Rhodesian Ridgeback

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Get the facts on the Rhodesian Ridgeback dog breed and see if this pup's a match for you in our guide.

Breed Snapshot

Life Expectancy:
10 to 12 years
Size:

Large

Maintenance Level:

Medium

Shed Level:

Low

Temperament:
AthleticIndependent-MindedUltimate Cuddler
Coat Color:
WheatenLight WheatenRed Wheaten

Best For

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are best for pet parents with large homes who love frequent outdoor adventuring. Rhodesians have very sweet and doting traits, making them the perfect four-legged addition for experienced pet parent families.

Rhodesian Ridgeback Traits

What makes the Rhodesian Ridgeback a Rhodesian Ridgeback? Let's find out how they stack up.

Rhodesian Ridgeback Temperament

Rhodesian Ridgebacks have a gentle, affectionate, caring and dignified temperament. They are independent-minded, but are very loving and loyal toward their two-legged friends and family. Rhodesians rarely show any aggression toward humans. They are generally compatible with other dogs, too, especially if they’ve been in the same household from an early age. However, they have been known to rise to a challenge and stand their ground in a doggy disagreement, particularly with those of the same gender.

The Rhodesian Ridgeback dog breed has low biting tendencies as adults, although as a puppy, they can be quite nippy. Overall, they’re incredibly smart and intuitive. Ridgebacks assimilate information easily with a strong leader (that’s you!) and can be protective of children and other pack members (human or animal), making them ideal guard dogs with a strong bite force. They bark to alert people of danger and threatening situations, but they do not bite or attack unless provoked.

Because they were bred to hunt lions, they have a strong prey drive toward smaller animals that aren’t their own species. In other words: Cats aren’t going to be your Rhodesian’s BFF—rather, these dogs will likely chase them down.

Rhodesians are extremely friendly with people once they get to know them; they can be reserved with strangers. This dog breed is also highly perceptive and sensitive to peoples’ energies. They can be great with kids, but early interactions with them from puppyhood is important. As with most powerful breeds, and dogs in general, you should supervise playtime around toddlers and young children. Rhodesians will be more protective of softer personalities, particularly children and the elderly.

Since they require regular exercise and, because of their prey drive, can be overly curious at times, this breed may frustrate a first-time dog parent. They’re better suited for an active parent who has experience training dogs.

How to Care for a Rhodesian Ridgeback

A Rhodesian Ridgeback dog or puppy will have an adventurous streak, so you’ll want to be well-equipped to keep your explorer in tip-top shape. Since they’re incredibly athletic, regular exercise and good training are musts to ensure they’re exerting enough energy throughout the day. But don’t worry—they’re also super affectionate and require lots of cuddle sessions and quality time with the fam!

Rhodesian Ridgeback Health

Rhodesian Ridgebacks have a life expectancy of 10 to 12 years, but they can be susceptible to certain types of health issues. It’s good to know in advance what those health problems are, so you can keep your Rhodesian healthy for years to come.

  • Joint Dysplasia: Dysplasia can affect both hips and elbows. This inherited disease causes joints to develop improperly, resulting in arthritis. Stiffness in your Rhodesian’s elbows or hips may become an issue over time. There are several treatments available for arthritis that can reduce discomfort and pain. Surgery may be necessary in certain severe cases.
  • Dermoid Sinus: Some Rhodesian Ridgeback puppies are born with a birth defect called dermoid sinus, which is a tube-like opening in the skin (it’s also called pilonidal sinus). It happens when the separation of the skin and the nervous system is incomplete during embryonic development. Look for it on the dog’s back, neck and upper spine. This can be treated by surgery, depending on the specifics of your dog’s condition.
  • Food-Induced Atopic Dermatitis: Rhodesian Ridgebacks are also predisposed to this condition, which means that allergies to specific foods can trigger some skin issues. If you or your groomer spot rashes or lesions—or if you observe excessive scratching and itching—ask your vet for an evaluation. They may prescribe medication and recommend a dog food without the ingredient your dog is allergic to.
  • Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy: Rhodesian Ridgebacks may experience this congenital health issue that causes seizures beginning around 6 months old. The seizures usually occur in the front half of the dog’s body when the pup is relaxed or dozing off to sleep. The seizures happen daily or almost daily—in fact, some Rhodesian Ridgeback parents have reported as many as 150 twitches a day. Consult with your vet if your dog is experiencing seizures or seizure-like episodes. The condition can be treated with medication.

