Rhodesian Ridgeback: 15 Facts About The African Lion Dog

The Rhodesian Ridgeback, also known as the African Lion Dog or African Lion Hound, is peculiar for the ridge that runs down its back.

Now used as a guard dog, the Ridgeback is strong, dignified, and ready to defend its owner.

There’s a lot to know about this African dog breed, including its relationship with lions.

We’ll be looking into 15 interesting facts about the African Lion Dog to get a full grasp of what to expect from this breed.

We shall also highlight the basic facts and characteristics of the Ridgeback, as well as some information on getting one.

Rhodesian Ridgeback Dog Breed Information

Rhodesian Ridgeback Dog Resting on Grass Showing Ridged Back
Photo: tkatsai / Getty Images
Height24 to 27 inches
Weight70 to 85 pounds
Life Expectancy10 to 12 years
CoatShort, Shiny
ColorsLight Wheaten, Red Wheaten, Wheaten
TemperamentIndependent, Intelligent, Quiet
Ideal ForExperienced Owners
Puppy Price$1,700 – $2,500

Rhodesian Ridgeback Characteristics

Close Up Sturdy African Lion Hound Standing on Outdoors
Photo: michael_lofenfeld / Getty Images

Rhodesian Ridgeback History

The Rhodesian Ridgeback originated in Southern Africa, in an area known as Rhodesia.

It was developed by Boer farmers to act as a multi-talented hunting dog.

It goes after big prey, can survive in different environments, and also acted as a companion.

The Ridgeback was a result of African and European breeds.

In the same Rhodesia, a man named Cornelius Von Rooyen started up a program that led to the establishment of a breed standard.

The South African Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1924 and it remains very popular in the country.

The breed got into the United States around 1911 and it increased in number after the Second World War.

In 1955, the AKC recognized the breed under the Hound group. It was ranked the 42nd most popular breed in the United States as of 2020.

15 Facts About Rhodesian Ridgebacks You Need to Know

1. There’s a reason they are called the African Lion Hound

Active African Lion Dog – Stretching for a Hunt
Photo: AsyaPozniak / Getty Images

The breed first started out dragging down smaller games like bucks and partridges.

However, it soon began to follow hunters in search of bigger games. 

One such game was the lion, and the Ridgeback became adept at holding lions down till the hunters arrive.

It became a lion “predator”, earning it the name African Lion Hound.

Rhodesian Ridgeback Vs Lion: Can A Ridgeback Kill A Lion?

2. The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a product of several breeds

Sturdy Ridgeback Dog Standing on Grass
Photo: Wavetop / Getty Images

Though not a crossbreed, the Ridgeback has diverse ancestors.

To get this breed, Boers crossed a native dog owned by the Khoikhoi people with European dogs like Greyhounds, Mastiffs, Great Danes, and Bloodhounds. 

Their solid aim was to get a good hunting dog, so each breed must have been carefully selected.

The native dog, for example, was known to be a hunting dog. 

3. Rhodesian Ridgebacks are excellent guard dogs

Close Up Rhodesian Ridgeback Dog on Guard
Photo: michael_lofenfeld / Getty Images

Many pet parents employ the Rhodesian Ridgeback as a guard dog, and it is easy to see why.

It stays alert, is calm enough to be trained as a guard dog, and has a protective streak.

This breed is also confident and loyal, two essential attributes of guard dogs. 

They are ever ready to defend your family from an intruder. Though not an overly energetic dog, it is strong and should not be messed with.

This breed has a natural guardian instinct and doesn’t need to go through specific guard training.

4. They come in just one coat color

Wheaten Colored Ridgeback Resting on Grass
Photo: Stefan-Weidner-Fotografie / Getty Images

To the casual observer, this breed would seem to have different colors.

However, these are just shades of the same color, which is wheaten (red wheaten, and light wheaten). That is the acceptable color by AKC’s standards. 

This breed also has some black on its muzzles, ears, and around the eyes.

A fully black Rhodesian Ridgeback is against the kennel standards, and you should be wary of buying one.

5. Errol Flynn, a movie star, was one of the first Americans to breed the Rhodesian Ridgeback

You probably remember Errol Flynn from the movie The Adventures of Robin Hood, but what you might not have known is that he bred the Ridgeback in the early 20th century. 

Other notable figures who were fans of the Rhodesian Ridgeback include Patrick Swayze, Catherine Batman, and Charlize Theron. 

6. Rhodesian Ridgebacks are not suitable for new dog owners

Close Up Rhodesian Ridgeback Dog on Leash with Owner Outdoors
Photo: Daniel_Malinowski / Getty Images

Although this breed is calm and also loyal, it is not advisable for first-time pet parents due to the many challenges that come from owning one.

Ridgebacks are stubborn and independent, traits that can overwhelm the new pet parent. Prospective owners should be experienced and firm. 

The breed needs basic obedience training and socialization more than any other.

The obedience training would help curb its stubbornness, and because of its aloofness, socialization is necessary.

Harsh methods shouldn’t be used on the Rhodesian Ridgeback, despite its strength. Positive reinforcements work better.

7. They are not barkers

Close Up Ridgeback Puppy Face and Muzzle Looking Aside
Photo: happyborder / Getty Images

The Ridgeback is alert and sometimes bark when it notices any unusual phenomenon.

However, it is not known to be a barker as it stays quiet, especially when it matures. 

They show growth by getting quieter (similar to some humans if you think about it).

As a puppy, it is boisterous, active, and can be a handful. Once it grows, it becomes a calmer dog.

