Officially known as the Rhodesian Ridgeback, this beloved breed is indigenous to southern Africa and has a history that stretches back to the 1800s when Dutch colonialists bred their imported breeds with a ferocious local hunting dog used by the Khoi. It is thought that the dog could hold off a lion during hunting expeditions, which led to it also being called the African Lion Hound. In the 1920s the breed was standardised by Francis Barnes in Bulawayo, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) – hence the name – and has continued to grow in popularity to become one of South Africa’s iconic breeds.
The Ridgeback is a hound and is quite large and muscular. In terms of length, the sexes are quite similar with males coming in at between 63 – 69cm, and females following closely at between 61 – 66cm. Weight-wise males tip the scales at 36 – 41kg; far heavier than females which typically weigh between 29 – 34kg.
Although the Ridgeback comes from a hunting breed, it is quite a mild-mannered and gentle dog that can be very obedient. They are somewhat iffy with strangers, but will be more inclined to ignore them rather than engage with them. But this can be corrected if they are socialised well.
Ridgebacks are also strong-willed and extremely energetic, which can lead to them being a little naughty. Remember, like with most dogs, the Ridgeback is a pack animal and thrives when it knows its place. More than most breeds, they require firm leadership in order to be controlled, which make them unsuitable for an inexperienced dog owner.
Because of their high stamina, Ridgebacks need a lot of exercise, both physically and mentally, otherwise they can become unmanageable. For this reason they are best suited to living in a home with a large yard for them to play in. Because they are relatively inactive when indoors, they are suitable for apartment living as long as they are exercised very regularly.
These dogs have an endless amount of energy, so they need to go on a very long walk/jog daily. In fact, if Ridgebacks are allowed to get bored, they can start acting out.
Ridgebacks are quite hardy dogs and don’t have too many health problems. Because of their size they might suffer from hip dysplasia later in life and can also develop dermoid sinus, a skin anomaly.
In terms of life expectancy, your Ridgeback will be around for about 10 – 12 years.