The Rhodesian Ridgeback was bred in Zimbabwe to hunt lions that were attacking the livestock and people of the communities. It is also known as the African Lion Dog and was used to distract the lion while the hunters took the lion by surprise.

This large breed, that weighs up to 39Kgs and stands at a height of about 69cm. Their coat is short and normally have what is called a “light wheaten to red wheaten colour”. The most distinguishable feature of the Ridgeback is the ridge that runs from the base of the neck to above the back legs. The ridge is made up of two rows of hair that flow opposite the normal way the coat lies. This forms the ridge on their back that makes them stand out from other dogs. They are a muscular breed and have a long tail that tends to curve upwards at the end. Their ears hang downwards and because of this, one should always keep an eye on them to make sure that they don’t get infections. Because their ears don’t have the ability to “breathe”, the can get warm and wet if exposed to water and this can cause bacteria to grow.


The coat of a Ridgeback is not silky or woolly. It should be short, glassy and have a shine to it. Because they are short, fairly hard hairs, they tend to shed all year round. Regular brushing with a hand brush or soft-bristled brush works well to keep the shedding at bay.

The Ridgeback breed, where health problems are concerned, are quite a healthy breed. They do tend to get hip dysplasia as well as they develop Thyroid problems as well. The usual check-ups at the vet, as well as being screened as puppies for any issues can also help prevent these problems.

With regards to training and temperament, this breed, like most others, work really well with positive reinforcement rather than assertive training. They have the ability to learn commands quite quickly provided that the commands are practiced and consistent. While they are seen as a tough and strong breed, due to their heritage, it has been noted that: “Rough treatment ... should never be administered to these dogs, especially when they are young. They go to pieces with handling of that kind.” (Denise Flaim, November 2002, "The Other End of the Leash Understanding Our Complex Hounds"). These dogs require patience, consistency and fair handling. They need to be socialised when puppies and preferably training for as long as possible throughout their lives. They enjoy working for rewards and it also increases the bond between the dog and his owner. Ridgebacks are sometimes seen as aloof to strangers, rather than aggressive. They would prefer to ignore someone they do not know that attack them. Aggression in the breed is seen as a fault as should be investigated as soon as possible.

In the end, these are great family dogs. They love to play and are protective of the ones they have formed bonds with. They need regular exercise and mental stimulation as they tend to get up to mischief when bored, but then again, doesn’t every dog?

If you’re looking for a large breed, that will slip into the family mould, love you and make you and your family whole, then the Ridgeback is for you.