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Home > Dogs > Dog Breeds > Rhodesian Ridgeback Dog Breed Guide: Info, Pictures, Care & More!

Rhodesian Ridgeback Dog Breed Guide: Info, Pictures, Care & More!

Rhodesian Ridgeback

If you want a dog that is affectionate but independent to complete your family, then look no further than the Rhodesian Ridgeback. These dogs are highly active and make the perfect hunting dog and family pet all in one, as long as you can handle their big personality and their need for stimulation to keep their mind sharp. Although they can be a bit strong-willed, Rhodesian Ridgebacks are incredibly loyal dogs that are protective and watchful over the entire family.

Breed Overview


24 – 27 inches


70 – 85 pounds


10 – 12 years


Dark brown, light brown, red, tan

Suitable for:

Large families, active families, outdoorsy families


Independent, affectionate, even-tempered, great with kids

So-named for their streak of backward-growing hair down their spine, they have their origins in the Rhodesia region of Africa, which is today a similar area to Zimbabwe. As you can imagine, they have quite the space to run around, play, and exercise in their home environment. They need the same from a potential owner. If you can provide them with the proper care and can handle their personality, continue reading to learn everything you need to know about the Rhodesian Ridgeback dog breed.

Rhodesian Ridgeback Characteristics

High-energy dogs will need a lot of mental and physical stimulation to stay happy and healthy, while low-energy dogs require minimal physical activity. It’s important when choosing a dog to make sure their energy levels match your lifestyle or vice versa.
Easy-to-train dogs are more skilled at learning prompts and actions quickly with minimal training. Dogs that are harder to train will require a bit more patience and practice.
Some dog breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, and some more than others. This doesn’t mean that every dog will have these issues, but they have an increased risk, so it’s important to understand and prepare for any additional needs they may require.
Some breeds, due to their size or their breeds potential genetic health issues, have shorter lifespans than others. Proper exercise, nutrition, and hygiene also play an important role in the lifespan of your pet.
Some dog breeds are more social than others, both towards humans and other dogs. More social dogs have a tendency to run up to strangers for pets and scratches, while less social dogs shy away and are more cautious, even potentially aggressive. No matter the breed, it’s important to socialize your dog and expose them to lots of different situations.

divider-dog Rhodesian Ridgeback Puppies

First things first, it’s worth noting that Rhodesian Ridgebacks are not small dogs or even medium-sized dogs. They are large dogs that can weigh up to 85 pounds. If you’ve ever seen a picture or seen one in person, then you’re aware of their size. But if you haven’t seen one, we’re mentioning their size to make sure that you have the space for them.

There are so many puppies that get purchased every year, only to be given up for adoption when it turns out that they got bigger than originally expected. We’re letting it be known upfront that Rhodesian Ridgebacks are not apartment dogs. They need space to be able to live and exercise comfortably, and yards to run around in are a necessity.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, Rhodesian Ridgebacks are truly a joy to have, especially if you can raise them from puppyhood. Their big personality can be a lot for inexperienced or first-time dog owners, but by raising a Rhodesian Ridgeback from the time he is a puppy, you can build a relationship and train the puppy to keep some of that personality in check.

Before getting a Rhodesian Ridgeback, you also need to decide whether you want a male or female. Even though they are both large dogs, the males get slightly bigger and can weigh up to 15 pounds more than the females. You’ll also need to decide what color dog you want. Although Rhodesian Ridgebacks are described as coming in only one coloring, wheaten, their exact color can range from tan to dark brown, and even red.

The best way to make sure that you get the exact color and gender you want is to purchase from a breeder. By doing so, you can also get a dog that is healthy and comes from a good bloodline. Anytime you buy from a breeder, you want to make sure that they are reputable and can provide references and health records also. Always visit the breeder in person to see the conditions that the puppies are living in prior to coming home with you.

Temperament & Intelligence of the Rhodesian Ridgeback

Based on what you’ve read so far, we’re sure you’ve gathered that Rhodesian Ridgebacks must have been a fearless companion to hunters and trackers. They had to be in order to hold their own against animals such as leopards and lions. This fearless attitude can still be seen today in the independent and strong-willed personality of the Rhodesian Ridgeback.

