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Rhodesian ridgeback sitting in a yard.

Breed overview

  • Breed group — Hound group (American Kennel Club)
  • Height — 25-27 inches (males), 24-26 inches (females)
  • Weight — 70-85 pounds
  • Coat length & texture — Short, flat, and smooth
  • Coat color — Wheaten, ranging in shades from pale flax to red
  • Exercise needs — Moderate
  • Intelligence — High
  • Barking — Mainly to alert
  • Life span — 10-12 years
  • Temperament — Vigilant, affectionate, and purpose-driven
  • Hypoallergenic — No
  • Origin — South Africa

Rhodesian ridgeback fun facts

👉 Coming up with a pet name can be fun but tricky. Search no further! According to PetScreening’s 2024 database, the majority of our users name their male Rhodesian Ridgebacks Max; Cooper is the 2nd most popular male name. Meanwhile, most of our users with female Rhodesian Ridgebacks love Luna and Nala equally.

  • The Rhodesian ridgeback was the AKC’s 41st most-popular breed in 2021. Their popularity in America has expanded greatly since the breed’s early days.
  • Ridgebacks were originally used to help hunt lions in South Africa’s Rhodesia region. This earned them the nickname of “African lion hounds”.
  • These dogs thrive with lots of physical and mental stimulation. Bred as working dogs, they do best when given a job, which can include dog sports or even therapy dog training.
Rhodesian ridgeback out for a walk.

Rhodesian ridgeback temperament and characteristics 

The Rhodesian ridgeback is a loyal and devoted dog breed, with an independent spirit and strong drive for companionship. They are alert, agile, and courageous dogs, with a deep bark that is good for protection and letting you know when visitors arrive. Not known for being overly active or too excitable, they still appreciate daily walks to explore their environment.

Their affectionate nature makes them excellent family dogs that can easily bond with both adults and children. These natural hunters are used to being in packs, so Rhodesian ridgebacks can get along well with other pets. But keep in mind that this trait can also mean there may be some dominance issues if there is more than one male in the pack.

These intelligent animals have been bred to think on their own, yet still take direction. They also excel at agility activities and obedience training. With proper socialization, the Rhodesian ridgeback can make an ideal addition to any home.


The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a large and powerful breed characterized by its distinctive ridgeback feature. This unique trait runs along the spine and consists of a line of raised hair running in the opposite direction from the rest of the coat. The AKC breed standard states that their coats can be light wheaten to red wheaten. A little white on the chest and toes is permissible, but excessive white there, on the belly or above the toes, is undesirable. We teamed up with FidoTabby Alert, and according to their database, the common coat color for the Rhodesian Ridgeback is (85%) brown.

Common Rhodesian ridgeback health problems 

The Rhodesian ridgeback is a large and powerful breed of dog which traces back its origins to 19th-century Southern Africa. While they are generally healthy, there are some health problems commonly associated with the breed.

  • Hypothyroidism . This condition occurs when the thyroid gland does not produce enough hormones and is more common amongst Rhodesian ridgebacks than some other breeds. This can lead to symptoms such as weight gain, hair loss, and lethargy.
  • Hip dysplasia. This is a common problem for Rhodesian ridgebacks. A thickened femoral head, shallow acetabulum, or a combination of both, can lead to arthritis and overall joint instability over time.
  • Dermoid sinus . This is a congenital defect that affects some Rhodesian ridgebacks. This condition causes lesions to form that can potentially go down to the spine and cause neurological issues. If this happens, surgery is the only treatment.
  • Deafness. Deafness is also a potential issue for this breed, though it is rarer than other conditions. It can be caused by genetic factors or environmental factors such as loud noises or infections.
  • Cataracts. Always monitor your pup’s eye health. Cataracts cause a clouding of the eye’s lens, resulting in blurred vision or even blindness if left untreated.

Overall, while these conditions may occur in Rhodesian ridgebacks, they typically can be managed with proper care and treatment from your veterinarian. With regular check-ups and preventive care, your pet should remain healthy and happy for many years to come!

Cost of caring for a Rhodesian ridgeback

The most common health issues that affect the breed are hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism, deafness, cataracts, and dermoid sinus. While a condition like hypothyroidism might cost somewhere between $350 to $800 to treat, conditions like hip dysplasia or dermoid sinus could run into the thousands.

Regular checkups with your veterinarian are key, and health insurance may be a way to reduce out-of-pocket expenses. Another alternative is a pet savings account, which allows you to put money aside in advance for pet expenses.

All of these conditions can be expensive to treat depending on their severity and how long they have been present before diagnosis. That is why it’s important to take steps to prevent issues or catch them early if they do occur.

Rhodesian ridgeback puppy on a couch.

