The Rhodesian Ridgeback
"African Lion Hound"

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Rhodesian Ridgeback
"African Lion Hound"
Weight: 70 — 85 lbs
Height: 24” — 27”
AKC Rank 2008: #48
Lifespan: 10—12 yrs
Group: Hound
Origin: South Africa

Dog Breed Info - Rhodesian Ridgeback

A Ridgeback moving fast across an open field
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Breed Overview

Origin 1800’s. Original function: Hunting large game, guardian. Today, lure cursing. A loyal family and house dog and jogging companion.

When European Boer arrived in South Africa the seventh century, the brought they brought such breeds at the Mastiff, Great Dane, Greyhound and Bloodhound, among others. The settlers need a dog that could withstand hot and cold temperatures and at the same time serve as hunting and guard dogs. By breeding the European dogs with native Hottentot Tribal Hunting dogs, which were distinguished by a ridge of hair growing in the opposite direction of the dog on the top of their backs, they got what they wanted. These dogs hunted by both sight and scent and were devoted protectors of the entire family. In the 1870’s, several of these dogs were taken to Rhodesia to hunt lions, tracking them and keeping them at bay. These “lion dogs” became popular due to their great success. Dogs meeting this standard criteria with the ridge on the back were called Rhodesian Ridgebacks. (The dog’s former designation as ”lion dog” was deemed too savage.) The breed was introduced into England in the 1930’s and America soon after. In both cases, it gained popularity in the 1950’s. The AKC registered the breed in 1955.

A Restful Ridgeback
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A Rhodesian Ridgeback must be well trained! The Ridgeback must be trained starting in puppyhood and continuing on from there. This is a natural guard dog and needs a strong upper hand to control him throughout his life. Lack of early, firm training will be a disaster. Use
clicker training and positive reinforcement training for this dog. It's easy to use and works very well.

Crate Training

Want to crate train your Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy? It's easy and if you're interested, take a look and you'll see what to do. Crate training your puppy will save many headaches and problems.

Potty Training

The Rhodesian Ridgeback can be fairly easy to house train, potty train, toilet train, housebreak or whatever you want to call it. If you have a puppy, decide if you want to crate or paper potty train it. For the best results, we have a page at Crate vs Paper Potty Training which will help you decide and from there you can get all the information you need to get the job done. Always praise the pup profusely when she goes potty in the RIGHT PLACE so she knows she has done a good thing. Either method will work for this breed.

If you have an older dog, take the dog outside every two hours until she gets the idea which door leads to her potty area. Older dogs catch on to the potty or housebreaking pretty fast once they are shown what to do.


The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a protective dog. It’s a good hunter. It’s also a loyal dog.

The Rhodesian Ridgeback is good with children, especially protective of those within it’s family. However, it is sometimes overly boisterous when playing with small children. This dog is strong-willed and powerful; some can dominate. It is reserved with strangers. The Ridgeback does well with other dogs, but sometimes has dominance issues with males. The Ridgeback has natural dominating and aggressive tendencies and needs to be well trained.

If you happen to get a Ridgeback with a separation anxiety problem, that can be dealt with by investing a few hours of work on your part and some "tough love."

Friendly Toward Other Dogs

Yes, generally, except for male to male encounters.


Friendly Toward Other Pets

Yes, if raised with, and especially cats.

Friendly Toward Strangers

Wary of strangers. Always guarding his family, not trusting strangers. Can become aggressive.


Yes, fairly playful but with family only.


Yes, but with his family... this is a house dog only.

Good with children?

Older children in the family. No strangers.

Good with Seniors over 65?

No. Needs too much exercise.

Living environment

House with a large fenced yard to chase balls and play fetch in. Wants to divide his time between the house and yard.

Eleven week old Ridgeback puppy in her "crate"
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Energy level

Moderate. A very active dog that must be kept busy.

Exercise needs, daily

High. The Rhodesian Ridgeback loves to run and jog. It needs daily mental and physical exercise or it becomes bored and gets

into trouble. A great jogging or hiking companion.


Yes, excellent.

Guard dog

Yes, very good. Comes naturally.




Brush weekly to remove dead hair.



Suggested Reading For The Rhodesian Ridgeback
Click on the cover photo for more book information and reviews.

The book on the right is by the American National Red Cross and deals with dog emergencies, illnesses and injuries. It is a valuable reference manual for every dog owner. Vol 2, 2008, includes a DVD.


Rhodesian Ridgeback Breeders

In the event you decide to go looking for Rhodesian Ridgewback puppies, be SURE to find reputable breeders that REALLY know what they are doing. Be sure the puppy has been VERY well socialized and started in obedience training.
Rhodesian Ridgeback Breeders with puppies for sale.

Rhodesian Ridgeback Rescue

In the event you are seriously considering the adoption of an older dog and are looking for a Rhodesian Ridgeback Rescue group or groups in your state, here are several links that might help:
Petfinder - Rhodesian Ridgeback RescueAt the time of this writing, Petfinder shows only 358 Ridgebacks available in the country. If necessary, go online and search for Rhodesian Ridgeback Rescue groups and you might turn up more locations. If you do adopt, try to locate any dog health papers for possible future use.
Adopt A Pet This is an interesting site but it may not be enough. Check for more kennels, dog pounds and Rhodesian Ridgeback Rescue groups online.

Dog Health Issues For The Rhodesian Ridgeback
Below: The dog illness / illnesses or medical problems listed for the Ridgeback by various vets.

This is basically a healthy breed. Don’t let the list below scare you! Your own dog will probably never have ANY of these problems. These are dog illness and medical issues this breed is prone to that have been listed by various veterinarians at different times over the past decade or so and some pertain to puppies and very young dogs that a breeder would deal with.

The information contained herein has been gathered from numerous books by veterinarians and is intended as general information only. Every dog and situation is different. You must see your vet. Our information is for general interest only and not intended to replace the advice provided by your own veterinarian.

Other health problems could occur with your Rhodesian Ridgeback. If you notice any problems with your dog, take it to the vet immediately. This website is for general information only and is not intended to, in any way, be a medical guide.


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