With that being said, these dogs are also highly affectionate and loyal to their owners. They make great watchdogs, protecting their family from potential danger the same way they protected hunters from leopards and baboons. They aren’t naturally aggressive in their protection though, they just have a very strong drive when it comes to keeping those that they love safe.

It’s due to their strong-willed personality that forming relationships from puppyhood is essential. Otherwise, they will use their independence to quickly take advantage. Rhodesian Ridgebacks need an owner with a kind but firm hand, who can train them in obedience and appropriate behaviors. Once they develop that trusting relationship with you, they will surely become one of the most loving and affectionate dogs you’ve ever had.

Are These Dogs Good for Families? 👪

Rhodesian Ridgebacks make great family dogs. They will quickly form bonds with everyone who spends time to bond with them, kids included. In fact, due to their need for lots of stimulation and playtime, they really thrive in a large family where there are lots of people for them to interact with.

Although Rhodesian Ridgebacks don’t have aggressive tendencies and make great dogs for watching over your kids, kids and dogs should never be left alone together especially if the dog and kids aren’t taught how to behave around each other.

The strong-willed personality of both Rhodesian Ridgebacks and kids can get out of hand when left alone together. If kids are younger, they may not know how to handle a dog by themselves. If you have older kids, get them involved in training and playing with the dog early on, that way they can help teach and model appropriate behaviors for both the dog and younger kids.

Does This Breed Get Along With Other Pets?

Rhodesian Ridgebacks generally get along well with other dogs, especially if they are around them from puppyhood. But, it is important to not force a relationship between your dogs. Give them time to warm up to each other and become comfortable. Proper socialization is important for making sure that dogs bond with each other instead of seeing each other as a threat.

Rhodesian Ridgebacks should be okay with cats as well, especially if they are raised around them. But remember that these dogs were bred to assist with hunting and tracking and may perceive anything smaller than they are as prey. Cats aren’t as much of a problem as smaller pets such as hamsters and guinea pigs are. But it’s always a good idea to watch your dog around other pets, especially when it comes to hunting dogs.

Rhodesian Ridgeback dog outdoors
Image By: Marry Kolesnik, Shutterstock

divider-multiprint Things to Know When Owning a Rhodesian Ridgeback:

The personality and temperament of a dog is not the only thing to consider when getting a dog. It’s also important to know how to physically take care of the dog to make sure he is happy and healthy. Here’s everything you need to know about caring for a Rhodesian Ridgeback.

Food & Diet Requirements 🦴

All dogs, purebred or not, can benefit from high-quality dog food that is high in meat-based proteins. Despite being large dogs, Rhodesian Ridgebacks are lean dogs that need food that is low in fat in order to keep them lean. It’s also important to consider that these dogs are tall enough to stand on their hind legs and get food off of a counter or high table. You’ll want to avoid leaving food unattended if you don’t want it to get eaten.

A healthy adult Rhodesian Ridgeback should be given 2½–3 cups of food per day. This amount of food should be broken up into two feedings. Since they love to counter surf, it helps if you feed them at the same time that you’re eating. This can discourage them from stealing your food or trying to get food off of the counter.

For younger or senior dogs, the amount and type of food that you feed them may be different. Younger and senior dogs have different metabolisms than adult dogs. It’s important that you don’t overfeed your dog which can cause obesity. This is especially true for older dogs that tend to put on weight as their metabolism slows down.

Rhodesian Ridgeback
Image Credit: Osetrik, Shutterstock

Exercise 🐕

Rhodesian Ridgebacks aren’t the most energetic dogs, but they do benefit from exercise and playtime in order to keep their mind sharp. Exercise can also keep your dog from getting bored and decrease his chances of becoming overweight.

Even though they are considered to be a larger dog breed, which generally needs a couple of hours of exercise each day, Rhodesian Ridgebacks only need about 30 minutes to an hour. You can give them exercise by taking them for a walk, playing with them, or going on hikes.

Rhodesian Ridgebacks love to be outdoors, so they don’t really care what type of exercise they get as long as they can be outdoors. But since they will chase after small animals, it is very important to keep them on a leash when outdoors and have a fenced-in backyard if you leave them outside at home. Taking these measures will help to keep them safe.

Training 🎾

Starting to train a Rhodesian Ridgeback when he is a puppy is crucial for getting his strong-willed and independent personality under control. They aren’t hard to train if you’re experienced with training dogs, but they do benefit from consistent training methods in addition to a firm but gentle approach when training.