History of the Rhodesian ridgeback

The Rhodesian ridgeback is a breed of dog that originated in South Africa. It’s believed to have descended from semi-wild dogs native to the region, which were crossed with other breeds brought by European settlers. The breed was officially recognized in 1924 by the South African Kennel Union. It was admitted into the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1955 and has become known for its strength, loyalty, and intelligence.

The Rhodesian ridgeback was once referred to as the “African lion dog” due to its history of being used to hunt lions. This powerful breed was bred for stamina and strength, making it an ideal hunting companion. While they weren’t used to physically take down the lions, ridgebacks excelled at tracking and baying the beasts.  They are also known for their loyalty and protective nature, making them excellent guard dogs.

Today, the Rhodesian ridgeback is a popular family pet around the world, instantly recognizable for the trademark ridge of hair along their backs. They are intelligent and affectionate dogs that thrive on human companionship.

Caring for your Rhodesian ridgeback

Caring for a new puppy of any breed can be overwhelming, so here are some things to keep in mind with your Rhodesian ridgeback pup. You’ll need to make your first trip to the vet and schedule your dog’s vaccinations. Don’t forget to puppy-proof your home and prepare for teething. No one likes to think about ever losing their new dog but FidoAlert provides a free Fido ID and tag so you’re prepared just in case. Here are some other basics specific to Rhodesian ridgebacks.


Rhodesian ridgebacks need moderate exercise, at least about 40 minutes everyday. This exercise can take many forms, such as walks, runs, fetch or even agility courses. For walks, we recommend a no-pull harness being that the breed is on the larger and more powerful side.  Exercise is essential for the health and wellbeing of your dog and also allows you time to bond. This is also important for the breed, as your dog will require a lot of attention to stay mentally stimulated.

Rhodesian ridgeback running.


Overall, the Rhodesian ridgeback is a low-maintenance breed when it comes to grooming and care. With just a few simple steps each week, you can ensure that your pup looks and feels great!

This breed has short hair, but still sheds and their coats should be brushed on a weekly basis. A rubber brush or grooming mitt is recommended for this purpose in order to remove any loose or dead hairs. Additionally, using safe products when bathing your Rhodesian ridgeback is essential in order to maintain their coat’s health and shine.

Don’t forget to also include nail trimming, ear cleaning, and teeth brushing in your grooming routine.

Diet and nutrition

When selecting the best dog food for your Rhodesian ridgeback it is important to read the ingredient list carefully and make sure the ingredients are wholesome and nutritionally balanced. Pet parents should refer to their vet for optimal food portioning for their new pup, but typically, puppies need to eat at least three times per day. As your ridgeback gets older, you might alter the frequency based on your vet’s advice. Generally, a vet may recommend feeding twice a day. Ridgebacks can be deep-chested and have an increased risk of bloat when eating only once a day.

Training your Rhodesian ridgeback

Young Rhodesian ridgeback puppies need socialization with other people and animals in order to become well-adjusted adults. Additionally, they may be prone to destructive behaviors if not given enough stimulation or activity. It’s also important to note that these dogs can be stubborn, so consistent and patient training is necessary.

Rhodesian ridgebacks closeup with a yard in the background.

Breeds similar to the Rhodesian ridgeback

Not quite sure that a Rhodesian ridgeback is right for you? Even if you are, it’s worth taking the time to research and consider other similar breeds. Here are a few others to get you started:

  • Doberman pinscher. The Doberman pinscher has a smooth, sleek coat. Highly intelligent and brave,  dobermans are often called “gentle giants”.
  • German shepherd. The German shepard’s coarse double-coat is different from the ridgeback’s. However, this breed is also highly intelligent and weights somewhere between 65 to 90 pounds.
  • Rottweiler. The Rottweiler has a short black coat with rust markings and can get up to around 135 pounds. An excellent protector, this breed needs a lot of exercise.

Frequently asked questions

How do Rhodesian ridgebacks compare to rottweilers?

Though these dog breeds are popular for pet parents looking for large breeds, there are some differences. Rottweilers tend to be extremely protective over children and also may require more attention. Ridgebacks and rottweilers are both good family dogs, but Rhodesians may be better for newer pet parents as rotties are more demanding.

Are Rhodesian ridgebacks aggressive?

Rhodesian ridgebacks are not generally aggressive dogs. While they have a reputation for being strong-willed and independent, they are even-tempered and gentle by nature. They may be protective of their family, but this is usually due to lack of proper socialization rather than aggression.

Should I get two Rhodesian ridgeback puppies?

If you’ve fallen in love with the breed and want to add another pup to the family, just keep training in mind. Puppies of any breed require lots of training and time, so you’ll want to make sure you have enough time to devote to both. The choice of getting multiple Rhodesian ridgebacks at once is yours, but most pet parents would agree raising one puppy at a time will keep you plenty busy!