Rhodesian Ridgeback History

The Rhodesian Ridgeback traces their origins to the African country of Rhodesia, now known as Zimbabwe. They were created by crossbreeding the South African Khoikhoi tribe hunting dog and other breeds like Greyhounds and Terriers, which had been transported from Dutch colonists known as the Boers. Rhodesian Ridgebacks soon became experts at navigating the African terrain and being resilient to pests, such as the tsetse fly.

Cornelius van Rooyen, a hunter from Rhodesia, introduced two Rhodesian Ridgebacks into his pack of lion dogs in the late 19th century. He discovered they had no problem holding their own against lions, giving hunters the time they needed to prep and aim their rifles. Rhodesian Ridgebacks could trot alongside men on horseback and scare off other predators like baboons and leopards. They’d run off to catch antelope and bring it back for dinner. Devoted and loyal to their humans, they guarded homes and were great companions for adults and children.

In 1922, big-game hunting was being phased out in South Africa, and the Rhodesian Ridgeback, also called the African Lion Hound, was at risk of becoming extinct. At the time, Ridgebacks ranged in size and appearance from Bull Terriers to Great Danes, so a group of breed enthusiasts organized a meeting to set the breed’s standard. The panel decided that the Dalmatian would be used as the basis for the breed standard moving forward. The Rhodesian Ridgeback was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1955 and is its 110th breed.

So if you’re considering the Rhodesian Ridgeback as a pet, where is the best place to find puppies today? You can find a list of reputable Rhodesian Ridgeback breeders on the American Kennel Club’s website. Depending on the breeder, expect the cost of a Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy to be anywhere from $700 to $2,000 for a pup. For that price, you’re likely getting a dog who’s been screened for health and temperament issues and may come with pedigree papers. You can also reach out to rescue organizations to adopt a Rhodesian, or keep an eye out for the breed at your local animal shelter.

FAQs

Do Rhodesian Ridgebacks shed?

Yes, Rhodesian Ridgebacks do shed on occasion, but in terms of maintenance, their grooming needs are minimal. Make time for a weekly brushing to remove loose hair and to keep their signature wheaten coat nice and glossy. Bathing at least once a month is recommended to freshen up the coat and get rid of dead hairs.

How long do Rhodesian Ridgebacks live?

Rhodesian Ridgebacks typically live anywhere from 10 to 12 years. The right exercise regimen, proper diet and regular check-ups at the vet will help ensure they have the longest lifespan possible.

Are Rhodesian Ridgebacks good family dogs?

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are great dogs for families with older children but may be a bit too rambunctious for toddlers. They’re perfect companions for older, more active kids who love to spend time outside. Rhodesians are notoriously energetic, so if your family enjoys hiking, jogging and going on camping trips, this pup will be the perfect addition to your outdoors-loving crew.

Are Rhodesian Ridgebacks aggressive or dangerous?

Generally, Rhodesian Ridgebacks are not aggressive or dangerous. However, they are certainly independent-minded and curious with a rambunctious personality. Occasionally, they may display aggression toward other dogs by marking their territory. Still, they’re mostly even-tempered, dignified and unlikely to get riled up easily.

Are Rhodesian Ridgebacks good guard dogs?

Yes, Rhodesian Ridgebacks make great guard dogs because of their highly protective nature. They have a natural sense of when danger may be afoot. They’re naturally selective when deciding whether or not to bark—so when they do bark, it’s usually a sign you should check something out.

What are the most popular dog names for Rhodesian Ridgebacks?

The most popular Rhodesian Ridgeback names include Zulu, Menzi, Nandi, Sonto, Narley, Nala, Cooper, Charlie, Duke, Bailey, Nala, Chase, Coop, Dante, Hunter, Ginger, Sonny, Ruby and Simba. Get more dog names here.

What are the most common Rhodesian Ridgeback mixes?

The most common Rhodesian Ridgeback mixes are:

  • Rhodesian Ridgeback-Boxer mix
  • Rhodesian Ridgeback-Labrador Retriever mix
  • Rhodesian Ridgeback-Golden Shepherd mix
  • Rhodesian Ridgeback-Mastiff mix
  • Rhodesian Ridgeback-Beagle mix
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Top Takeaways

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are strong, powerful dogs with a sensitive and caring personality. They’re friendly and sweet to people—especially familiar faces—and are very protective of their families. This slightly rambunctious hound may not be the most suitable for first-time pet parents but will likely thrive with someone who’s raised and lived with dogs before. A Rhodesian is your quintessential partner-in-crime, ready to seize the day and make tons of memories.

Expert input provided by veterinarian Dr. Amanda Williams, at Furry Friends Adoption, Clinic & Ranch, and Sparky Serka, head trainer at The Puppy Academy.

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