About Ridgebacks - General Information


As you probably have read, the breed was developed fairly recently in South Africa and Rhodesia by the white settlers for guarding their families and for big game hunting.  It is supposedly the only breed brave enough to stand up to a lion.  Known as lion dogs, Ridgebacks can keep the lion at bay until the hunter can come and shoot.  Various European breeds were combined, as well as a now extinct African Hottentot breed which conferred the characteristic ridge as well as stamina and resistance to disease for the bush.  The breed was recognized by the AKC in 1935.

In part due to the recent origin of the breed, the dogs are exceptionally intelligent and hearty, with few genetic problems.  On the other hand, there is considerable genetic variability and the ridge in particular does not always breed true.  One problem which occurs almost unique to this breed is the dermoid sinus.  This is a sinus tract or tube lined with skin which runs from the dogs skin, usually on the back, into the spinal cord.  If it is removed surgically as a pup before it gets infected, the pup will be a good pet but must not be bred.  The incidence of the sinus is thought to be about 5%. It is usually detected before the pup is old enough to place.

Because Rhodesian Ridgebacks are fearless, they are particularly vulnerable to being killed in traffic.  It is essential to have a fenced yard for them to exercise.  No matter how much training is completed, you cannot expect to walk your Ridgeback reliably off lead.  The Ridgeback is your companion, not your slave.  He will love you and do anything you ask, if he is not too busy.  But he is the expert at hunting and chasing and may not listen to you in every situation.  Only a secure fence can protect him safely from traffic.  "Invisible fences" are useless for Ridgebacks.

Ridgebacks, in accordance with their original development and purpose, are excellent with children and are naturally good family protectors.  Strangers are typically allowed into the home if they behave properly.  After a week or so, the Ridgeback will accept them as family.  Heaven help anyone who tries to hurt a family member.  Ridgebacks typically don't bark a warning (so as not to warn the lion being hunted) but rather, once certain of evil intent, they will attack forcefully to disable, but not kill, the perpetrator.

Ridgebacks are very sociable and dependent on human company.  They are extremely smart and independent thinkers.  They need to live inside the house with you.  They will demand a great deal of your attention and time, but will reward you immeasurably with love, entertainment and companionship.

In terms of grooming, Ridgebacks are easy to care for.  The coat is short and needs only an occasional bath and brushing during shedding.  The ears and teeth need regular cleaning, ears at least once a week, teeth once a day, and nails need to be trimmed with a Dremel Mototool grinder and coarse sanding drum at least every two weeks.