The Rhodesian Ridgeback

Dog without extremes

by Annemarie Schmidt-Pfister

It is usually the appearance of the Rhodesian Ridgeback that catches your eye first: a handsome, muscular and yet elegant dog with bright reddish or radiant reddish-colored fur and a strange, twisted hairline on the back. Above all, however, the manner in which this dog from the south of Africa looks at us can never be forgotten by friends of the Ridgeback: a complex, distant and unchanging, dignified and challenging gaze which awakens in us the desire to make this dog a friend.

Beautiful and harmonious
A good Ridgeback shows many facets of beauty: it is large - but not huge, powerful - but not clumsy, elegant - but not fragile. It has a broad spectrum of appearance - following the legacy of many European dog breeds with which white colonial owners crossed with the indigenous African Khoi San-dog.  However, the most important thing is a healthy medium: the Rhodesian Ridgeback is not a dog of extremes, but rather, it is balanced and harmonious in appearance and character.

Ripe Harvest Colors
According to the standard, the color palette for the Rhodesian Ridgeback ranges from the bright "wheat yellow" to the "reddish-gold" color of an autumn harvest. The beige, ocher and deep red tones of the African earth are found in the dog's short, non-shaggy or silky fur. Some small white patches are permitted on chest and paws, and some black hair as well, but only on ears and mask. The Rhodesian Ridgeback does not have any undercoat - nonetheless, it acclimates very well to our European winter and likes to gowild in the snow. However, they usually don't enjoy wet, cold drizzle, slushy snow and heavy rain, just like us.

More important than beauty: Character and Health
Character and health are more important than color and beauty!  For both, a careful selection of healthy, genetically cleared and matched parent Ridgebacks, is a prerequisite – this is where the Breed Clubs and Breeders have an important objective to support. As such, breeders ensure that they comply with the relevant regulations and carefully shape and socialize the puppies during their first few weeks. However, one thing no one can offer is a guarantee of health, not only for humans but also for animals, cases of severe and incurable diseases may arise which have environmental causes.

A Rhodesian Ridgeback is a full-time-job - and a big love
If you have decided to share your life with a Rhodesian Ridgeback, you should remember the recommendation: test something before you are committing yourself. Although the bond with a dog cannot be "Eternal" given the life expectancy differences between humans and dog – however, a Ridgeback typically lives ten to twelve years, and have often been known to reach thirteen to fourteen. There is nothing more beautiful than the dignified gaze of an old Ridgeback, with its white face and wise eyes!

Especially young Ridgebacks are a "Full-time Job".  They are a late to mature breed, and Rhodesian Ridgebacks may need two to three years to grow-up, and mentally mature.  During these years, they can be described as, "temperament bolts" or "power packs” - always ready for some fun nonsense and never too tired to start again from the beginning! Ridgebacks are the Masai among the dogs – they are inherently convinced that everything belongs to them, particularly wanting whatever it is we don´t want to give them. Ridgebacks often tend to play with each other roughly and with such excitement that potential “two legged playmates” may make give way widely around them.

Just as Mr. Jochen Eberhardt wrote in his book (in German), "Der Rhodesian Ridgeback", although the Ridgeback measures between 61 cm and 69 cm high, he is firmly convinced that he is actually a lap dog. After all, there is nothing he can do about the fact that he is hanging from our lap on all sides!

What does the Rhodesian Ridgeback need?
Whether the Ridgeback really needs a house with a garden or not can be arguably disputed. They certainly love the warmth of a flickering chimney fire and floor heating – but overall, it is much more important to him that he can be with you. He would enjoy a large, sunny garden - but still love to walk through the fields, woods and meadows with you! Whether you consider your Ridgeback as a sports partner, a hunting champion, a show champion or simply a family companion - it is important that you can share with him a lot of time and love, around the clock.

The Rhodesian Ridgeback was used for generations in his African home not only as a guard dog on the farm, but above all, as a hunting dog in the bush - selectively bred for the necessary properties. He remains still, a passionate guard and hunting dog - a bit of a rogue who tells you something different! Therefore, we are well advised to use these inherent qualities and to steer them, or if such behavior is unwanted, to get them under control. One alternative is to offer him an appropriate substitute “employment”, for example track work, agility training or man-trailing; snow-shoe hikes and adventure walks, bike tours or as riding companions are very suitable. There is only one thing that a Ridgeback does not enjoy, doing nothing! If this situation is presented, he will feel bored and will, wise and independent as he is, find a job himself - and this may not always correspond to our wishes and ideas!  However, if he can lead a fulfilled life, the Rhodesian Ridgeback may nonetheless, still come up with the idea himself of ​​doing nothing at all. Curled up or elongated, he loves the leisure time and can be really lazy at times. But make no mistake, a real Ridgeback always has everything under control!