Rhodesian Ridgeback

Rhodesian Ridgeback
The Rhodesian Ridgeback dog is a large, solid-coloured, active breed with a short coat that has a distinctive ridge of hair along the back. Powerful and agile, they also enjoy spending time perched on the sofa with their owner at the end of the day. They’re gentle dogs, although somewhat stubborn, and due to their size and strength will fit in more with experienced owners.
  • Dog suitable for experienced owners
  • Extra training required
  • Enjoys active walks
  • Enjoys walking one to two hours a day
  • Large dog
  • Minimum drool
  • Requires grooming once a week
  • Non Hypoallergenic breed
  • Quiet dog
  • Guard dog. Barks, alerts and it's physically protective
  • May require training to live with other pets
  • May require training to live with kids

Rhodesian Ridgeback Key Facts

Life Span: 10-12 years

Weight: 30-39kg

Height: Adult males 63-69cm. Adult females 61-66cm.

Colours: any self-colour from light wheaten to red wheaten

Size: Large

Kennel Club group: Hound


Family-friendly: 5/5

Exercise needs: 5/5

Easy to train: 2/5

Tolerates being alone: 2/5

Likes other pets: 4/5

Energy level: 4/5

Grooming needs: 4/5

Shedding: 4/5

History and Origins

This is a dog who has been known as the African Lion Dog which gives a good indication of what this powerful hound was originally bred to do. When European settlers came to southern Africa in the 17th century, they brought their large guarding dogs with them - a mixture of mastiffs, scenthounds and Great Danes - to protect their farms, and looked with scorn on the local ridge-backed dogs whom they often shot on sight. In time however they realised that these dogs were perfectly suited to the climate and had a resistance to tropical diseases, and so instead of killing them started to breed them with their own dogs to produce what they found to be the perfect breed for pursing African wild game. The resulting dogs were taken north to Rhodesia where they were further developed and worked with big games hunters who used them in small packs to hunt lions and leopards. By the 1920s the breed had become standardised and their popularity began to grow around the world.


The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a strong, powerful dog that can be determined and stubborn. Although quite friendly and confident at home, they are very wary of strangers - human and canine. Not the ideal breed for the novice owner, they need experienced handling and training, together with early, thorough and ongoing socialisation.

Ideal Owner

The Rhodesian Ridgeback would suit an experienced owner with a large property who will enjoy training and working with a fairly challenging but highly rewarding dog. The ideal owner will also need to be able to cope with a dog devoted and affectionate to them, but possibly not to anyone else.

Health and Common Issues

The Rhodesian Ridgeback is predisposed to a particular inherited defect involving the spine (dermoid sinus) and all puppies should be screened at birth for this. As with many breeds they can also suffer from hip dysplasia (a condition that can lead to mobility problems). Hip scoring of dogs prior to breeding is therefore important.

Exercise Needs

The Rhodesian Ridgeback requires a couple of hours of daily exercise as an adult. Rhodesian Ridgebacks have strong hunting instincts, so should be in a safe open space away from other dogs before let of the lead - or else have long on-lead walks.

Space Requirements

This is a dog who needs a large property and a securely fenced garden in a rural location, or with plenty of open space for daily exercise

Nutrition and Feeding

Large breed dogs, as well as having large appetites, benefit from a different balance of nutrients including minerals and vitamins compared to smaller-breed dogs. The Rhodesian Ridgeback is prone to bloating and stomach problems; smaller, more frequent meals can help minimise this risk. Check out our dog feeding guidelines for more information.

Grooming Rhodesian Ridgebacks

The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a low-maintenance dog breed when it comes to grooming. The coat shorthaired coat can be groomed using a rubber-grooming mitt once or twice a week.

Training Rhodesian Ridgebacks

Plenty of socialisation and dog training is needed to ensure this dog is a safe member of canine society. With consistent reward-based training, they can master a reliable recall and walking on the lead - along with other obedience exercises. But be aware that they can be selective in their obedience when faced with distractions.

Did You Know?

The anatomical feature that gives the breed its name is the ridge of hair that grows down its back - and makes it instantly recognisable. This ridge is formed by the hair growing in a totally different direction to the rest of the coat and is capped at the top with two ‘crowns’ (whorls) that are directly opposite each other. This is shared by only one other (far less common) breed, the Thai Ridgeback.

This may however be more than just an interesting coat pattern. Some researchers have found a correlation between the ridge and a congenital skin condition known as ‘dermoid sinus’ – although this is fairly rare. Some more romantic breeders however say the ridge is “where God sewed them up after stuffing them”!

Best Family Dog Breeds

The Rhodesian Ridgeback is not an ideal family dog. Although he can be very affectionate towards their own children, they may not be tolerant of their friends.

While many dogs are traditionally thought of as being good with children, all dogs and children need to be taught to get on with and respect each other, and be safe together. Even so, dogs and young children should never be left alone together and adults should supervise all interactions between them.

Similar Breeds:



Irish Wolfhound


Is this the right breed for you?

All dogs have their own, unique personality, but there are some instincts and behaviours hat they’re born with. Try our Dog Breed Selector and find out which dog breeds better match your preferences and lifestyle.

Thinking about getting a puppy?

Join Growing Pup for help from our Purina experts on how to find the right puppy & prepare for your new arrival. And when you find your new pup, tell us a bit more about them to get a discount off one of our puppy ranges and regular personalised puppy advice.

Join Growing pup

What to consider next


It is incredibly fulfilling to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or rescue organization. It often means offering them a second chance in life. There are many dogs waiting for a loving family, a forever home. Reputable centers will be very careful about matching the right people with the right dogs. Staff learns all they can about the dogs they take in, and will spend time getting to know you, your family and your lifestyle, before they match you with any of their dogs. They’ll also be happy to give you advice and answer any questions you might have before and after the adoption. Click here for more information.

Finding a good breeder

If your heart is set on a pedigree puppy, then your best bet is to find a reputable breeder. Contact The Kennel Club or a breed-club secretary who may have a list of litters available, or should be able to put you in contact with breeders in your area. Try to choose a breeder who is part of the Kennel Club’s assured breeder scheme.Visit dog shows to meet breeders in person and inquire about availability of pups of your chosen breed. Click here for more information.

Welcoming your dog home

Whether you’re bringing home a tiny puppy or rehoming an adult dog, this is a hugely exciting time for everyone. While you’re waiting for the big day you might need to distract yourself, so luckily there are a few things you need to sort out before you welcome your new arrival. Click here for more information.