Rhodesian Ridgeback.jpg
Breed Group Group 7: Scenthounds and Related Breeds
Sub-group 7-D: Scenthound Related Breeds
Origin Country Zimbabwe (Formerly Rhodesia)
Weight Males: 75-85 pounds. Females: 65-75 pounds.
Height Males: 25-27 inches. Females: 24-26 inches.
Other Name(s) African Lion Dog, African Lion Hound
Breed Type Pure
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Rhodesian Ridgeback

Breed Group Group 7: Scenthounds and Related Breeds
Sub-group 7-D: Scenthound Related Breeds
Origin Country Zimbabwe (Formerly Rhodesia)
Weight Males: 75-85 pounds. Females: 65-75 pounds.
Height Males: 25-27 inches. Females: 24-26 inches.
Other Name(s) African Lion Dog, African Lion Hound
Breed Type Pure
click here for FULL BREED STANDARD

Origins

An influx of European immigrants arrived in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century southern Africa, bringing their language, their customs, their dreams of colonization, and their dogs to the African veldt. The immigrants, primarily Dutch and German, settled alongside the Khoikhoi people, whom they called the “Hottentots” to mimic the sound of the Khoikhoi language. The cattle-herding Khoikhoi practiced transhumance, seasonally moving livestock from one grazing ground to another, in the Cape region of southern Africa. To help with guarding herds, hunting, and protecting the families, the Khoikhoi semi-domesticated a lean, muscular wild dog that had a curled tail and a ridge of hair growing in reverse along the length of its back. Impressed with the semi-wild Khoikhoi (or Hottentot) dogs, and with the need for hunting dogs, European settlers (an ethnic group known as the Boer, named after the Dutch and Afrikaans term for farmer) began breeding their own dogs (Great Danes, mastiffs, Greyhounds, Bloodhounds, terriers) with the ridged Hottentot dog. These Boer hunting dogs forerun the modern Rhodesian ridgebacks.

In the 1870s, Reverend Charles Helm, a missionary to Africa, journeyed from his post in South Africa to a missionary post in Rhodesia—the modern region of Zimbabwe—accompanied by his two ridged dogs. While visiting Rhodesia’s Hope Fountain Mission, Reverend Helm encountered the renowned big-game hunter Cornelius van Rooyen. Borrowing Reverend Helm’s dogs for a hunt, van Rooyen was impressed with the dogs’ physical abilities, their hunting instincts, and their fearless attitude. He bred Reverend Helm’s dogs with his own hunting pack to create a foundation stock of big-game hunting dogs—dogs with the bravura to hunt lions.

Van Rooyen bred his dogs over the years to produce a hunting dog capable of killing baboons and baying lions. The phrase keeping a lion at bay refers to the breed’s ability to corner a lion while the hunter drew close enough for the kill—which was very close range for the unreliable weapons of the nineteenth century.

Rhodesians bred the line extensively over the years, yielding the modern version of the dog and thereby establishing the breed’s name as the Rhodesian ridgeback. The first Rhodesian ridgeback club formed in the early 1920s and an experienced breeder named Francis Barnes established the modern standard, which the South African Kennel Union approved.

The Rhodesian Ridgeback was first recognized in the United States in 1955.

