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Lion Dog Breed Description

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Breed Organization

Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of the United States

Native Country
South Africa

Other Names
Rhodesian Ridgeback, African Lion Hound

Life Expectancy
Approximately Approximately 10-12 Years

Litter Size
7-8 Puppies

Breed Group
AKC Hounds

General Description

The Ridgeback represents a strong, muscular and active hound, symmetrical and balanced in outline. A mature Ridgeback is a handsome, upstanding and athletic dog, capable of great endurance with a fair (good) amount of speed. Of even, dignified temperament, the Ridgeback is devoted and affectionate to his master, reserved with strangers. The peculiarity of this breed is the ridge on the back. The ridge must be regarded as the characteristic feature of the breed. Ridgebacks sometimes have a dark mask.

Male ridgebacks usually stand 25–27 inches at the withers and weigh about 88 lb (FCI standard); females are typically 24–26 inches tall and about 71 lb in weight. Ridgebacks are typically very muscular and have a light wheaten to red wheaten coat, which should be short, dense, sleek and glossy in appearance, and neither woolly nor silky.

The Rhodesian ridgeback is the mascot and the Ontario Tech Ridgebacks are the intercollegiate athletic teams of Ontario Tech University in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada.

Breed Standard

Head: Of good length. Flat, fairly broad skull. Pronounced stop. Long, powerful muzzle. Strong jaws. Well-joined lips. Nose black or brown, depending on coat color.
Ears: Set on fairly high, medium in size with rounded tips, carried close to the head.
Eyes: Round, matching coat color.
Body: Powerful. Strong neck without dewlap. Chest not too broad, well let-down, and ample. Moderately well-sprung ribs. Strong, muscular loin. Crest on the back, running from behind the shoulders to the hips, formed by hair growing in the opposite direction from the rest of the coat. Powerful back.
Tail: Thick at the base, tapering toward the tip. Carried in a loose upward curve.
Hair: Short, dense, smooth, neither wooly nor silky.
Coat: Pale wheaten to reddish-fawn. Head, trunk, legs, and tail must be the same color. Minimal white markings on the chest and toes is allowed.
Size: Dog: 63.5 to 68.5 cm. (25-27 in). Bitch: 61 to 66 cm. (24-26 in).
Weight: Approx. 35 kg (77 lb).


This South African dog was named for the ridge of hairs on his back. He is thought to be descended from a dog once used by the Hottentots and crossed with dogs imported by the first colonists from Europe in the seventeenth century, particularly mastiffs and the Bloodhound. The Rhodesian Ridgeback was developed by the Boers, and the standard for the breed was set in 1922 in the former Rhodesia. He is highly prized in the United States and Canada, where he hunts bear. The breed is very rare in France, where a Rhodesian Ridgeback club was founded in 1989.

The original breed standard was drafted in 1922 by F. R. Barnes on founding the first Ridgeback Club at a Bulawayo Kennel Club show, then in Southern Rhodesia (now in Zimbabwe), and based on that of the Dalmatian. In 1927, Barnes' standard was approved by the South African Kennel Union. Outside the subcontinent and internationally, the first Rhodesian Ridgebacks in Britain were shown by Mrs. Edward Foljambe in 1928. In 1950, Mr. and Mrs. William H. O'Brien of Arizona brought six carefully selected Ridgebacks to the US from South Africa. He and his wife and Margaret Lowthian of California began the process of getting the breed accepted by the American Kennel Club. Similarly, in 1952, The Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of Great Britain was founded at Crufts to promote the breed around the United Kingdom to show judges, so a standard for the breed might be recognised. In 1954 the first Challenge Certificates were awarded to dogs shown as Rhodesian Ridgebacks at United Kingdom competitions, toward their subsequent recognition by The Kennel Club of Great Britain, and in 1955 the American Kennel Club recognised the Rhodesian Ridgeback breed as a member of the hound group.


Hardy, solid, very fast, and courageous, this dog with great endurance and a keen nose hunts wild beasts (such as lion). Working in a pack, he can bring down large cats. He makes a reliable dissuasive watchdog. He is aggressive toward other dogs. He is calm, barks rarely, and can be an affectionate pet. He needs rigorous training.

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are known to be loyal and intelligent. They are typically somewhat aloof to strangers; this is not to be confused with aggression, a Rhodesian Ridgeback with a good temperament will not attack a stranger for no reason. They require consistent training and correct socialization; they are often not the best choice for inexperienced dog owners. The Rhodesian Ridgeback accepts correction as long as it is fair and justified, and as long as it comes from someone the dog knows and trusts.


Hunting dog, watchdog, police dog, companion dog.


Known Issues:
  • Dermoid sinus
  • Dermoid sinus is a congenital neural-tube defect that is known to affect this breed. The dermoid is often likened to a thin "spaghetti strand" beneath the skin. Puppies should always be screened at birth by the breeder and veterinarian, and the examination repeated as the puppies grow before they go to their new homes. This is done by palpation of the subcutaneous dorsal midline from the base of the skull to the insertion of the tail. Surgical removal is an option for affected neonates, puppies and adult dogs. All affected dogs, even those surgically corrected, should be spayed or neutered and never be bred, since surgical dermoid sinus removal can be extremely cost prohibitive, and because many unremoved dermoid sinuses will eventually abscess. Abscessed dermoid sinuses will be at best a recurrent, painful problem, and if the sinus communicates with the tissues around the spinal cord, cause meningitis and often death. However, it has been shown that supplementation of folic acid to the diet of the brood bitch before mating and during pregnancy reduces the incidence of dermoid sinus. One study on the Swedish population estimates that 8-10% are affected. Slightly less than 5% of ridgebacks were reported to be affected with the condition in a US breed club survey.

  • Degenerative myelopathy
  • Degenerative myelopathy (DM) is a neurological disease of the spinal cord causing progressive paraparesis, most commonly in the German shepherd dog breed. It affects Rhodesian Ridgebacks at a rate of only 0.75%. Signs of degenerative myelopathy are characterised at the beginning with foot dragging, and slipping of the rear limbs. The disease progresses to the point where the animal can no longer stand or walk on its own. Progression has been known to take as little as six months, or several years. There is a DNA test available to test for the gene. Animals who are at risk for the disease should not be bred to other animals at risk, as this creates future generations of this debilitating disease.

  • Hypothyroid
  • Hypothyroidism is a growing problem in the Rhodesian Ridgeback, and this condition causes a multitude of symptoms, including weight gain and hair loss. Treatment for hypothyroidism in dogs consists of an inexpensive once-daily oral medication. Dr. Lorna Kennedy at the University of Manchester's Centre for Integrated Genomic Medical Research in England has found the haplotype (group of genes), which, when present, double the chances of a Ridgeback becoming hypothyroid due to lymphocytic thyroiditis. This is important to the breed because lymphocytic thyroiditis is the overwhelming cause of hypothyroidism in ridgebacks.

  • Gastric dilatation volvulus
  • Like many other deep-chested breeds, ridgebacks are prone to gastric dilatation volvulus, commonly known as bloat. This is a potentially fatal condition that requires immediate treatment.

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