Rhodesian Ridgeback Information


Developed as a hunter and family protector, the Rhodesian Ridgeback is a large breed native to South Africa that is well-known for its athletic, hard-working, and good-natured demeanor. Successfully making the leap from African hunter to American housemate, the Rhodesian Ridgeback is currently ranked as the 41st most popular registered dog breed by the American Kennel Club. If you are considering welcoming a Rhodesian Ridgeback into your household, read on to find a full breed description on this “gentle, yet mighty giant” to determine whether it is the perfect companion for your family.

Rhodesian Ridgeback
Basic Info
NameRhodesian Ridgeback
Other Name African Lion Boy, African Lion Girl
Origin Rhodesia & Southern Rhodesia (Now Zimbabwe)
Size Type Large Dog Breeds
Breed Group Hound Dog Breeds
Life Span 10 - 12 years
TemperamentLoyal, Mischievous, Strong Willed, Dignified, Sensitive, Intelligent
Height24 to 27 inches at the shoulder
Weight75 to 80 pounds
Colors Light Wheaten, Red Wheaten, Wheaten
Puppy Price Average $900 - $1200 USD

Rhodesian Ridgeback

Physical description

Body Type

As a large and muscular hound, the Rhodesian Ridgeback has a broad head that is flat between the ears and a long deep muzzle with a well-defined stop. Depending on the coat of the dog, the nose may be black, brown, or liver and the breed may sometimes exhibit a black tongue. While the rounded eyes are usually brown, the medium-sized ears are set high on the head with a wide base tapering to a point. The broad chest is deep and the front legs are straight with strength. Fairly long in length, the tail is thicker at the base, tapers to a point, and then curves slightly upwards. Male Rhodesian Ridgebacks are typically between 25 to 27 inches at the shoulder height with a weight ranging from 80 to 90 pounds, but females are slightly smaller between 24 to 26 inches and weighing around 65 to 75 pounds.


Rhodesian Ridgebacks typically have a coat coloring that ranges from light wheaten to various shades of red or sable. According to the breed standard, white is acceptable for markings on the chest and toes, but the amount of black or dark brown in the coat should not be excessive.


Perhaps the most distinguishing feature of the breed, Rhodesian Ridgebacks have a short-haired dense coat that consists of a clearly defined symmetrical ridge of short hairs that grows in the opposite direction right down the center of the back. Usually about two inches in width at its widest point, the ridge has a fan-like area that is formed by two noticeable whorls of hair called crowns and tapers immediately behind the shoulders.

Good with Kids
Cat Friendly
Dog Friendly
Hypoallergenic  No


Due to their short coats, Rhodesian Ridgebacks shed very little and have relatively minimal grooming requirements that are not time consuming. It is recommended that owners brush the dogs with a firm bristle brush on a weekly basis to remove dead hairs and keep the skin in good condition. Occasionally, owners should bathe the breed with both shampoo and conditioner when needed. Veterinarians often suggest grooming at four to six week intervals to ensure the ears are cleaned, nails are clipped, eyes are bright, and paws are not cracked. Since the Rhodesian Ridgeback was bred to hunt lions and love roaming the outdoors, the dogs are more prone to minor scratches and wounds that will need to be treated.


Also known as the African Lion Hound and Van Rooyen’s Lion Dog for its ability to keep a lion at bay on the hunt while waiting for its master to kill, the Rhodesian Ridgeback was developed in the nation of Zimbabwe in southern Africa. It is believed that its European forebears are traced to the early pioneers who settled in the Cape Colony and crossed their dogs with the semi-domesticated ridged hunting dogs belonging to the Khoikhoi people during the mid-17th century. Soon afterwards, the Europeans brought a variety of dog breeds to the Dutch settlement, including Great Danes, Greyhounds, Bloodhounds, and Terriers, and bred them with the indigenous African dogs to create the forerunners to the breed known as Boer hunting dogs.

However, in the 1870s, Reverend Charles Helm travelled to the Hope Foundation Mission within the southern region of Rhodesia and brought two ridged dogs along. While there, big game hunter Cornelius van Rooyen met the dogs and created what is considered the modern-day Rhodesian Ridgeback. In addition to the ability to bay lions, the dogs had the prized abilities of hunting wild pigs and killing baboons independent of human hunters. It was not until 1950 that six carefully selected Ridgebacks were brought to the United States by William H. O’Brien and began the process of getting the breed accepted. In 1955, the Rhodesian Ridgeback was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club as a new member of the Hound Group.


Although the fine hunter is known for being ferocious in the hunt, the Rhodesian Ridgeback is often described as calm, gentle, obedient, good-mannered, loyal, intelligent, straight-forward, vigilant, and loving in the home. While the dogs are overall good natured, some may not do well with small children because they can play too roughly or knock them down. Ridgebacks tend to be intelligent and learn rather quickly, but they may become stubborn and willful if they are stronger-minded than humans. Therefore, this breed is highly recommended for assertive and consistent leaders who have the time and/or commitment to training these dogs.

Since the dogs possess considerable stamina and endurance, it is likely that owners will get tired long before they do. The dogs need to get plenty of mental and physical exercise to avoid becoming high strung, willful, or unmanageable. Rhodesian Ridgebacks need to be taken on daily long brisk walks or jogs along with plenty of opportunity to run freely off leash in a safe open area. While the breed can be suitable for apartment living if given extra exercise, the Rhodesian Ridgeback is relatively inactive indoors and will thrive best with at least a large fenced-in yard.

Interesting Rhodesian Ridgeback Facts

  • Considered among the world’s hungriest dogs, Rhodesian Ridgebacks have no off-switch when it comes to food and would happily eat endlessly. In an effort to avoid obesity, owners need to be cautious about a consistent feeding schedule.


  • Although normally a very healthy breed, the Rhodesian Ridgeback is the sixth most affected breed for thyroid problems according to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals and is prone to the congenital neural-tube defect of dermoid sinus.
  • Despite their innate urge to chase or bay lions, Rhodesian Ridgebacks surprisingly have a fond adoration for cats and other non-canine animals when raised alongside them as loyal friends.