The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a dog for experienced owners who direct the temperament and strength of this majestic dog in the right direction at an early stage. As a family dog, it wants to be kept busy with extensive running training, mantrailing and tracking are also the lion’s specialty: it used to be used to hunt big game. The breed can be recognized immediately by the hair comb on the back, which grows from front to back.
When nomads wandered the black continent from north to south around 2,500 years ago, dogs around 50 cm in size accompanied the herds of cattle, whose backs had a noticeable comb. These athletic and elegant forerunners of the Rhodesian Ridgeback were in great physical condition and easily reached top speeds of up to 60 kilometers per hour. Their job was to keep lions and leopards away from the farm animals, but never to fight them.
In the 17th century, British immigrants took an interest in this previously unknown species. The crossing of African wild dogs with their own species such as Collies, Bloodhounds, Airedales and Irish Wolfhounds gave birth to a new breed, the Rhodesian Ridgeback. Due to their distrust of strangers and the legendary seventh sense of danger, these dogs were used to guard the settlements and farms.
The name “lion dog” refers to its use in the hunt as a bloodhound at that time (technical term: to weld = bleed), whereby the Rhodesian Ridgeback dogs with their fine sense of smell tracked down big cats and big game over great distances and held on until the hunters were on the spot were. Today the Rhodesian Ridgeback is a sought-after bear hunting companion in America and Canada.
The breed standard came into force in Rhodesia in 1922. The set of rules drawn up by a British was based on the Dalmatian standard and was recognized by the Kennel Union South Africa in 1926. The first Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy came to Germany in 1973. Anne Müller originally imported the dog from Great Britain to protect her falcons with them. In the same year she started breeding these extraordinary dogs together with two partners. The breeders’ association, founded in 1993, currently has 600 members at 144 locations across Germany and has thus grown to become the largest Rhodesian Ridgeback association in Germany.
The head is relatively broad and flat, but of reasonable length. Close-fitting, high-set ears and a pronounced stop limit the smooth forehead. The round, widely spaced eyes should match the color of the fur and nose. The dry, tight-fitting muzzle is covered by a strong scissor bite with well-developed fangs. A long neck forms the transition to the well-muscled, but not heavy-looking body, which ends in a half-high and straight tail. The characteristic breed characteristic of the Rhodesian Ridgeback is a hair comb running against the direction of growth along the spine (English: ridge). The neatly defined strip begins behind the shoulders with two symmetrical crowns arranged opposite one another and ends tapering to a point on the croup. Although all of the fur is dense, short, and sleek, it should be brushed twice a week as it sheds all year round. The single-colored base color can range from light wheat yellow to red wheat, although smaller white markings are permitted on the chest and toes.
It takes two to three years for the Rhodesian Ridgeback to grow up. His later nature is not yet recognizable in the growing dog, but this time is formative. The owner should therefore carry out the upbringing with loving consistency and clarify the dominance from the beginning, otherwise the Rhodesian Ridgeback inevitably plays out his strong will. This breed is not suitable for housing. His great need for movement requires agility, running next to the bike or long walks in the open, where the hunting instinct can be lived out. An apprenticeship requires a lot of patience, because the highly intelligent Rhodesian Ridgeback likes to be stubborn or clumsy, to annoyance or general amusement, when the purpose of a task is not clear to him. The dog binds itself closely to its people and shows its uncompromising loyalty both as a respectful watchdog and as a full member of the family. His behavior towards children is evasive or indifferent to negative experiences; he cannot hold back his stormy affection when memories are positive. He is reserved when dealing with strangers, but by no means aggressive.
Since the coat has hardly any undercoat, the Rhodesian Ridgeback should always be kept moving in the cold season to avoid colds. Hip dysplasia, thyroid disorders, deafness or dermoid cysts can also occur. In older animals of this breed, degenerative myelopathy was found, whereby the receding spinal cord slowly leads to restricted mobility and muscle wasting in the hindquarters.
The Rhodesian Ridgeback at a glance
Origin: South Africa FCI Breed Standard 146, Group 6, Section 3: Bloodhounds, HoundsSize: medium-sizedWithers: male 63-69 cm, bitch 61-66 cmWeight: male 36.5 kg, bitch 32 kgFur color: light-wheat to red-wheat-colored, white markingsEye colors: amber to dark brown Use: hunting dog, drug detection dog, rescue dog, watchdog, family dog Character: intelligent, persistent, strong-willed, friendly Health risks: hip joints (HD), dermoid cysts, thyroid glands, deafness Life expectancy: approx. 9-11 years
Image: © Depositphotos.com / Zuzule