June 20, 2018

Breed Profile: Rhodesian Ridgeback

by Lauren R. Tharp

Rhodesian Ridgebacks come from South Africa (from Rhodesia, now known as Zimbabwe).  Originally bred by Boer farmers as a hunting dog, big game hunters in the late 1800s found them especially useful as a companion while hunting down lions while on horseback.  Rhodesian Ridgebacks were eventually introduced to the United States in the early 1950s and became officially recognized by the AKC in 1955.

Physical Traits

Size & Weight: The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a Large breed.  They can be up to 27 inches tall at the shoulder.  Male Rhodesian Ridgebacks typically weigh 80 pounds or more while the females usually weigh in around 60-75 pounds.  These are not small dogs.

Coat & Color: The most noticeable thing about the Rhodesian Ridgeback’s coat is its trademark “ridge” along the spine.  Other than that, the coat is short and sleek.  Their colors are light or dark red wheaten, with or without white markings on their chest and feet.

Other: Somewhat flat skull and wide-set eyes.  They’re often described as having an “intelligent” look to their facial features.

Life Expectancy: 10-12 years


Rhodesian Ridgebacks were originally bred to be fierce hunters and they have managed to retain many of those traits even now!  Strong-willed and extremely independent, Rhodesian Ridgebacks are loyal and protective of their masters but can be aggressive with strangers and other dogs.

These dogs are very energetic and intelligent and require near constant physical and mental stimulation to be happy.  They can become destructive when bored or under-exercised.

The Rhodesian Ridgeback makes an excellent guard dog.


  • Great for an active family.
  • Trained Rhodesian Ridgebacks tend to be calm and gentle unless provoked (they work well for families with older or very well-behaved children)
  • Loyal and protective = the perfect guard dog


  • This is not the dog for a first-time dog owner.  Rhodesian Ridgebacks will challenge you for dominance and absolutely, positively, require obedience training.  And that training will be hard.  Rhodesian Ridgebacks can be subtly described as as “stubborn,” but from what we can tell, they can sometimes be downright defiant!
  • Not good with other small animals.  Unless your Rhodesian Ridgeback is trained at a very early age to respect your other small animals, their first instinct will be to hunt your other pets.
  • Regular exercise is a must.

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