Other names: African Lion Hound, Lion dog
The Rhodesian Ridgeback, also formerly known as the African Lion Dog, is a lively, jovial, and very brave dog, good-natured and faithful to his master and kin, children included. He was bred for the purpose of hunting lions: his main role consisted of signaling the wild animal’s appearance by barking, and getting it to approach his master’s firearm by way of deception and chasing.
Key facts about the Rhodesian Ridgeback
Life expectancy :
Temperament :Intelligent Hunter
Origins and history
His origins remain a real mystery, but it would seem that he is a descendant of dogs native to the Cape Colony, present-day South Africa, crossed with pariah dogs and other ridgeback hunting dogs. He was bred by the the local Khoikhoi people. There are only two places on earth that have dogs sporting the ‘ridgeback’ so typical of the Rhodesian Ridgeback: South Africa and the region of ancient Siam. It is highly likely that the breed had spread to those two regions at the same time as the slave trade. Legend has it that the characteristic ridgeback is a mark left by a lion’s claws, since it was originally used for hunting lions. The FCI officially recognised the breed in 1955.
Group 6 - Scent hounds and related breeds
Section 3 : Related breeds
Physical characteristics of the Rhodesian Ridgeback
Female dog : Between 24 and 26 in
Male dog : Between 25 and 27 in
Female dog : Between 71 and 79 lb
Male dog : Between 71 and 79 lb
The coat can range from a light wheaten to red wheaten. Some subtle white patching on the chest and paws are tolerated. Excessive white patching or black hairs are not admissible.
Type of coat
The coat is short.
The coat is dense, smooth, shiny, and should never be wooly nor silky. Just behind the shoulders is where the characteristic ridge of hair starts, running along the back in the opposite direction from the rest of his coat ; it should be clearly distinguishable, tapered, and symmetrical: by starting right behind the shoulders, it should run through to the tip of the hips and consist of two identical whorls of hair (called "crowns") on each side. The ridgeback is the breed’s signature trait.
The eye colour usually matches the coat.
The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a strong, very muscular and lively dog- symmetrically built, resilient, and fast. The head is of a good length. It is flat, rather large between the ears, smooth (non-wrinkled), when the dog is at rest. The muzzle is long, deep, robust, and the stop is rather pronounced. The eyes are round and shiny. The ears are set rather high, of a medium shape, and folded over near the cheeks. The limbs are strong, of thick bone structure, very straight. The tail is worn slightly upwards, but should never curl over the back.
Good to know
This breed is not very well known in Europe, making it quite the task to track a pup down, and often resulting in long waiting lists. If you want a dog of this breed, you must be patient and be sure that you are making the right choice.
Gentle and relatively calm within the family, the Rhodesian Ridgeback possesses a balanced personality. He is openly affectionate towards his kin and needs affection in return to feel good, even if he can tolerate loneliness and give space when needed.
This dog has a playful streak, especially with children, if the latter are respectful of him. But, as in the case of most dogs, it is not advised to leave the children unattended with him.
Although he is very athletic and dynamic by nature, the Rhodesian Ridgeback also values his downtime at home- why not take a load off on the couch, if he can take advantage of the comforts his home provides?
The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a perfect example of versatility, revealing his vast intelligence and endless capacity to adapt. He can be an excellent companion dog as well as the ideal hunter or watchdog.
More often in a group than alone, this dog was originally a feline hunter and more specifically lion hunter, which is where he gets his ‘Lion Hound’ alias from. Very brave and particularly determined, he had a very agile way of cornering the lion in anticipation of his master’s arrival.
Fearful / wary of strangers
Never one to be nervous or aggressive, the Rhodesian Ridgeback is, however, very weary of people he does not know. He needs a lot of time to start trusting, and to start seeing someone as a familiar face rather than a stranger.
Even if he is quite individual and can sometimes do as he pleases, this native of Rhodesia is, despite his appearances, very sensitive, and often absorbs and reflects his own social group’s state of mind.
His behaviour can thus considerably change depending on the general mood dominating at any given moment. This is why, sometimes you cannot consider this dog to be a particularly independant canine as he looks up towards his owners quite a bit.
Behaviour of the Rhodesian Ridgeback
His small capacity for independence does allow this hunting dog to accept his master’s absences, especially if he has been used to being left alone.
However, the Rhodesian Ridgeback will not tolerate being completely excluded from his adoptive family. And even if, physically speaking, he can sleep outside without a problem, he cannot stand being typecast as a watchdog only, or having to spend all of his days and nights outside in the garden.
If left alone for too long, the African Lion Hound, can quickly spin out of control and lose his peaceful equilibrium.
Easy to train / obedience
The African Lion Hound, as he is also commonly called, is not easy to educate, because his intelligence is both his biggest quality and vice. Nothing escapes him and he will sniff out his master’s slightest weakness or incoherence and use it against him.
What’s more- since he attains maturity relatively late (at around 2 years of age)- consistency, patience, diligence and perseverance are of utmost importance.
To obtain optimal results, training must be initiated very early on with the Rhodesian Ridgeback pup, and be continuous throughout his life: with a dog of this mould, nothing is ever completely mastered.
Foolproof complicity between master and dog is necessary to achieve a good cooperation, and violence or brutality will not be accepted in any shape or form by this sensitive dog.
Although an excellent watchdog, the Rhodesian Ridgeback remains a discrete dog that doesn’t start barking at any mere movement. He can, however, be a strong deterrent if he needs to be.