A Brief History of the Rhodesian Ridgeback
The Rhodesian Ridgeback is the only hound indigenous to southern Africa. The breed’s history dates back to the early 16th Century when European settlers started to explore the Cape of Good Hope and discovered a domesticated dog with the Hottentot tribes that hunted in southern Africa. The dog was very unusual, having a ‘ridge’ of hair along its back that grew in the opposite direction to the rest of its coat. This is the ‘ridge’ that is referred to in it’s modern name ‘Ridgeback’.
The only other dog known to have a ridge is found on the island of Phu Quoc in the Gulf of Siam. It is thought that these dogs originated from the ridged dogs of South Africa, having being brought over to the island at some time.
It is not really known where the Hottentot tribes found the ridged dogs – one thought is that they may have brought them on their travels from the East.
It is believed that the foundation stock for the modern day Ridgeback were a mixture of the Hottentot hounds and various other dogs brought to Africa from Europe with early travellers, such as Bloodhounds, Great Danes, Greyhounds and other breeds such as Mastiffs, Pointers and Terriers. This mixture of breeding produced an incredibly versatile hunting dog that has since evolved into the modern day Ridgeback. It is because of this enormous gene pool that the modern Ridgeback is such a healthy breed, they are in effect a mongrel! & as such have the hybrid vigour associated with them. The Ridgeback was named the Rhodesian Ridgeback as they were first discovered in Rhodesia, now known as Zimbabwe.
The hunters in South Africa used the Ridgeback for their hunting as they were the only dog that could keep up with lions and keep them at bay for the hunters to kill – hence the modern day association with Ridgebacks as ‘African Lion Hunters’. They have a very short coat, so ticks weren’t attracted to them. They could run all day, and survive extreme temperatures and weather conditions. They could go over 24 hours without water if necessary, and they were protective of the tribe and their families.
The modern day Rhodesian Ridgeback:
The modern day Rhodesian Ridgeback has developed into one of the most outstanding dogs (in our opinion!). They are aloof with strangers but do not show aggression or shyness, will protect their owners, but not in a fierce way. They hardly bark, don’t eat a great amount of food and are fantastic with children. A Ridgeback is dependable, intelligent and great with people. They need training, but are trainable with bribery – but most of all with consistency. As long as you are the pack leader you will have a fantastic friend.
The Rhodesian Ridgeback should be a balanced, strong, muscular, agile and active dog, symmetrical in outline and capable of great endurance. The ridge must be clearly defined, symmetrical and tapering towards the haunch. For a ‘show’ quality Ridgeback, the two ‘crowns’ at the top of the ridge should be exactly in line and of similar size.
A Ridgeback with a faulty ridge (i.e. only one crown, ridge too short, RIDGELESS, etc) is classed as a pet and cannot be shown or bred from, but it doesn’t stop them from being wonderful pets!
The head should be flat and broad between the ears, and the forehead should be free from wrinkles when relaxed. The nose should be black or brown, depending on the colouring of the dog. A black nose should be accompanied by dark eyes, a brown nose by amber eyes (Liver nose colouring). The muzzle should be long, deep and powerful. The lips should be clean and should closely fit the jaws. The jaws should be strong with a perfect scissor bite.
The eyes should be set moderately well apart, round, bright and sparkling. They should have intelligent expression, their colour close to the colour of the coat. The ears should be set quite high, should be of medium size and wide at the base, tapering to a rounded point. The neck should be strong and and free from throatiness.
The back should be powerful and muscular. Their loins should be strong, slightly arched and muscular. The chest shouldn’t be too wide, but should be deep. Their ribs should be well sprung, but shouldn’t be rounded in shape. The tail should be quite thick at the base, tapering to a point. It should be carried naturally, and shouldn’t be curled or kinked.
The forelegs should be straight boned, looking thicker from the side angle than from the front. The elbows should be close to the body. The shoulders should be clean, sloping and muscular. The feet should be compact and round, with well arched toes – the feet should not be ‘flat’. Movement should be free, active and straight forward.
The coat should be short and dense, with a sleek and glossy appearance. The colour should be light wheaten to red wheaten. There should not be too much black or white colouring on the dog. A little white is permitted on the chest and feet, and a little black round the muzzle and ears but this should not be excessive.
The desired sizes and weights for dogs and bitches are as follows:
Dogs – 63cm (25″) to 69cm (27″) – Desirable weight is 36.5kg (80lbs)
Bitches – 61cm (24″) to 66cm (26″) – Desirable weight is 32kg (70lbs)