Breed Characteristics

Head: Somewhat mesaticephalic skull type, moderate in size, wedge-shaped, and in proportion to the rest of the body. The topskull is moderately long and broad, being as wide (measured from one side to the other right in front of the ears) as it is long (from occiput to stop). It should appear flat when viewed in profile or from the front. The head is clean-cut, being free of excess skin and wrinkles when in repose. Skin at the brow and forehead may be furrowed with very slight wrinkling when ears are brought to alert. The head is smoothly and powerfully muscled. The head is clean-cut without excess skin or wrinkle.
Eyes: Moderate in size, oval to almond in shape, and amber to dark brown in color. They are set well apart and well in the skull. The eye rims are well-fitted, never loose or exposing haw, and well-pigmented. The eyes are never bulging. There should be sufficient bone in the surrounding orbital sockets to protect the eyes.
Ears: The ears are moderate to somewhat large in size, set high on the skull, broad at the base, rounded at the tips, and with the inner corner hanging close to the head.
Muzzle: The muzzle is full, deep, and broad. The depth and outline of the muzzle comes from the fullness of the muzzle itself, and not the outline of lips. The plane, or bridge of the muzzle, is straight. Upper and lower jaws are well-developed, approximately equal in length, and have good bone substance, never appearing snipy or weak.
Nose: The nose is well-pigmented and black. The nostrils are well-opened.
Neck: Moderate length allows for proud head carriage, it is strongly muscled with a slight arch. The neck tapers smoothly from the deeper and broader body toward the head. The neck is clean-cut and without excess skin, throatiness, or dewlap.
Chest: Deep and broad, but never wider than deep. The brisket extends to the point of the elbows. The forechest is rather well-developed.
Body: Elegant, yet not overly refined. Powerful, athletic, agile, deep, and capable of great stamina and endurance. Overall, of good substance: never racy or light, nor heavy and cumbersome. Width at forequarters is approximately equal to the width at the hindquarters.
Feet: Oval to round, compact, with well-arched toes and tough pads.
Tail: Set neither high nor low on the croup but as a natural extension of the topline. It is thick at the base and tapering toward the tip. The tail is carried in accordance with the dog’s mood and energy level, but never tucked or carried up over the back. The tail is of a moderately long length, with the tip of the last vertebrae extending to the hock joints when held down. The tail may be straight, pump-handled, gently curved, having a curve toward the end, or sickle. Dogs with kinked or tightly curled tails should be disqualified.
Movement: Powerful, agile, enduring, effortless, efficient, and energetic. The characteristics of healthy structure are evident: when moving away, the forelegs and rear pasterns should remain parallel to one another. When viewing movement from the front, the forelegs should remain parallel, with elbows and paws moving neither in nor out. From the rear, the back pads should be visible when the rear legs are extended. As speed increases, the forelimbs and hindlimbs will converge to the centerline of gravity. From the side, the topline should remain firm and level. Good reach of movement in the front allows the forepaw to extend out in a line with the nose. The width between the forefeet when extended should be approximately equal to the width between the hindfeet when extended, indicating balance, good reach, and good drive. Dogs that exhibit any sign of breathing or locomotive difficulty shall be disqualified from the show ring.
Temperament: The Rhodesian Ridgeback is known for his intelligent, independent, and instinctual nature. They are even-keeled, courageous, watchful, and loyal to their families; however, if not paired with an experienced owner, they can develop their own rules to live by. An early obedience and socialization program is essential to help Ridgebacks learn rules, boundaries, and to accept people and other animals. Still, with this training and socialization, most Ridgebacks will remain aloof or indifferent toward strangers and other animals. These dogs excel in hunting and lure coursing. Having a high energy drive and high intelligence, the Ridgeback needs to be exercised and worked daily, or else boredom and pent-up energy can manifest into destructive behavior. While Ridgebacks can make wonderful family companions with children when properly trained and socialized to them, un-socialized ridgebacks may become intolerant of some children’s rough play and teasing. Any unprovoked aggressive or fearful behavior toward people is incorrect for this breed.
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Breed Standard

BREED GROUP 7: Scenthounds and Related Breeds

Proportions: Slightly rectangular, with length of the body, measured from the point of the forechest to the point of the rump, being just slightly greater than the height at the withers. The ideal body-height-to-length ratio is 5:4. The body is powerful, agile, and well-put together, with sturdy substance and moderate bone. Males should appear masculine, being more substantial in size and mass, while females should appear more feminine and slightly less substantial. Neither should lack overall type.

Head

General Appearance: Somewhat mesaticephalic skull type, moderate in size, wedge-shaped, and in proportion to the rest of the body. The topskull is moderately long and broad, being as wide (measured from one side to the other right in front of the ears) as it is long (from occiput to stop). It should appear flat when viewed in profile or from the front. The head is clean-cut, being free of excess skin and wrinkles when in repose. Skin at the brow and forehead may be furrowed with very slight wrinkling when ears are brought to alert. The head is smoothly and powerfully muscled. The head is clean-cut without excess skin or wrinkle.
Expression: Confident, self-composed, dignified, keen, intelligent, and watchful.
Stop: The stop is moderate and somewhat defined.
Skull: The ideal muzzle-to-skull ratio is 1:1, with the topskull being equal to the muzzle.
The ideal muzzle-to-skull axis is parallel.
Muzzle: The muzzle is full, deep, and broad. The depth and outline of the muzzle comes from the fullness of the muzzle itself, and not the outline of lips. The plane, or bridge of the muzzle, is straight. Upper and lower jaws are well-developed, approximately equal in length, and have good bone substance, never appearing snipy or weak.
Lips or Flews: Lips are clean and fit moderately tightly over the teeth and jaws. The upper lip should not extend below the line of the lower jaw.
Nose: The nose is well-pigmented and black. The nostrils are well-opened.
Cheeks: The cheeks are well-developed and smoothly muscled, never chiseled or coarse.
Dentition and Bite: Forty-two strong, clean, white teeth. Bite may be level, scissor, or reverse-scissor. Contact must be made between the top and bottom incisors. Missing or broken teeth as a result of routine work is not to be penalized.
Eyes: Moderate in size, oval to almond in shape, and amber to dark brown in color. They are set well apart and well in the skull. The eye rims are well-fitted, never loose or exposing haw, and well-pigmented. The eyes are never bulging. There should be sufficient bone in the surrounding orbital sockets to protect the eyes.
Ears: The ears are moderate to somewhat large in size, set high on the skull, broad at the base, rounded at the tips, and with the inner corner hanging close to the head.

