Ridgeback History

The Rhodesian Ridgeback owes his heritage to the Dutch Boers who began settling in colonial Southern Africa. A number of different breeds contributed to the gene pool of the Rhodesian Ridgeback. Among these were the Bloodhound, Greyhound, various Mastiff types, Airdale & Africa’s Hottentot Dog & others, all played a part.


By the 1900s, a type had been successfully set, part by accident, part by design, & entirely, out of need. The European settlers needed a multi-purpose dog, a truly fearless hunting hound, on the African veldt, a watch dog on the farm, and a gentle companion in the home…but he is most famous for being used to hunt lions. He accomplished this, through his ability to locate and hold the lion at bay, so the hunter could get close enough to get in a shot. This required amazing courage, agility, tenacity & endurance. He comes in different shades of wheaten, meant to blend in with the surrounding grass & bush of the veldt. Excessive white markings are undesirable. His coat is short & sleek, so as to not become entangled & to allow for easy maintenance & and parasite removal. He is neither too big to be clumsy, nor too small to render him ineffective in hunting large game. He is a swift runner, able to run at thirty miles an hour!

With all of his athletic ability & functional purpose the Rhodesian Ridgeback is also beautiful to look at – graceful, regal, & fearless, in appearance. The hallmark of this breed is the ridge of hair which runs backwards, along his spine; a cowlick that has two whorls (crowns), opposite each other in the upper third of this ridge.

©The Definitive Rhodesian Ridgeback -photo from Hutchingnston´s Dog Encyklopedia 1935 VERNON BRISLEY -"VIKING KENNEL" and FIVE OF HIS DOGS )
©The Definitive Rhodesian Ridgeback -photo from Hutchingnston´s Dog Encyklopedia 1935

By 1924, the South African Kennel Union registered the first Rhodesian Ridgeback. The American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1955. The standard calls for a dog that stands between 25 & 27 inches at the withers & will weigh about 85 lbs. Males are usually somewhat larger than females. Females should be 24″ to 26″ at their withers and weigh about 70 lbs.

The Rhodesian Ridgeback is becoming a very popular pet although he is not a good choice for everyone. Please consider this breed carefully before you take the plunge into ownership. If you are sure that this beautiful, intelligent (but not always obedient) hound is the right choice for you, we welcome you to our breed! Please take more time to learn all you can about the breed.

(by Barbara Sawyer Brown)