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Information on the Rhodesian Ridgeback / African Lion Hound Dog Breed

Updated on February 8, 2012


The African Lion Hound, as the Rhodesian Ridgeback is also called, is a dog breed that was developed in South Africa in the late 1800s. Various European dog breeds, including Mastiffs, scent hounds like the Bloodhound, sight hounds like the Greyhound, and terriers, were brought by European settlers and bred with the native Hottentot tribal hunting dogs. The native Hottentot dogs had a distinctive ridge of hair on their back which grew backwards. This ridge also developed in the mixed breeds and became a distinctive and required characteristic of the Rhodesian Ridgeback today.

The Distinctive Ridge of the Rhodesian Ridgeback

Note how the ridge of the Rhodesian Ridgeback runs from shoulders to hips.
Note how the ridge of the Rhodesian Ridgeback runs from shoulders to hips.

The Rhodesian Ridgeback dog breed is also called an African Lion Hound because of his original use to hunt lions. Generally in packs of three, these dogs would track lions or other game while the hunter followed on horseback. When lions were found, the Rhodesian Ridgeback pack would harass and distract the lions so the hunter could shoot. The Rhodesian Ridgeback did not actually attack the lions. Their job was only to hunt and distract.

The Rhodesian Ridgeback was preferred by Europeans as hunting dogs in Africa for a variety of reasons. Because of its heritage with scent and sight hounds, this dog breed was good at tracking prey. Because of his Mastiff heritage, he was large and sturdy enough to make a Lion wary. The terrier background of the Rhodesian Ridgeback dog breed made him brave and the Hottentot ancestry made him hardy against the hot African days and cool nights.


The Rhodesian Ridgeback was soon brought to England and shown in the 1930s. The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognized them in 1955 and categorized them in the hound group. The AKC standards for the Rhodesian Ridgeback dog breed is that he should stand between 24 and 27 inches tall and weigh between 70 and 85 pounds. His coat is smooth, short, and dense with a distinctive ridge of hair on his back that grows in the opposite direction of the other hair. This ridge should run from the shoulders to the hips. This dog breed is light-wheaten to red-wheaten in color. He can have a black, brown, or liver-colored nose. His head is moderately long with a broad flat skull. His folding ears are medium-sized and high set. The Rhodesian Ridgeback has round eyes of which the color harmonizes with his coat color. He has a strong and powerful neck and muscular shoulders.

Grooming & Exercise Requirements

Because the hair of the Rhodesian Ridgeback is so dense, he does not shed as much as a Labrador. He only needs an occasional brushing. Because this dog breed was bred to travel long distances for long hours, the family dog version still requires daily jogs or long walks. A Rhodesian Ridgeback who does not get enough exercise can be destructive.

Rhodesian Ridgeback Dog Breed Figurine.
Rhodesian Ridgeback Dog Breed Figurine. | Source


While originally bred for hunting and guarding, the Rhodesian Ridgeback makes a great family dog. He is extremely loyal to his family. But because his instinct to guard is still strong, he may not like outsiders. He can be good with other pets, but may be aggressive with strange dogs. This dog breed is good with children, although his robust energy may be a bit overwhelming for younger children.

Although the Rhodesian Ridgeback is totally loyal and affectionate with family, he can be a bit domineering. He does well with strong but positive leadership practiced by the family members. Positive reinforced training is best since harsh training may make him more headstrong.

Video Documentary of the Rhodesian Ridgeback

Health Concerns

The Rhodesian Ridgeback dog breed has relatively few genetic health issues. As with all large breed dogs, hip and elbow dysplasia are a possibility. If you are considering purchasing a Rhodesian Ridgeback dog breed, be sure to purchase from reputable breeders who can show OFA certification for hip dysplasia on both the mother and father of the pups. Dermoid Sinus is a genetic disorder most often found in this dog breed. A reputable breeder should have their puppies checked for this skin disorder. While oftentimes relatively harmless, severe cases can be life-threatening and could require expensive surgery.

The Rhodesian Ridgeback dog breed will make a great dog for active families. He is loyal and can be playful and affectionate. If you are considering having a Rhodesian Ridgeback in your family, consider getting one from a Rhodesian Ridgeback dog breed rescue group. If you prefer a purebred puppy, be sure to research breeders thoroughly. Any breeder can have dogs registered with the AKC but serious breeders are most likely also members of the Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of the United States, Inc.


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    • profile image

      John 2 years ago

      My first dog was a Ridgeback . We had her for a Great 17 yrs. . Still miss her . She was wonderful - healthy - loyal - and a true family member that we never forget .

    • seigfried23 profile image

      seigfried23 4 years ago

      I wonder...are Ridgebacks good house dogs, or do their lion-hunting ways make them too full of energy to be much use in a backyard all day?

    • Teresa Coppens profile image

      Teresa Coppens 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Lovely looking dogs. This is an extremely informative hub perfect for someone looking to adopt this type of dog. Voted up!

    • Nature by Dawn profile image

      Dawn Ross 5 years ago

      Thanks! From mutt to pedigree in a relatively short period of time. I bet that is one reason the Rhodesian Ridgeback has so few health issues.

    • Cardozo7 profile image

      Cardozo7 5 years ago from Portugal

      What a great dog. They combine characteristics from many different breeds which makes them amazing. Nice hub :)