Body and Tail

General Description: Elegant, yet not overly refined. Powerful, athletic, agile, deep, and capable of great stamina and endurance. Overall, of good substance: never racy or light, nor heavy and cumbersome. Width at forequarters is approximately equal to the width at the hindquarters.
Neck: Moderate length allows for proud head carriage, it is strongly muscled with a slight arch. The neck tapers smoothly from the deeper and broader body toward the head. The neck is clean-cut and without excess skin, throatiness, or dewlap.
Chest: Deep and broad, but never wider than deep. The brisket extends to the point of the elbows. The forechest is rather well-developed.
Topline: Level from slightly prominent withers to croup. The back is broad, strongly muscled, and straight, yet supple. The loin is taut, flat and level, or slightly arched, yet supportive. The back is never short, swayed, or roached.
Croup: Broad, powerful, and gently sloped.
Underline: Slight tuck-up present. The underline is taut and firm, without any indication of sagging or excess weight.
Ribs: Long, well-sprung, well-laid-back, oval-shaped, never barrel-chested or slab-sided.
Tail: Set neither high nor low on the croup but as a natural extension of the topline. It is thick at the base and tapering toward the tip. The tail is carried in accordance with the dog’s mood and energy level, but never tucked or carried up over the back. The tail is of a moderately long length, with the tip of the last vertebrae extending to the hock joints when held down. The tail may be straight, pump-handled, gently curved, having a curve toward the end, or sickle. Dogs with kinked or tightly curled tails should be disqualified.

Forequarters and Hindquarters

Forequarters: Forequarters are always in balance with the hindquarters. Forequarters are well-angulated with well-laid-back shoulder blades. Shoulder blades are long, sloping, and approximately equal in length to the upper arm and forearm.
Elbows: Elbows are close to the body. The point of the elbows is approximately half the dog’s height at the withers.
Forelegs: Frontal View: Straight, of good muscle, of solid bone, and parallel to one another.
Side View: The forelimbs appear straight with strong pasterns.
Pasterns: Never weak or broken.
Hindquarters: Upper thigh and lower thigh are equal in length, strong, sturdy, of solid bone, and well-muscled.
Rear View: When viewed from the rear, the rear pasterns are parallel to one another.
Side View: Good angulation will allow the rear toes to align with the point of the rump or within one to two paw-lengths behind the point of the rump, with the rear pasterns remaining perpendicular to the ground and parallel to one another.
Stifle Joint: Well-angulated with a good bend to well-let-down rear pasterns.
Angulations: Angulation of hindquarters is always in balance with angulation of forequarters.
Feet: Oval to round, compact, with well-arched toes and tough pads.

Coat

Skin: Well-fitted, yet supple. The skin should never obstruct the outline of the dog.
Coat Type: The coat should be short, dense, sleek, close, and with a fine gloss. It is neither silky or woolly.

A well-defined ridge of hair that grows in the opposite direction of the rest of the coat should be present. Preference should be given to symmetrical ridges that start right behind the withers and taper to a point at the end of the loin or the beginning of the croup area.

On occasion, a dog may be born with a complete lack of a dorsal ridge, having normally coated hair on the back. These dogs will pass on their normally coated hair to their puppies so they are not typically sought after in most breeding programs.
Coat Color or Pattern: CKC recognizes two color varieties of the Rhodesian Ridgeback breed: the standard color and nonstandard color variety.
Standard coat color variety: Light wheaten to red wheaten, with or without brown or black mask on the muzzle, or darker points. A small amount of white is permissible on the toes and the chest.
Nonstandard coat color variety: Black, liver, blue, gray, silver, Isabella all with or without tan points or brindle points. black, liver, blue, gray, silver, Isabella brindle, mask (fawns), black, liver, blue, gray, silver, Isabella sable or agouti, all with or without varying degrees of white markings; all standard colors with white markings that extend beyond the permissible standard markings.

Movement

Powerful, agile, enduring, effortless, efficient, and energetic. The characteristics of healthy structure are evident: when moving away, the forelegs and rear pasterns should remain parallel to one another. When viewing movement from the front, the forelegs should remain parallel, with elbows and paws moving neither in nor out. From the rear, the back pads should be visible when the rear legs are extended. As speed increases, the forelimbs and hindlimbs will converge to the centerline of gravity. From the side, the topline should remain firm and level. Good reach of movement in the front allows the forepaw to extend out in a line with the nose. The width between the forefeet when extended should be approximately equal to the width between the hindfeet when extended, indicating balance, good reach, and good drive. Dogs that exhibit any sign of breathing or locomotive difficulty shall be disqualified from the show ring.

Temperament

The Rhodesian Ridgeback is known for his intelligent, independent, and instinctual nature. They are even-keeled, courageous, watchful, and loyal to their families; however, if not paired with an experienced owner, they can develop their own rules to live by. An early obedience and socialization program is essential to help Ridgebacks learn rules, boundaries, and to accept people and other animals. Still, with this training and socialization, most Ridgebacks will remain aloof or indifferent toward strangers and other animals. These dogs excel in hunting and lure coursing. Having a high energy drive and high intelligence, the Ridgeback needs to be exercised and worked daily, or else boredom and pent-up energy can manifest into destructive behavior. While Ridgebacks can make wonderful family companions with children when properly trained and socialized to them, un-socialized ridgebacks may become intolerant of some children’s rough play and teasing. Any unprovoked aggressive or fearful behavior toward people is incorrect for this breed.

Faults

All dogs should be in proper healthy condition, free from disease or defect. Any departure from this description is considered a fault. Unless altered, all male dogs should have two fully descended testicles.