Skip to main content

The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a large, muscular hunting dog. Originally bred by European Boers for lion-hunting, protection, and companionship, it is also known as the African Lion Hound.

Physical Characteristics

The Rhodesian Ridgeback dog's distinctive feature is its well-defined ridge, which begins at the shoulders, with two identical whorls and tapers to a protrusion of the hipbones.

The Ridgeback has a slightly long body and combines attributes of endurance, speed, and power. Its athletic build and long, efficient strides enables it to control injured game easily. The dog's short and shiny wheaten coat, meanwhile, helps the dog adapt to hot climates.

Personality and Temperament

Although reserved with strangers, the Ridgeback mixes well with other dogs and is friendly with cats it has grown up with.

Among hounds, this breed is revered for its versatility as a faithful guardian and keen hunter. The dog is extremely protective of its human family and gentle with kids; however, it may be too unrestrained for small children. Be aware that some male Ridgebacks are known to be too domineering and strong-willed, even fighting other dogs into submission.


As a house pet, it is a wonderful family member. The Ridgeback prefers to sleep indoors, spending its days both out in the yard and indoors. The Ridgeback is a good hiking and jogging companion. Fond of running, the Ridgeback needs physical and mental exercise daily, to prevent boredom setting in. Coat care for the dog is minimal, requiring occasional brushing to get rid of dead hair.


The Rhodesian Ridgeback dog, which has an average lifespan of 10 to 12 years, does not suffer from any serious health conditions. However, it may be prone to minor issues such as elbow dysplasia, canine hip dysplasia (CHD), and hypothyroidism. Deafness and dermoid sinus are also occasionally seen in the breed. To identify some of these issues, a veterinarian may recommend hip, thyroid, elbow, and dermoid sinus tests for the dog.

History and Background

Noted as a popular hound today for its qualities of hunting, protecting, and companionship, the Rhodesian Ridgeback dates back to the 16th and 17th centuries, when European Boers came to South Africa. Along with them, they brought breeds such as the Great Dane, Mastiff, Staghound, Bloodhound, Pointer, Greyhound, and others. The settlers required a dog that could tolerate extreme temperatures, a limited supply of water, and even withstand rough bushes, while functioning as a hunting and guard dog.

They eventually crossed Hottentot tribal and native hunting breeds with European breeds in order to produce a desirable dog. This new breed hunted by using scent and sight and was also a loyal protector of the family.

Many of these dogs were transported to Rhodesia in the 1870s to hunt lions and track them. These successful "lion dogs" became very popular, and their distinctive ridge became their symbol of quality.

There were so many varieties of ridged "Lion Dogs" in Rhodesia by the 1920s, that a meeting was conducted to decide the best qualities of the breed and form a breed standard.

In the 1930s, the breed appeared in England and soon thereafter in the United States. However, it took nearly 20 years for the breed to strike the fancy of dog lovers. The Rhodesian Ridgeback was officially recognized as a sighthound in the 1980s, eventually eligible to participate in sighthound field trials.

Help us make PetMD better

Was this article helpful?