New dog owners may struggle with training a Rhodesian Ridgeback because of their personality. If they don’t want to do something, they won’t do it. It may be better to reach out to a professional dog trainer for advice or even help with training your dog.

Rhodesian Ridgeback on grassy hill
Image Credit: Terje_Ansgar_Eriksen, Pixabay

Grooming ✂️

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are not hypoallergenic. They do have a smooth, short coat that doesn’t shed a lot, but they will shed some hair during the warmer months and even throughout the year. If you don’t want hair all over your furniture, it’s a good idea to run a wire brush through their coat once a week to remove any loose hair.

Bathing doesn’t have to be done too frequently. Once every 4 to 6 weeks can help keep the coat looking shiny. If your dog spends a lot of time outside, he may get dirty more frequently. Of course, you can give him a bath if he gets muddy or dirty.

Other grooming aspects to take into consideration are regular nail trimmings and teeth brushing. Keeping your dog’s nails trimmed on a regular basis can help keep them healthy and prevent you from getting scratched. Brushing your dog’s teeth occasionally, starting from puppyhood, can help keep his teeth healthy and prevent dental diseases as your dog ages.

Health and Conditions 🏥

Rhodesian Ridgebacks have a normal lifespan for their size. They generally live about 10 to 12 years at their healthiest. There are a few health conditions they are susceptible to, which can cause them to live a shorter or less than happy life if the conditions are left untreated.

One condition that is common in Rhodesian Ridgebacks is dermoid sinus. It is a genetic condition that can be identified early on in a puppy’s life. It is characterized by an opening in the middle of the back and hair that protrudes. A tube may also be felt underneath. A dermoid sinus can drain fluid and can become infected, which can be deadly if untreated. A veterinarian can usually perform surgery to treat this condition.

Hip and elbow dysplasia are hereditary conditions that purebred dogs are more susceptible to, especially larger dogs such as the Rhodesian Ridgeback. Although they don’t shorten your dog’s life expectancy, they can cause discomfort and obesity due to your dog being unable to exercise for long periods of time.

Eye conditions, such as glaucoma and cataracts, are less serious conditions that don’t usually cause major problems. They mostly affect older dogs and can cause a loss of vision, but won’t shorten your dog’s overall lifespan.

Minor Conditions
  • Cataracts
  • Glaucoma
Serious Conditions
  • Dermoid sinus
  • Elbow dysplasia
  • Hip dysplasia

divider-paw Male vs Female

There is very little difference between male and female Rhodesian Ridgebacks other than their size. As previously mentioned, males can be a few inches bigger and tend to weigh up to 15 pounds more than females. There are very few differences in personality, although females are generally easier to train due to mentally maturing faster than males.

No matter which sex you get, it’s important to spay or neuter your dog. This can help prevent unwanted puppies, especially if you have other dogs. Spaying and neutering can also prevent undesirable behaviors that your dog may exhibit.

3 Little-Known Facts About the Rhodesian Ridgeback

1. They Get Their Ridge From the Khoikhoi

The Khoikhoi (also known as Africanis) is a dog breed native to Africa that has a characteristic ridge of hair on its back. Rhodesian Ridgebacks are a cross between a Khoikhoi and the Greyhounds and Terriers brought to Africa by Dutch colonists.

2. They Were Previously Known as African Lion Hounds

Rhodesian Ridgebacks participated in big-game hunts and were successful at confronting lions, which gave the hunters time to sight their rifles. They were also able to fend off leopards, baboons, and other animals that were potentially harmful to hunters.

3. They Were Almost Extinct in the 1920s

Due to the decline of big-game hunting in South Africa, there was no longer a large demand for these dogs. They almost went extinct, but a meeting to develop the breed standard helped to save the breed by using a template of the Dalmatian to develop the standardized Rhodesian Ridgeback of today.

Rhodesian Ridgeback dog on grass
Image Credit: imch, Pixabay

divider-dog Final Thoughts

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are a truly unique and highly personable dog breed to have as a pet, especially if you like to spend time outdoors. Although these dogs have big personalities, they can be kept in check with proper training from puppyhood. When adding one of these dogs to your family, you’ll have a companion that will protect you and your kids while being affectionate and loyal as well.

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Featured Image Credit: weist_schon_wer, Pixabay

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