Back in the 18th century, European settlers went to South Africa to make it their home. Along with them went several dog breeds such as mastiffs, hounds, and so on. When they began to settle in, they noticed that the villagers (Khoisan tribes) had a half-domesticated half-wild dog that had the oddest thing about it. It had a ridge of fur going up the length of it back in the opposite direction that the fur would normally grow.
The Settler's dogs and the Khoisan's dogs were mated, and the result was the original breeding stock that would later on become the Rhodesian Ridgeback. As the Settlers had to hunt for most of their food, they found this dog to be very useful. It could not only track, but could even hold a lion at bay.
Rev. Charles Helm brought two of these dogs to Cornilius Van Rooyen of Rhodesia. It was Van Rooyen who first started the selective breeding. As the dog became more and more popular, it was noticed that more and more Ridgebacks were showing up that had absolutely nothing in common with the original breeding stock. Due to this, an official standard was set up in 1921 by a small group of breeders; a standard that is very close to that of the Dalmation's and has changed very little to this day.
Due to the breed's ability to hunt and avoid injury and also protect its home and guard the children, it became a favorite in South Africa. In the fifties, it was recognized as a breed by the AKC.
This is a big dog that will protect its home and family. This is why early socialization needs to be done, at least when the dog is of a manageable size. It can and will be aloof with strangers. It is not recommended that you leave your guests alone with it. This dog is good for an apartment only if you are willing to give it a lot of exercise. It makes an excellent jogging companion, many times outlasting the jogger.
This breed gets its name due to the ridge of hair that runs down its back in the opposite direction of the rest of the fur. It starts near the shoulders and tapers towards the tail. This ridge is not more than 2 inches wide.
Males should be 25 to 27 inches in height and weigh about 80 pounds. Females should be 24 to 26 inches in height and weigh about 70 pounds. The coat is short, dense, and has a glossy finish. Coat colors are usually ranging from red-wheaten to light-wheaten. White fur is allowed on the chest and toes. The nose should be black or brown, and eyes should be dark or amber.
This breed is commonly affected by hip dysplasia and dermoid sinus. It is also commonly affected by thyroid problems. Its life expectancy is 10 to 12 years.
The Rhodesian Ridgback is a perfectly-lovable animal that will make a great dog if you can invest some time in training it well.