Ridgebacks: Lion Hunting Hounds of South Africa

A brave and formidable dog of Africa, the Rhodesian Ridgeback was originally bred to hunt lions; it is also known as the African Lion Hound. Boer farmers bred Ridgebacks during the 16th and 17th centuries to fill a need for a strong hunting dog for the wilds of South Africa. These skillful, courageous dogs were also used to guard family and property. In 1877, Ridgebacks were introduced into Rhodesia and were used by big game hunters to hunt lion, particularly using packs of dogs to accomplish the feat. The breed standard is said to have originated in that country around 1922.

The ridge of hairs across the back of these dogs is the trademark of the breed. They are also known for withstanding extreme temperature fluctuations.

Ridgebacks possess a broad head, long muzzle, and long, straight legs. They also have medium-sized, high-set ears that drop down and taper to a point. The fairly long tail tapers to a point but also curves upward slightly. Ridgebacks have a deep chest and a short, sleek coat. Color of the coat is usually light wheaten but can also be a red wheaten. A bit of white on the chest and toes is common. These dogs shed little and require brushing only about once a week; bathing is done occasionally; therefore, grooming is fairly easy.

RidgebackRidgebacks are large, muscular dogs. In addition to lion hunting, the breed is noted as a family protector. Although fearless in the hunt, they are calm in the home. Considered good-natured and dignified in temperament, these intelligent dogs are extremely devoted to their owners and are vigilant and wary of strangers.

Because of their athleticism and stamina, Ridgebacks require regular, vigorous exercise. Although they can be fine in apartments since they love to curl on the couch with their people, an owner must be diligent to provide that needed physical exercise, such as running, jogging or hiking, to keep a Ridgeback stimulated. These dogs can be destructive if not given the proper physical exercise to expend their energy.

Ridgebacks first came to America in 1950. The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognized the breed in 1955. It is classified as part of the organization’s Hound Group.

Ridgebacks stand 24 to 27 inches (61 to 69 cm) tall at the shoulder and weigh 70 to 85 pounds (32 to 39 kg). A generally healthy breed, Ridgebacks can exhibit hip dysplasia, and some are prone to sinus problems. Ridgebacks usually live 10 to 12 years.

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