With the courage to confront a lion, the Rhodesian Ridgeback is among the bravest of hounds. But he's more of a lamb than a lion with his family.


The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a blend of African and European hunting and working dogs, including a South African native dog known for the ridge of hair growing along its back in the wrong direction. In the 1870s, a big-game hunter in Rhodesia was so impressed with two of these dogs he started breeding them for lion hunting. The dog's job was to track, chase and hold lions at bay until the hunter arrived.

Although named for their ridge, not all of Ridgebacks are ridged–although all Ridgeback show dogs are ridged. The ridge is caused by a single dominant gene.

Ridgebacks are athletic, protective, loyal and fun-loving. Bold and independent, they're powerful in both body and will. They enjoy high activity games and lots of tough toys.


The Ridgeback is a large dog, so has some predispositions to large dog joint problems–but not nearly as much as you would think. Nonetheless, feeding a diet formulated for large breed puppies during the first year of life will help decrease any possibility of hip dysplasia. These diets allow the puppy to grow more slowly, while still achieving the same adult size–just a little later. Joint supplements, such as glucosamine chondroitin supplements, are also important for protecting joint health throughout life, especially in active dogs.

It's also important to prevent your adult Ridgeback from getting overweight, which can add stress to the joints. When dieting a dog, you must make sure he gets enough vitamins. We suggest supplementing with a good multi-vitamin, probiotics and, if the coat is dry, a fatty-acid supplement.

As with any large dog, the potential for bloat or gastric torsion exists. This is a condition in which the gases accumulate in the stomach and can't escape. The stomach may then twist, totally cutting off any ability for anything to leave the stomach. The dog's stomach enlarges as gases continue to accumulate, and the dog is restless and tries unsuccessfully to vomit. This is an extreme emergency that needs immediate veterinary attention to save the dog. Nobody knows exactly how to prevent it, but many veterinarians advocate feeding an anti-gas pill with every meal.

Ridgeback coat care is easy. The coat requires weekly brushing to remove dead hair. Wash with a deodorizing shampoo.

Check your Ridgeback's ears weekly. Apply an ear cleanser any time the ears start to accumulate dark secretions. Some ear wax is healthy; a lot is not. If you must apply ear medication, use the ear cleanser first to remove thick secretions that would block the medication from reaching the surface of the canal.

Brush the teeth daily.

Clip the nails every two weeks or so using a heavy-duty dog nail clipper.

Age-related arthritic changes can make your Ridgeback stiff as he ages. Besides any intervention recommended by your veterinarian, a soft cushion to lie on and glucosamine chondroitin supplements added to the diet can help soothe aching joints, and keep him going strong.