Rhodesian Ridgeback - The breed

"He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion" -Author Unknown-

The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a large, handsome, muscular dog. Its name describes its most unique characteristic, a clearly defined symmetrical ridge running the length of its spine, formed by hair that grows in the opposite direction from the rest of its coat. The Ridgeback was bred in South Africa by African farmers as a big-game hunter and guard dog. It represents a combination of several imported breeds, including the Great Dane, Mastiff, Greyhound, and Bloodhound, with Rhodesian varieties capable of withstanding extremes of heat and cold. The dog has a strong, muscular body and a broad head with high-set ears and a long muzzle. The short, sleek coat varies in colour from light to red wheaten. The adult Ridgeback weighs from 32 to 36.5 kg (70 to 80 lb) with an average height of about 66 cm (about 26 in) at the shoulder. 

The Rhodesian Ridgeback has both excellent eyesight and a good nose. Possessing many of the characteristics generally associated with hounds, the Ridgeback has a quiet, gentle temperament and rarely barks for no reason. While able to enjoy lazing around in a patch of sun or in front of a winter fireplace, a Ridgeback can be instantly alert if a stranger should appear or if he is in pursuit of legitimate prey. While he gives the impression of a big, lazy, slow-moving animal, the Ridgeback can be an imposing presence as a watchdog. Developed not only to hunt, but also as a family protector, his affectionate disposition makes him a good family dog.

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are intelligent, confident dogs that are loyal to their family, and have something of a mind of their own. They are brave, vigilant, reserved towards strangers, and possess considerable stamina. They learn quickly, but they are also strong-willed and a bit stubborn. Training should be gentle and start young while the dog is still small enough to manage. Because of his intelligence, an untrained Ridgeback can become a nuisance. Trained, he is an excellent companion, a sporting partner, a show dog or obedience competitor. Due to his innate ability to protect his family, a Ridgeback should not be trained as a guard dog. Rather, the natural protective qualities should be supplemented with an extremely consistent and sound approach to training.

Raising a dog to become a good family member requires energy, dedication and patience. There are no short cuts. It takes time to properly raise a puppy and mould a young dog into a pleasurable loyal companion.


When training your Rhodesian Ridgeback,

try to think like your dog: Be consistent in everything you do!

Rhodesian Ridgeback FCI-Standard N° 146 / 10.12.1996


Southern Africa.

Standard supplied by the Kennel Union of Southern Africa and the Zimbabwe Kennel Club. 


The Rhodesian Ridgeback is still used to hunt game in many parts of the world, but is especially prized as watch-dog and family pet.


Group 6 Scenthounds and related breeds.

Section 3 Related breeds.

Without working trial.


The Rhodesian Ridgeback is presently the only registered breed indigenous to southern Africa. Its forbears can be traced to the Cape Colony of Southern Africa, where they crossed with the early pioneer's dogs and the semi-domesticated, ridged Hottentot hunting dogs. Hunting mainly in groups of two or three, the original function of the Rhodesian Ridgeback or Lion dog was to track game, especially lion, and, with great agility, keep it at bay until the arrival of the hunter. The original standard, which was drafted by F.R.Barnes, in Bulawayo, Rhodesia, in 1922, was based on that of the Dalmatian and was approved by the South African Kennel Union in 1926.


The Rhodesian Ridgeback should represent a well balanced, strong, muscular, agile and active dog, symmetrical in outline, and capable of great endurance with a fair amount of speed. The emphasis is on agility, elegance and soundness with no tendency towards massiveness. The peculiarity of the breed is the ridge on the back, which is formed by the hair growing in the opposite direction to the rest of the coat. The ridge is the escutcheon of the breed. The ridge must be clearly defined, symmetrical and tapering towards the haunch. It must start immediately behind the shoulders and continue to the hip (haunches) bones. The ridge must contain only two crowns, identical and opposite each other. The lower edges of the crowns must not extend further down the ridge than one-third of its length. A good average width of the ridge is 5cm (2").


Dignified, intelligent, aloof with strangers, but showing no aggression or shyness.



Skull : 

Should be of a fair length (width of head between ears, distance from occiput to stop, stop to end of nose, should be equal), flat and broad between the ears; the head should be free from wrinkles when in repose.

Stop :

The stop should be reasonably well defined and not in one straight line from the nose to the occipital bone.


Nose : 

The nose should be black or brown. A black nose should be accompanied by dark eyes, a brown nose by amber eyes.

Muzzle :

The muzzle should be long, deep and powerful.

Lips :

The lips should be clean, closely fitting the jaws.

Jaws/Teeth :

Jaws strong, with a perfect and complete scissor bite, i.e. the upper teeth closely overlapping the lower teeth and set square to the jaws. The teeth must be well developed, especially the canines or holders.

Cheeks :

Cheeks should be clean.

Eyes :

Should be moderately well apart, round, bright and sparkling, with intelligent expression, their colour harmonising with the colour of the coat.

Ears :

Should be set rather high, of medium size, rather wide at base, and gradually tapering to a rounded point. They should be carried close to the head.

Neck :

Should be fairly long, strong and free from throatiness.


Back :



Strong, muscular and slightly arched.


Should not be too wide, but very deep and capacious; the brisket should reach to the elbow. Forechest should be visible when viewed from the side. Ribs moderately well sprung, never rounded like barrel-hoops.


Should be strong at the root and gradually tapering towards the end, free form coarseness. It should be of moderate length. It should not be attached too high nor too low, and should be carried with a slight curve upwards, never curled.



The forelegs should be perfectly straight, strong and well boned, with the elbows close to the body. When viewed from the side, the forelegs should be wider than viewed from the front.


The shoulders should be sloping, clean and muscular.


Should be strong with light spring.


In the hind legs the muscles should be clean and well defined.

Stifle :

Good turn of stifle.

Hock :

Strong, well let down.


The feet should be compact and round, with well arched toes and tough, elastic pads, protected by hair between the toes. and pads.


Straight forward, free and active.



Should be short and dense, sleek and glossy in appearance, but neither woolly nor silky.


Light wheaten to red wheaten. A little white on the chest and toes is permissible, but excessive white hairs here, on belly, or above toes is undesirable. A dark muzzle and ears permissible. Excessive black hairs throughout the coat are highly undesirable.


Height at withers : Dogs : 63-69 cm (25" -27").

Bitches : 61-66 cm (24" -26").

Weight : Dogs : 36,5 kg (80 lbs).

Bitches : 32 kg (70 lbs).


Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree.


Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.