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What is a Rhodesian Ridgeback?

Mary McMahon
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a breed of dog which originated in South Africa. These dogs are known for being tough, loyal, and sometimes very territorial, but also quite intelligent and sensitive. Many breeders around the world specialize in Ridgebacks, making them available to interested members of the public who wish to purchase them. However, Rhodesian Ridgebacks do come with a note of caution; the dogs are not advised for inexperienced dog owners, because they are difficult to handle and they require specialized training.

This unique dog breed emerged in the 19th century, when European colonists crossed several European breeds with native dogs. They were looking for a rugged dog which was adapted to African conditions, and they ended up with the Rhodesian Ridgeback, a determined breed which is very resistant to many diseases in addition to being capable of handling incredibly varied terrain. Originally, Ridgebacks were classified as gun dogs; kennel clubs typically place them in the Hound group today.

The distinguishing feature of the Rhodesian Ridgeback is the ridge of fur which runs down the back. A Ridgeback's ridge is made from hair which grows forward, against the grain of the dog's coat, creating a distinctive whorled pattern around the shoulders and a stripe down to the hindquarters. Ridgebacks have reddish brown hair which is extremely short, dense, and glossy; small spots of white are acceptable in some breed standards, typically on the feet and chest, and the dogs usually have amber eyes and black noses, although liver noses are also acceptable.

One of the alternate names for this breed is African Lion Hound, which provides a hint into the character of the Rhodesian Ridgeback. These dogs are excellent trackers and hunters, and they are also extremely strong, agile, and talented at dealing with many different types of prey. They can be used to hunt a wide assortment of creatures, and they rely on both their keen vision and excellent sense of smell to track and hunt.

Most Rhodesian Ridgebacks are extremely loyal to their owners, sometimes to the point of aggression. This trait has led to their use as guard dogs in some regions, but it can also be a serious problem. A poorly trained dog may not respond to commands from people other than its owner, and it can pose a danger for people who are unfamiliar with the animal. It is important to ensure that a Rhodesian Ridgeback gets gentle but firm training from a very young age, along with a great deal of exercise, to keep the dog happy and well balanced.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a All Things Nature researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon9074 — On Feb 27, 2008

I'd like to know more about the rhodesian Ridgeback's sense of smell. Particularly, how strong is it?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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