Rhodesian Ridgeback: The African Lion Hound

Lately I’ve seen a few Rhodesian Ridgebacks walking around town and wondered what they are like and their history. They are easily recognized by the line of fur that runs the other way on their back, or the “ridge.” They are also often tall, thin, and reddish in color and tend to have a very deep chest and strong muscular legs.


The Rhodesian Ridgeback is from South Africa and has been dated as far as the 16 century. The dog was originally a domesticated hunting dog that would guard people and farms from lions, snakes, and other predators.

They were bred for bravery, strength, and needed a short coat to withstand the elements and to repel ticks. They also have toes that are tightly pushed together to avoid getting thorns in their paws and injury as they walked over rough terrain.

In the early 20th century, the breed was introduced to the U.S. and the AKC recognized it in 1955 as a member of the hound group.


The distinguishing feature is the ridge of fur along the back that runs in the opposite direction from the rest of the coat. It has a fan-like area formed by two whorls of hair called crowns and starts at the shoulders down the hips. It seems this was a genetic trait from one of the dog bloodlines that created the ridgeback that we know today.

Males and females are similar in height, build, and color. They are usually about 25 inches tall at the shoulders, weigh between 70 to 90 lbs., and have a wheaten to red wheaten coat. The fur is short, sleek, and dense and some will have white highlights on the feet and chest or dark points like on the muzzle.

As muscular as they are, Rhodesians have a walk that is light and take long strides. They are athletic dogs and need exercise on a regular basis.


Rhodesian Ridgebacks are reserved towards strangers but loyal towards their family. They may ignore someone they don’t know and simply walk away. Ridgebacks are strong-willed. This means they may not make the best dog to own if you’ve never owned a dog before. They require a lot of positive reinforcement, socialization, and boundaries.

They can be mischievous and goofy at times and are intelligent so they will know what they can and can’t get away with. Their loyalty to their family often makes them good guard dogs without any training. With consistent training, reward-based training, and regular exercise you can have a great dog who is loving, loyal, and beautiful.
If you own a Ridgeback or are interested in them you can visit the Rhodesian Ridgeback Club’s website for more information.