The Rhodesian Ridgeback
Megan Noes, Spot Magazine
Size: Large (70 - 80 lb.)
Grooming needs: Minimal
Environment: Adaptable to hot climates
Temperament: Athletic, Affectionate
Life Expectancy: 10 – 12 yrs.
Ridged hunting dogs roamed the land long before colonizers set foot in southern Africa. They were the trusted companion and hunting dog of the African Khoikhoi (Hottentot) people. Later, colonizers brought other dogs that crossed with the Khoikhoi dogs and produced a new kind of ridged hunting dog that was highly prized by big game hunters. By 1922, as big game hunting began to fade, enthusiasts drew from the Dalmatian Standard to develop the breed standard for what is now the 41st most popular dog in the U.S.
The Rhodesian Ridgeback (nicknamed either Rhodie or Ridgie) is a strong, muscular and agile dog. Its frame is balanced and elegant; it’s bred for endurance rather than bulk. The most distinctive feature is, of course, the ridge of hair that grows against the grain. The ridge is clearly defined and symmetrical, starting right behind the shoulders and tapering to the hip. The Ridgeback’s coat color is “wheaten,” which implies the color of a ripe ear of wheat. It ranges from a pale-yellow shade, “fawn,” to a dark chestnut brown, “red wheaten.” The nose is either black or brown and the eye color reflects the color of the nose. Ridgebacks have strong, smooth tails with a gentle curve towards the end.
Rhodies are intelligent and intense, but also sensitive. Natural hunters and athletes, Rhodies have been known as lion dogs because they were fierce enough to corner a lion and keep him at bay while the hunter approached. At home, however, these performance athletes have a famously affectionate nature, known to be couch hogs who often cuddle with other pets or lean into their human companions. As snuggly and attached as they become with their favorite humans, they can be generally aloof with strangers. Beware of leaving food out as Rhodies are world class counter surfers -- no food is safe!
Common Health Problems
This is a generally healthy breed, but can be prone to elbow dysplasia, canine hip dysplasia, and hypothyroidism. Deafness and dermoid sinus are also occasionally seen in the breed.
Rhodies tend to be clean and quiet around the house, lounging while the world revolves around them. This pup needs physical and mental enrichment and is a good match for people who enjoy getting at least an hour of daily exercise. Pet parents can offer running, hiking and other activities like obedience, tracking and agility classes to meet these needs. This breed usually gets along well with household dogs and cats but will likely chase cats outdoors. The best matches are usually experienced dog handlers, especially active single people and families with older children, as Rhodies may accidentally knock over little ones. Either way, once you’ve befriended a Rhodie, you've got a faithful friend for life.
Megan Noes lives in New York City, with her husband, Jacob, Frenchie Bulldog, Nono, and a revolving door of foster kittens. She works for a major animal welfare organization and loves her former home in the Pacific Northwest.