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.

  • Dermoid sinus—Hereditary—A disorder somewhat unique to the Rhodesian Ridgeback. A defectively developed spinal cord. An infection and inflammation noticed at birth in the sinus or tubes running along the spine from the rear end to the neck. These are a thick-walled tubes with skin cells, fiber tissue, hair and oils. It is associated with the ridge development and the dermoid sinus occurs somewhere along the back. When the dermoid sinus becomes infected with bacteria and inflamed, it can cause swelling and infection in the spinal cord which causes encephalitis and abscesses. Surgery is the remedy.

  • Hip dysplasia - Hind end limping, back leg acts lame. Wear and time causes the femur to fit poorly into the pelvic socket with improper rotation causing great pain, lameness and difficulty walking. You may notice the dog “hopping”” like a rabbit when running plus hesitating to climb stairs, all due to pain in the hind quarters. The problem actually starts as a very young puppy with an abnormal formation of the hip joint and grows progressively. A vet can locate this with a diagnostics test.

  • Degenerative myelopathy—Is common to German Shepherds and Welsh Corgis. There is no cure for this chronic disease that destroys the sheathing around the dog’s lower spinal column. This forces a loss of sensation and the use of the hind legs. There are some treatments for this crippling problem, but no cure.

  • Hypothyroidism—An underactive thyroid gland produces too little thyroid hormone which reduces the dog's metabolism level. Hypothyroidism stems from the dog’s immune system attacking the tissues of the thyroid gland. Bottom line is the dog becomes symptomatic. The cause can be a predisposition for thyroid problems, air pollution and allergies. A FEW symptoms of the disorder include lethargy, weight gain, skin infections, dry skin, hair loss, slow heart rate, ear infections, depression. See your set right away.

  • Entropion—Eye irritation caused by the eyelids and lashes rolling inward. The problem is usually inherited and found in young, adult dogs. It can come from an eyelid spasm. Affected eyes will be held partially shut and tear excessively. Both eyes will usually be affected the same. Treatment for the condition requires eye surgery.

  • Cataracts - Hazy or cloudy vision and if not treated will cause total blindness.

  • Elbow Dysplasia—This, as with hip dysplasia, is something some Rhodesian Ridgeback's are born with. Wear and time in the front legs (elbow joints) cause lameness by the time the dog is roughly a year old. If you have a dog prone to this disease, have an early x-ray to see if surgery to the joints will stave off further damage to the joints. Typically, there has been no cure, but recently doctors have come up with some ideas. 1) Keep the weight of your dog down. 2) Use anti-inflammatory medication. 3) Look into injections of stem-cells to help regenerate bone-covering cartilage to cause the bones to line up properly again. (This is new research and some vets may not know about it so ask around.)

  • Osteochondritis dissecans—A common type of elbow dysplasia except it can occur in any joint including the shoulder of the Rhodesian Ridgeback. Flaps of cartilage rub against tissue causing irritation, pain, lameness and in time, joint degeneration disease and arthritis. Pieces can break loose and float around limiting movement, or getting lodged or wedged inside the joint itself. Look for lameness, pain and swelling in joints. Treatments include non-steroid anti-inflammatory meds, weight loss, confinement to rest the joints, and dietary supplements for joint health. Surgery is the last option for very severe cases.

  • Otitis externa—Ear infections—Inflammation and infection of the outer ear, especially dogs with long, floppy ear flaps. Dirt and moisture collect and breed yeast and bacteria. Ear hair and wax contribute to the infection environment. If left untreated it can become a serious infection. If at home treatments with cleaning and meds don't work and the problem worsens, surgery might be the last resort.

  • Gastric Torsion—Sometimes called Dog Bloat or “Twisted stomach.” Mainly in larger, deep-cheated dogs. Here's a brief description of the problem:
    Symptoms include excessive drooling, nervous pacing, agitation, weakness, attempt to vomit, bulging stomach area, heavy breathing, retching and gagging, shock or total collapse.

  • Deafness—Hereditary or caused by: Excessive loud noise, Intolerance to anesthesia, drug toxicity, and Otitis (middle ear infection), In some cases, one ear can have no hearing from birth and the other ear can be losing the ability to hear over time, undetected, then suddenly one morning the hearing is totally gone. There is no reversing once that happens.

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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