Rhodesian Ridgeback Overview

Dog Breed:
Rhodesian Ridgeback
Breed Group:
Hound Group
Dignified, independent, strong willed, athletic and faithful.
24-27 inches
70-85 pounds
Life Span:
10 years
Coat Colors:
Area of Origin:
Southern Africa
Best For:
Active families/Access to secure garden/Owners with an interest in dog training.
Adult Food:
Best Dog Food for Rhodesian Ridgebacks
Puppy Food:
Best Puppy Food for Rhodesian Ridgebacks

Rhodesian Ridgeback Characteristics

Good for First-Time Owners
Good with Children
Easy to Train
Exercise Requirements
Ease of Grooming
Amount of Shedding
Amount of Drooling
Tendency to Bark

About The Rhodesian Ridgeback

  • Developed to track lions

  • Needs an active lifestyle

  • People orientated

The Rhodesian Ridgeback is true to their name with their distinctive trademark ridge of backward-growing hair, along their back. Developed for tracking lions, they needed to be brave and independent, qualities which are still strong in today’s dogs.

The Rhodesian Ridgeback Breed breed suits active families who love being outside, no matter the weather. The playfulness of the Ridgeback means they crave time with their people and may well forget their size when they then attempt to climb up onto your lap for a fuss at the end of a busy day! 

This people-orientated nature is strongest within their family group, while newcomers and strangers will be treated with suspicion. With this in mind, the Ridgeback will want to be in the home and is not suited to a solitary outside life. 

Rhodesian Ridgeback Breed History

  • Developed in South Africa

  • Needed a dog who could cope with the climate and the tough terrain

  • Imported to the US after the Second World War

Rhodesian Ridgeback Breed history

Originally known as the African Lion Hound, the Ridgeback was developed by the Boer farmers of South Africa. They needed a dog who was versatile enough to cope with extreme temperatures and the tough bush terrain. They also needed to be hardy enough to cope when water supplies were low while also protecting property and being a faithful family companion.

To begin with, they crossed dogs that had been brought across from Europe, such as the Great Dane, Mastiff, and Bloodhound, with a native ridged dog of the Khoikhoi nomadic people. The addition of native blood meant that the dogs being bred became resilient against local pests including the blood-feeding tsetse fly.

The dogs were initially used for flushing partridge or bringing down wounded antelopes. However, when big game hunting became popular, they found that the Ridgeback was perfect to accompany horseback lion hunting. The dogs were not there to kill lions; instead, their job was to hold them at bay until the hunters arrived. 

In 1922 a breeding program for the Ridgeback began in Rhodesia, a country now known as Zimbabwe. Just two years later, in 1924, the South African Kennel Union officially recognized the breed as the Rhodesian Ridgeback. 

It wasn’t until after the Second World War that large numbers of Ridgebacks were imported to the US with the first registration with the American Kennel Club (AKC) being in 1955.

Rhodesian Ridgeback Size & Weight

  • Males measure up to 27 inches and females up to 26 inches

  • Males weigh around 85 pounds and females around 70 pounds

  • A strong and muscular breed


The Ridgeback is a large dog with males measuring 25 to 27 inches and weighing around 85 pounds. The slightly smaller females are around 24 to 26 inches tall and weigh in at about 70 pounds. 

The Ridgeback is a strong and muscular breed combined with a high prey drive. This means that owners must be sure that they can control their dog and understand that training is essential.

Rhodesian Ridgeback Personality & Temperament

  • Quickly becomes alert

  • Standoffish with strangers

  • Can tolerate most weather conditions


The Rhodesian Ridgeback has many of the characteristics that you would associate with the hound group. They tend to have a quiet and gentle temperament and are not a breed that will bark without good reason. However, they can go from lazing in the sun to being instantly alert if a stranger appears or if their prey drive is switched on.

The Ridgeback can be an intimidating presence as a family protector and watchdog. However, this is balanced with his affectionate nature, which can make them a trusted companion for children. Do remember that as with all breeds, young children and dogs should always be supervised.

