Rhodesian Ridgeback

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Rhodesian Ridgeback


rhodesian-ridgebackRecommended for:  Families with older children

Maintenance Level:  Medium – high

Lifespan:  10-12 years

Temperament:  Gentle, obedient

Health Risk:  This breed has a higher than average probability of developing health issues during its lifetime, hence the cost to insure is above average.



The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a large breed of dog with roots in Southern Africa in the middle of the 17th century. It is known for the strip of hair growing in the opposite direction on its back, giving it the name “Ridgeback”.

Rhodesian Ridgeback dogs are tall and muscular, with a broad, flat head and triangular ears. They have deep chests, a black or brown nose, and occasionally a black tongue. Their front legs are muscular and straight, and they have quite a long tail which tapers to a point and curves slightly. The Rhodesian Ridgeback dog has a short, dense coat which is usually light wheaten to red in colour. It is an average shedder and its smooth, short coat is very easy to groom; the dog only needs a bath when necessary.

Banner-BreedSelectorA healthy male Rhodesian Ridgeback stands at 64 – 69 cm tall and weighs around 39 kg. Females weigh about 32 kg and normally stand between 61 and 66 cm tall. Their lifespan is about 10 – 12 years.



It is believed that the modern Rhodesian Ridgeback dog breed came out of breeding a Cape Peninsula hunting dog with Great Danes, Bloodhounds, Greyhounds and terriers in the 19th century. The resulting dog was the Boer hunting dog, which was in turn the foundation of the modern Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy.

In the 1870s, a hunter named Cornelius van Rooyen saw these dogs and decided to breed his own in order to combine their guarding abilities. The result was a lion hunting dog breed, which was used to hold lions, wild pigs and baboons while the hunter kills it.

Rhodesian Ridgebacks were first shown in the UK in 1928 and brought to the USA in 1950. It was officially recognised by the American Kennel Club in 1955.

Rhodesian Ridgeback Puppies


Rhodesian Ridgebacks dogs are known for being ferocious hunters but also calm, gentle and loving at home. Their temperament is smart, obedient, brave and alert, but do not mix well with children as they often play rough and can knock them down. To prevent the dog from being too reserved, it should be socialised and trained from a young age. If the Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy meets other pets while it is still young, it is unlikely that there will be temperament issues with other animals in the future.

If their needs are satisfied, Rhodesian Ridgeback dogs can make great companions. However, they are not recommended for people who do not have enough time or are not willing to put in the effort with their dog. An inactive Rhodesian Ridgeback dog can become destructive or develop behavioural problems, so regular and extensive physical activity and mental stimulation are needed to keep it occupied.

Due to their history as hunting dogs, the watchful temperament of the Rhodesian Ridgeback makes them great watchdogs, but as they can be overprotective of their owners, they are not recommended as guard dogs.

Rhodesian Ridgeback


  • Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia occurs when the thigh bone and the hip joint do not fit together properly. This can cause pain or lameness in the dog and possibly arthritis later in life. Many dogs live relatively normal lives with the condition.

  • Elbow Dysplasia

Elbow dysplasia is common in large dog breeds and is believed to be caused by varying growth rates in the dog’s elbow. This leads to joint laxity, pain, and lameness. Surgery is available, but medication and weight loss may be prescribed by a vet to help control the pain.

  • Dermoid Sinus

Dermoid Sinus is a skin condition in which a tube-shaped, cyst-like growth appears in the spinal area. It can protrude from the skin and possibly enter into the muscle tissue. If it becomes infected, the condition can become more serious. Some affected dogs have corrective surgery while some are euthanized.

  • Degenerative Myelopathy

Degenerative myelopathy mainly affects German Shepherds but around 0.75% of Rhodesian Ridgebacks may be affected by this neurological disease which can cause parapesis. Signs include dragging the feet, slipping rear limbs, and eventually losing the ability to walk or stand by itself. There is a DNA test available to test for the gene, though affected dogs should not be bred.

  • Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus

Also known as bloat, gastric dilatation-volvulus is a deadly condition affecting large dogs such as the Rhodesian Ridgeback. Risk is increased if the dog is fed one large meal a day, eats quickly, drinks large amounts of water or exercises after eating. The stomach twists, making the dog unable to belch or vomit to get rid of excess air, and as a result the blood supply to the heart is impaired. Unless immediately attended to, the dog may die. Symptoms of bloat include a distended belly, excessive drooling, dry having, restlessness, exhaustion, weakness and a quick heart rate.

  • Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism, in which the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone, is a growing issue among Rhodesian Ridgebacks. Symptoms include weight gain and hair loss. Epilepsy can also be caused by hypothyroidism. Affected dogs can take daily oral medication to combat the condition.

  • Mast Cell Tumours

Mast cell tumours make up about 20% of tumours in dogs. They are characterised by small, allergy-like lumps which the dog may scratch at or bite. If the tumour is caught and treated early, the prognosis is generally very good.

Rhodesian Ridgeback Puppy


  • Despite their name, many purebred Rhodesian Ridgebacks don’t have the trademark ridge of fur on their back.
  • The Rhodesian Ridgeback is the 39st most popular American Kennel Club breed, up from 53rd 10 years ago. That makes them more popular than Border Collies!
  • Past & present Rhodesian Ridgeback owners have included Grace Kelly & Prince Rainier, Anthony Kiedis from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Isaiah Mustafa (a.k.a. the “Old Spice guy”), Patrick Swayze and Errol Flynn.
  • Ridgebacks rarely bark, so when they do, it’s a great indication that something is up.
  • Rhodesian Ridgebacks are frequently referred to as the “world’s hungriest dog”.
  • As they are hunting dogs, Rhodesian Ridgebacks should be kept behind high fences, as they can be prone to car chasing.



Rhodesian Ridgeback Club NSW: http://www.therhodesianridgebackclubinc.com/

Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of Victoria: http://oz.dogs.net.au/rrcv/

Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of Queensland: http://www.rrcq.org/

Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of WA: http://rrcwa.com.au/

Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of SA: http://www.rrclubsa.com/

Rhodesian Ridgeback Pet Insurance Quote

Getting pet insurance for your Rhodesian Ridgeback will help ensure you can always afford the best vet care for them. Bow Wow Meow offers a range of flexible pet insurance options including cover for accidental injury, illness and routine care.

Wondering how much it would cost to insure your Rhodesian Ridgeback if you got one? It’s quick and easy to get a pet insurance quote.
(Note: dogs must be over 8 weeks old to take out insurance, so please enter a birth date to reflect this when getting an indicative quote.)

November 23, 2017
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