Back to all breeds
Rhodesian Ridgeback
Characteristics, History, and Health

Rhodesian Ridgeback

The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a large and robust dog breed developed in Southern Africa. They are highly esteemed for their athleticism, courage, and protective instinct, making them excellent hunting dogs and family companions. The breed dates back to the 16th century when the Europeans brought their dog breeds to South Africa. These dogs were bred with semi-domesticated, ridged hunting dogs of the Khoikhoi people, creating a unique, resilient breed designed to hunt game in extreme conditions. They were specifically used for hunting lions, hence the nickname ""African Lion Hound"" or ""African Lion Dog"". In the late 19th century, Reverend Charles Helm introduced two Ridgebacks to Rhodesia (modern-day Zimbabwe) where big game hunters found them to be excellent at cornering lions until the hunter could make the kill.

Main Info
Southern Africa
Alternate Names
African Lion Dog, African Lion Hound
Life Expectancy
10-12 years
Average Male Height
25-27 inches
Average Female Height
24-26 inches
Average Male Weight
85 pounds
Average Female Weight
70 pounds
Coat Length
Coat Type
Coat Colors
Light Wheaten, Red Wheaten, Wheaten, Light Wheaten Black Nose, Light Wheaten Brown Nose, Red Wheaten Black Nose, Red Wheaten Brown Nose, Wheaten Black Nose, Wheaten Brown Nose
Coat Pattern
White Markings, Black Mask

Genetic Predispositions and Health

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are generally healthy dogs, but may suffer from elbow and hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, deafness, and dermoid sinus. As for all breeds, genetic screening for hereditary conditions is recommended to assist veterinarians with diagnosis and proactive care, as well as help breeders identify affected and carrier dogs.

Personality and Behavior

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are known to be loyal, intelligent, and somewhat aloof to strangers but without any signs of aggression or shyness. They are generally good with children, but their size can make them somewhat clumsy with small kids. They're also independent and strong-willed, which can make training a challenge, especially for first-time dog owners. Despite this, they are very protective of their homes and families.

Fun Facts

The breed's ridge runs opposite the direction of their coat and is unique to the breed. It's actually a part of the breed standard, and a Ridgeback without a ridge may be disqualified from show competitions.

Despite their African origin, the Rhodesian Ridgeback has been an effective dog breed in various climates around the world due to its resilience and adaptability.

Due to their history as a hunting companion, Rhodesian Ridgebacks have an impressive speed and can reach up to 20 miles per hour.