With strangers, Ridgebacks can come across as being standoffish, and you may find it takes a while before they genuinely accept someone new as a friend. It’s important, however, to realize that this is not nervousness, it is the suspicious nature of the breed. 

This is a breed that can learn to be by themselves while their owners are out for short periods. Slowly building up the time you’re away from your Ridgeback will help them to adjust to not having their family around them. Providing a good walk and mental stimulation before you go out, will tire them out and encourage them to settle and sleep. 

Ridgebacks are a hardy breed that can tolerate a range of weather conditions though some owners report that their dogs are not lovers of the rain.

Rhodesian Ridgeback Health & Grooming

  • Generally, a healthy breed

  • Some genetic testing needed before dogs are bred from

  • Minimal grooming needs


Rhodesian Ridgebacks are generally considered to be a healthy breed. Responsible breeders screen their dogs for a number of genetic conditions, including those detailed below, to ensure that only the healthiest dogs are bred from. 

  • Hip and elbow dysplasia – conditions which can cause lameness, pain, and arthritis 
  • Thyroid function – When the thyroid fails to produce enough of its hormones, the dog’s metabolism begins to slow down. This causes lethargy and obesity, along with coat and skin problems.
  • Eye anomalies – several eye conditions can affect Ridgebacks just as they can with other breeds. An eye examination is carried out to ensure that dogs who breeders plan to have puppies from are free from any problems.

The Rhodesian Ridgeback has minimal grooming needs. A weekly brush will help to remove loose hair and keep their coat glossy. Ridgebacks do shed their coat, and you may find this is heavier during the spring and just after the cold winter months. 

It’s often reported that this is a ‘greedy’ breed who will take any opportunity counter surf or help themselves to the food cupboards! Good management will help to keep temptation out of the way and prevent them from becoming overweight. 

Rhodesian Ridgeback Training

  • Strong willed

  • Intelligent breed

  • Very high prey drive


This can be a strong-willed and independent breed, which is precisely what was needed when tracking lions! However, when in the family home, this needs to be tempered through training right from puppyhood. 

Ridgebacks are smart dogs, and they are very capable of learning all the behaviors needed by a well-mannered member of the family. Training with patience, consistency, and reward-based techniques will achieve the best results. 

The prey drive of this breed can be immense, and despite their generally calm nature, they can instantly disappear over the horizon when in hunting mode. Training can help with this, but owners should always be aware that there may be times when instincts win. 

Rhodesian Ridgeback Exercise Requirements

  • Strong willed

  • Intelligent breed

  • Very high prey drive


Rhodesian Ridgebacks are high energy dogs right into their adult years and so need the opportunity to run around and let off steam. Owners should aim to provide two hours of exercise every day with a combination of lead exercise and free running in a secure area. 

Canine sports such as tracking and agility are a great way of combining, training, exercise, and developing the bond between owner and dog.  Ridgebacks will love the opportunity to play games but do be aware that it’s likely that you’ll get tired before they do! 

Rhodesian Ridgeback Diet & Feeding

  • Speak to your vet for advice on an individual dog’s needs

  • Look for foods suitable for the age and exercise level of your dog

  • Care is needed not to allow them to become overweight


If you’re looking for assistance with the specific needs of your dog, we recommend speaking to your veterinarian or pet nutritionist. As more general advice, most dogs should be fed on a specially formulated puppy food until they’re around 6 months of age. After this age, they can be slowly moved across to food designed for adolescent or adult dogs.

As mentioned before, Ridgebacks love their food, so do be careful with portion size and the number of treats that they get to prevent them from becoming overweight. 

Learn more about the best dog for the Rhodesian Ridgeback breed.

You may also be interested in:

Rhodesian Ridgeback Rescue Groups

Sadly, there are times when a Ridgeback finds themselves in need of a new home. Breed rescue organizations, such as those listed below, have in-depth knowledge of the breed and can provide you with help and advice if you’re considering a rehoming a dog. 

Rhodesian Ridgeback Rescuehttps://www.ridgebackrescue.org/

Ridgeback Rescue of the UShttp://www.rrus.org/

For further information, take a look at the website of the breed club, The Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of America – http://www.rrcus.org/.