Originally bred to hunt lions, the Rhodesian Ridgeback is a powerful dog ranking 41st on the list of most popular dog breeds.
While the Ridgeback has come a long way since its days roaming the African Savannah, this handsome dog breed has lost none of its strength or determination. Intelligent dogs that are as loyal as they are stubborn, the Ridgeback has found its new place among families around the world.
Also called the African Lion Hound, the Ridgeback is native to South Africa. The earliest known appearance dates to the early 16th century when European explorers marked the dog's presence with the Hottentot tribes. Noticing the breed's muscular frame and endurance, the explorers began using the dogs for hunting and protection. They needed dogs that could withstand the rigors of the African bush while being unfailingly loyal to its master and his family. The Rhodesian Ridgeback fit the bill.
It's unknown when or how the breed made its way out of Africa, but it's now found in several countries across the world with strong populations in Europe, Canada, and the United States. The AKC officially admitted the Ridgeback to their registry in 1955.
Before you take the plunge and commit to owning a Ridgeback, consider your lifestyle and your ability to give a new dog the attention and care it needs. Ridgebacks fit in best with active families that have time to commit to regular training. They make great hiking and running partners and would love to be your all-around buddy.
The key is asserting yourself as the leader of the pack, because if you don't, your Ridgeback will gladly fill the position. When well-trained, Ridgebacks make loyal companions. After growing out of the rambunctious puppy phase, most adults are reserved around strangers and have quiet, gentle temperaments.
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The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a large, handsome dog with symmetrical features and known for athleticism and endurance. "Sleek" and "powerful" are the best words to describe their physical appearance.
Rhodesian Ridgebacks are extremely athletic, and their endurance and strength is evident with their muscular body-type. The average adult female stands 24-26 inches tall at the shoulders and weighs up to 75 pounds. The larger males typically reach 27 inches at the shoulders and weigh around 90 pounds. They have deep chests, slender tails, and long legs.
With a well-balanced frame, a Ridgeback is capable of running for miles while maintaining significant speed.
The broad head of the Rhodesian Ridgeback is flat between its medium-sized, high-set ears. The ears are wide at the base of the skull and taper to a point where they hang loosely framing the face. Its round eyes are usually brown, but depending on the dog’s coat color, they can also be bright gold.
Their coat colors range from light wheaten to red wheaten, and their short hair hardly sheds and requires little grooming.
The most noticeable physical characteristic is the ridge of hair that grows forward along the spine, giving the breed its name.
As is common in hunting dogs, the Ridgeback is active with a high prey drive. Whether it's a cat or a leaf blowing in the wind, if it moves, a Ridgeback will chase it.
Their prey drive is accompanied by an intelligent and independent personality that can be both entertaining and frustrating. They respond well to positive reinforcement, and they pick up on tricks and commands easily.
There are certain hereditary conditions that all Ridgeback owners should be aware of, even while they are generally healthy. Elbow dysplasia, for example, is common in large-breed dogs. It causes painful lameness and surgery is often the only treatment.
Keeping a Ridgeback healthy—physically and emotionally—involves treating them to regular exercise, training, and vet visits.
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