Historical Information

The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a native of South Africa. The breed's long history dates back to early in the 16th century when the first Europoean men explored the interior on the Cape of Good Hope and found with the Hottentot tribes a domesticated dog with the hair on his spine being turned forward. This is the condition which we now refer to as the "ridge.". . The Dutch, Germans and Huguenots who migrated to South Africa in the 16th and 17th centuries brought with them Danes, Mastiffs, Greyhounds, Salukis, Bloodhounds and other breeds. However, for more than 100 years from 1707, European immigration was closed; consequently, the importation of additional dogs of these or other breeds was not possible. Good hunting dogs , therefore, became hard to come by and their value was high. They required a short-haired dog that would not be eaten alive by ticks. In addition, the settler needed a companion that would stay by him while he slept in the bush and that would be devoted to his wife and children. Out of necessity, therefore, these settlers developed, by selective breeding between dogs which they had brought with them from home countries and the half-wild ridged dog of the Hottentot tribes, a distinct breed of the African veldt, which has come to be known as the Rhodesian Ridgeback
There is no doubt the Rhodesians (now people of the country known as Zimbabwe) have developed the breed as we know it today from the original stock. In the year 1875, the intrepid missionary, Rev. Charles Helm, undertook a journey from his home in Swellendam in the Cape Province of South Africa to Rhodesia. He was accompanied by two of these dogs. While the Rev. Helm was in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) Cornelis von Rooyen, the big-game hunter and early authority on the South African wildlife, borrowed the two dogs to take along on a hunt. Von Rooyen soon concluded that they possessed excellent instinctive hunting qualities and thereupon pioneered the breeding of a pack of the species as hunters of big game for his own use. They have since been bred on an extensive scale in Rhodesia and were given the name of that country.

Breed characteristics

Possessing many of the characteristics generally associated with hounds, the Ridgeback has a quiet, gentle temperament, rarely barking. While able to enjoy lazing around in a patch of sun, or in front of a winter fireplace, a Ridgeback can be instantly alert if a stranger should appear or he is in pursuit of legitimate prey. Where he gave the impression of a big, lazy, slow-moving animal, the Ridgeback can be a threatening presence as a watchdog. Developed not only to hunt, but also as a family protector, his affectionate disposition makes him a trustworthy companion for a small child. He is easily trained, being, more than many hounds, of above-average tractability. However, because of this intelligence, an untrained Ridgeback can become a terrible nuisance! Trained, he is a pleasure as a companion, a hunting partner, or as a show dog or obedience competitor. Because of his innate abilities to protect his family, a Ridgeback should not be trained as a guard dog but rather the natural protective qualities should be supplemented with elementary obedience training for control.

Standard for the rhodesian ridgeback

General apparence :
The Ridgeback represents a strong, muscular and active dog, 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.
Size, Proportion , Substance :
A mature Ridgeback should be symmetrical in outline, slightly longer than tall but well balanced. Dogs - 25 to 27 inches in height; Bitches - 24 to 26 inches in height. Desirable weight: Dogs - 85 pounds; Bitches - 70 pounds.
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. Muzzle-should be long, deep and powerful.. Nose-should be black, brown or liver, in keeping with the color of the dog. No other colored nose is permissible. A black nose should be accompanied by dark eyes, a brown or liver nose with amber eyes.
Neck, topline, body :
The neck should be fairly strong and free from throatiness. 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. The tail should be strong at the insertion and generally tapering towards the end, free from coarseness. It should not be inserted too high or too low and should be carried with a slight curve upwards, never curled or gay.

Forquaters : 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. Hindquarters :
In the hind legs, the muscles should be clean well defined and hocks well down. Feet as in front.
Coat :
Should be short and dense, sleek and glossy in appearance but neither wooly nor silky.
Color :
Light wheaten to red wheaten. A little white on the chest and toes permissible but excessive white there, on the belly or above the toes is undesirable.
Ridge :
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. The lower edge of the crowns (whorls) should not extend further down the ridge than one third of the ridge.
Gait :
At the trot, the back is held level and the stride is efficient, long, free and unrestricted. Reach and drive expressing a perfect balance between power and elegance. At the chase, the Ridgeback demonstrates great coursing ability and endurance.
Temperament :
Dignified and even tempered. Reserved with strangers.


