Developed in Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) and South Africa back in the 16th century, this breed is also known as the African Lion Hound. These silent pack hunters were bred by European settlers to track down a lion, or other game, then corner it and or lure it into shooting range. So these dogs were originally bred for their courage, agility, endurance and instincts.
Though not all ridgebacks are born with ridges, the breed is named after a ridge of backward growing hair that runs along their back. This is characteristic of the Hottentot hunting dog. This semi-wild African breed was interbred with imported mastiffs, bloodhounds, pointers and greyhounds. Great danes and bulldogs may also have been in the mix. The native Hottentot dogs may have originated from, or be related to, the Thai ridgeback. All of these breeds produced a powerful hunting dog, that could withstand hot days, freezing nights, require little water and would guard the property at night. The breed is now very common in South Africa.
As a sight and scent hound, ridgebacks have a very high prey drive. These independent dogs are always alert for movement and willing to track and chase potential prey. Even when you are yelling for them to return. And boy, can they run fast. Something to keep in mind for owners who live near busy roads. Some have been know to run part way up a tree after a squirrel.
Lure coursing is a good activity for your ridgeback. This is where several dogs chase a string pulled lure across a field.
Ridgebacks are intelligent and will find ways to amuse themselves if not kept busy. So not a good breed to leave alone in the house or yard for an extended period. Avid gardeners may also want to think twice about having a ridgeback. Despite their independence, they prefer to be close to their owners around the house.
Ridgebacks learn very fast and are good problem solvers. However, they have short attention spans when it comes to activities like training. Tracking is sport, while obedience is too much like work.
Positive reinforcement is your only chance at success when it comes to training a ridgeback. These clever dogs have a long memory when it comes to harsh treatment. Not all owners can cope with their stubborn streak. Ample amounts of exercise cures most problems as a tired ridgeback is a good ridgeback.
Ideally, these strong and active dogs need a huge yard (with a very tall fence) or an acreage to run around and explore. They also need daily walks and runs. However, they are mostly docile inside the house and mature into very calm dogs. Please note: they love comfort and will take over beds and couches unless trained otherwise.
According to the book 'Your Family Dog' by Maxwell Riddle, actor Errol Flynn helped popularize the breed in the United States. They were recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1955, but are still fairly uncommon.
Pups may be born with dermoid sinus, a cyst that needs early surgical removal. Hip dysplasia and elbow problems can develop, though incidences are lower than many other breeds. Thyroid disorders and cataracts are also known issues. Due to their hanging ears, it's not uncommon for ridgebacks to develop ear infections.
With minimal fat reserves, ridgebacks are also very sensitive to medications, anesthesia and chemicals such as flea powder.
Many can and will eat anything, in a bowl, on the floor and even on a counter. They are also clever enough to get into kitchen cupboards.
Due to their love of food, and endless appetites, you must watch their weight. A percentage have allergies to food and or environmental.
They are known for their loyalty, often targeting one member of the household. They are also very willing to please. Unless there's a bunny to chase. Otherwise, they are a great companion.
Ridgebacks are generally good watch dogs, though not active barkers unless bored. So if your well adjusted ridgeback does bark, it's a good idea to check out the disturbance. Their biting power, even as pups, is comparable to a Doberman Pinscher, and their teeth are quite sharp. Mostly reserved with strangers.
Their undomesticated heritage can surface in quirky habits like greeting you with a butt sniff. And despite protests, they don't always clue in that butt sniffing humans is inappropriate behavior.
Color: Either buff, to gold or red wheaten with a black face, ears and nails. OR liver colored. Both colors may have white on their chest or toes.
Their short, dense, sleek coat requires minimal grooming. They are generally very clean dogs with little or no odor. Chest and toes may have some white fur.
Skull is flat and broad. Eyes are quite wide apart and match the color of their wheaten fur. Muzzle is black, wheaten or liver colored. Breed standards state...When the ears are brought forward in an alert position, the skin is furrowed with expressive wrinkles on the backskull between the ears and above and between the eyes...
Pups weigh around a pound at birth.
Need socializing as pups to accept other dogs and cats. Naturally gregarious with other family dogs.
Shoulder Height: From 24 to 27 inches (61 to 68.6 centimeters).
Weight ranges from 65 to 90 pounds (29.5 to 41 kilograms), though some have now been bred over 100 pounds (45.5 kg).
Feet are webbed for walking on African sand.
Females are slightly smaller.
Life span: up to 12 years, though some have lived to 16.