The colony prospered, but eventually restless settlers lit out to the South African frontier to start anew as farmers and ranchers. These pioneers of Dutch and German extraction became known as Boers (Dutch for “husbandmen” or “farmers”). The Boers brought with them various large dog breeds of European stock to serve as homestead guardians and big-game trackers, but the terrain, climate, and predatory wildlife of Africa demanded a new type of dog—large, quick, fearless, and versatile. The Boers’ solution was to breed their Euro stock—hounds, mastiff-types, and particularly Great Danes—with an indigenous, semi-wild ridgebacked dog used as hunters by the Hottentot people. The result of generations of this experimentation were the ancestors of today’s Rhodesian Ridgeback.

When Boers pushed north to Rhodesia (a region today covered by Zambia and Zimbabwe), their muscular hounds, working in packs, were asked to track lion. Ridgebacks met the challenge by exhibiting enough agility and courage to hold a lion at bay (not to bring the lion down, as is often thought). Like other breeds developed on a frontier, Ridgebacks were, and still are, bred as do-it-all dogs. They earned their feed as big-game hunters, watchdogs, guardians, herders, and docile pets within the family circle.

The Ridgeback’s fame spread beyond the Boers, and the breed became a popular pack hound among big-game hunters throughout Africa’s southern tier. Out in front of mounted hunters galloping in pursuit, Ridgebacks proved adept on such deadly quarry as leopard and lion, in the process earning such local nicknames as “Rhodesian Lion Dog” and “African Lion Dog,” among other leonine sobriquets.

The first club devoted to the breed was formed in 1920, and by the ’30s Ridgebacks were seen a far afield as Canada. They were accorded official recognition in England and America in the 1950s, and in 1992 the AKC approved Ridgebacks for lure coursing trials, an ideal showcase for the breed’s speed and agility.

Did You Know?

The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a large, muscular dog originally bred in South Africa to hunt lions. It is also known as the African Lion Hound.
In 1922, a group of Rhodesian breeders set up a standard for Ridgebacks which has remained virtually unchanged ever since.
The breed was created by the Hottentots, a native race of South Africa, and the early Dutch, German, and Huguenot settlers who emigrated there.
The peculiarity of the Ridgeback breed is the ridge of hair, which grows forward on his back.
The Rhodesian Ridgeback was admitted to registry by the AKC in 1955.
They combined Danes, Mastiffs, Greyhounds, Bloodhounds, Terriers, and other breeds with the half-wild Hottentot hunting breed to create the Ridgeback.

The Breed Standard

GENERAL APPEARANCE

The Ridgeback represents a strong, muscular and active hound, symmetrical and balanced in outline. A mature Ridgeback is a handsome, upstanding and athletic dog, capable of great endurance with a fair (good) amount of speed. Of even, dignified temperament, the Ridgeback is devoted and affectionate to his master, reserved with strangers. The peculiarity of this breed is the ridge on the back. The ridge must be regarded as the characteristic feature of the breed.

HEAD

Should be of fair length, the skull flat and rather broad between the ears and should be free from wrinkles when in repose. The stop should be reasonably well defined. Eyes – should be moderately well apart and should be round, bright and sparkling with intelligent expression, their color harmonizing with the color of the dog. Ears – should be set rather high, of medium size, rather wide at the base and tapering to a rounded point. They should be carried close to the head.

BODY

The neck should be fairly long. It should be strong, free from throatiness and in balance with the dog. The chest should not be too wide, but very deep and capacious, ribs moderately well sprung, never rounded like barrel hoops (which would indicate want of speed). The back is powerful and firm with strong loins which are muscular and slightly arched.

FOREQUARTERS

The shoulders should be sloping, clean and muscular, denoting speed. Elbows close to the body. The forelegs should be perfectly straight, strong and heavy in bone. The feet should be compact with well-arched toes, round, tough, elastic pads, protected by hair between the toes and pads. Dewclaws may be removed.

COAT

The hallmark of this breed is the ridge on the back which is formed by the hair growing in the opposite direction to the rest of the coat. The ridge must be regarded as the characteristic feature of the breed. The ridge should be clearly defined, tapering and symmetrical. It should start immediately behind the shoulders and continue to a point between the prominence of the hips and should contain two identical crowns (whorls) directly opposite each other.

HINDQUARTERS

In the hind legs the muscles should be clean, well defined and hocks well down. Feet as in front.

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Colors & Markings

Colors

Description Standard Colors Registration Code
LIGHT WHEATEN Check Mark For Standard Color 120
LT WHTN BLK NOSE Check Mark For Standard Color 467
LT WHTN BRN NOSE Check Mark For Standard Color 468
RD WHTN BLK NOSE Check Mark For Standard Color 469
RD WHTN BRN NOSE Check Mark For Standard Color 470
RED WHEATEN Check Mark For Standard Color 156
WHEATEN Check Mark For Standard Color 224
WHEATEN BLK NOSE Check Mark For Standard Color 471
WHEATEN BRN NOSE Check Mark For Standard Color 472

Markings

Description Standard Markings Registration Code
BLACK MASK 004
WHITE MARKINGS 014

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