Living with your Rhodesian Ridgeback

As puppies, Rhodesian Ridgebacks are fun loving, exuberant, inquisitive, and somewhat rambunctious. A six-month old Ridgeback puppy can unmeaningly knock over a toddler. A toddler can unmeaningly heap arbitrary punishment upon a young and impressionable puppy. Therefore, parents should exercise a great amount of supervision so that neither puppy nor baby inflicts abuse upon one another. This holds true throughout the preschool age period of a child and for the first 18 to 24 months of a Ridgeback's life. Mature Ridgebacks and school age children are best buddies and friends for life. The Ridgeback is not a trouble-maker; however, once attacked or threatened by another dog, the Ridgeback will stand its ground and fight if it has to. Most of the time a Ridgeback is only looking for a doggy pal to play with and does not normally view other dogs as a threat. However, multiple, intact males around unspayed females can create some problems. A Ridgeback is very good with cats, but should be exposed to them when it (the Ridgeback) is young. As guard dogs, Ridgebacks use great discretion. They are not frantic barkers and they are not looking to attack anyone. Usually, they will give a couple of loud bellows to get your attention and let you know someone is on the property. They do not bark indiscriminately. When Ridgebacks bark, they have a good reason to do so but will usually stop when you tell them -- unless they are certain you are not aware of what they are trying to tell you. It is always wise to investigate when Ridgebacks bark. Until you tell them everything is okay, they will continue to act alert and wary around strangers. A Ridgeback should not be trusted to stay within unfenced property boundaries. They are hounds and have a good nose and excellent vision. Because of this they will take off, completely forgetting imaginary boundary lines, if they see something that captures their interest. Fencing is a must -- a minimum of 5 feet. Young Ridgebacks get bored easily and they can dig some good-sized holes. If you are going to have to keep your puppy or young dog alone for hours on end, day after day, construct a good-sized indoor/outdoor run to keep him out of boredom mischief. Because of his short coat and very little shedding, the Ridgeback stays clean and odor free. Once a week currycombing, occasional baths, ear cleaning, and nail trimming are all that is needed to keep him well groomed and fit to live in your house. Ridgebacks are ``people'' dogs. They like to be where you are, and if you allow it, they'll crawl into your bed, onto your sofa or favorite chair and your lap. You have to decide what is acceptable behavior and train them accordingly at a very early age. They are very easy to housebreak if the owner is diligent and exercises common sense in the training period. It is best to limit a young dog to certain areas of your house where you can keep an eye on him. As older dogs they usually can have full roam of the house with no problems. Train them early to ride in the car. A crate is strongly recommended as it acts as their seat belt and allows you to open car windows widely in warm weather. Never leave a dog in the car in hot weather -- even for a short period of time. It is rare that a Ridgeback is found to be a fussy eater. If a Ridgeback suddenly refuses to eat, it is most likely sick and a veterinarian should be consulted. Their appetites are large, and no matter how much food you give them, they will try to convince you that it is not enough. Free feeding is not recommended for a Ridgeback. The biggest problem with first-time Ridgeback owners is that they allow their dogs to get too fat. It is best to follow your breeder's advice to the letter concerning type and quantity of food to feed. Ridgebacks are inherently adept at stealing food off of table tops -- so stand warned. A Ridgeback, especially a young one, should have a safe place to exercise. This does not have to be several times a day or even every day. A couple of times a week to run and stretch muscles and get rid of young-dog exuberance is usually all that is needed. A brisk walk a few times a day in combination with periodic high energy runs are all that is needed for those who do not have the benefit of fenced property or who live in the city or an apartment.

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