8. They should not be left bored

Rhodesian Ridgeback Puppy Running with Ball in Mouth
Photo by olgagorovenko / Getty Images

Besides being independent and energetic, this breed is highly intelligent. Their intelligence is a full package as they get bored easily.

When that happens, it looks for ways to keep itself busy. These include digging, chewing at objects, and other destructive behaviors. 

Therefore, they should be given enough physical and challenging mental activities to satisfy and keep them interested.

While it has moderate exercise needs, it should not be neglected. Walks, jogging, and even a game of fetch will go a long way.

9. Rhodesian Ridgebacks are low shedders

The Rhodesian Ridgeback has a low grooming need because of its short coat. It sheds little and only needs some brushing to stay clean.

Bathe this breed only once in a while as it hardly gets dirty.

Generally, after some brushing and soft cleaning with a damp cloth, it tidies up.

Other forms of hygiene like ear cleaning, teeth brushing, and wiping the areas around the eyes are important too.

10. They can make good apartment dogs

Rhodesian Ridgebacks Dog Lying on Floor Turning Showing Ridge
Photo by olgagorovenko / Getty Images

This breed is powerful and energetic but is also calm and mature, making it suitable for apartment living as long as it gets enough exercise.

When you have it in an apartment, ensure that there is an open space available where you can take your dog to when it needs to stretch its legs.

Locate the nearest dog park and walk your pooch there for some fun time. 

11. They are good escape artists

When you own this breed in a house with a yard, ensure that the yard is well fenced.

This would prevent your dog from escaping as it is a good escape artist.

The same applies to an apartment. Make sure the doors are locked when this dog is inside.

The Ridgeback is a very fast dog and catching it is hard when it escapes. Also, a dog out on the street without its owner is in a risky position.

12. Rhodesian Ridgebacks have high prey drives

Hunting Ridgeback Dog with a Fox
Photo: Carmelka / Getty Images

It is not surprising that the African Lion Hound has a strong hunting instinct.

This might turn into a major problem if you want to have smaller animals alongside this breed.

The Rhodesian Ridgeback can chase after anything, from rabbits to moving cars.

This is one more reason you should keep it from running off.

Put it on a leash when outdoors too. This high prey drive poses a risk for cats and smaller pets like rodents.

Without proper socialization, the African Lion dog will view these animals as prey.

This socialization should begin at a young age if you want to gain results. Do not adopt a full-grown Rhodesian Ridgeback in a house with other pets.

13. Their active nature makes them good in dog sports

A Ridgeback Running in a Dog Coursing Sports
Photo: Dixi_ / Getty Images

The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a valuable contestant for different canine competitions, including lure coursing, obedience, and agility.

These events provide good opportunities for a dog owner and his/her pet to bond as they prepare.

Dog sports is often open for every dog breed, but dogs with undesirable traits (like that black Rhodesian Ridgeback) may not be qualified.

As the AKC puts it, “Participating in canine sports is often not just about winning ribbons or trophies.”

14. They are vulnerable to some health problems

The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a very healthy breed but is susceptible to some conditions like hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and dermoid sinus.

As with any other breed, you should take precautions to reduce the rate of illness.

Proper vaccination, good hygiene, high-quality feeding, and other forms of care are vital.

Pet insurance also goes a long way towards subsidizing medical bills.

15. The Ridgeback is a good family dog

A Ridgeback Pup Relaxing on Dog Bed
Photo: JovasPhoto / Getty Images

The Rhodesian Ridgeback is protective and might look imposing, but it is very devoted and plays the role of a good family dog well.

While it is aloof towards strangers, it shows love and affection to its family members.

Even more, they are good with kids and can tolerate their excesses.

However, its size may prove overwhelming to toddlers. So, it is best to have this breed in a home with older kids.

Getting a Rhodesian Ridgeback

Rhodesian Ridgeback Puppy Resting on Grass
Photo: animalinfo / Getty Images

Where to Find Rhodesian Ridgeback Puppies for Sale

The cost is a bit high if you intend to shop a puppy from a breeder, but worth it when you can get one from a reputable breeder.

While the cost varies from the breeders to other factors, the Rhodesian Ridgeback price usually falls between $1,700 to $2,500 for a puppy.

A diligent Google search will facilitate your chances of getting a Rhodesian Ridgeback Pup.

Some sites you can start from are:

10 Best Dog Food For Rhodesian Ridgebacks

Rescues and Shelters to Adopt a Rhodesian Ridgeback

The second option you can consider is to adopt.

With the ‘adopt, don’t shop’ movement gaining influence, adopting a Ridgeback has more moral backing and is seen as a community service.

Who wouldn’t want to give an abandoned puppy a home?

As with shopping, getting online can help you locate the best Rhodesian Ridgeback rescues and shelters.

Below are some of them:

Frequently Asked Questions About the African Lion Dog

Do Ridgebacks hunt lions?

The Rhodesian Ridgeback also goes by the name “African Lion Hound” because of its history of hunting lions.

It was adept at tracking down these lions and holding them at bay till the hunters arrive.

Can a Rhodesian Ridgeback take down a lion?

The Rhodesian Ridgeback is known to be a strong dog breed, and because they were used to hunt lions, many assumed they could take down the King of the Jungle.

However, that is very unlikely as the lion is stronger.

How fast can a Rhodesian Ridgeback run?

The Rhodesian Ridgeback is fast and is known to be one of the fastest dog breeds in the world, reaching an average speed of 25 mph.

This speed helped it match that of lions, and it is an asset for canine competitions today.

Why’s it called a Ridgeback? 

The Rhodesian Ridgeback got its name both from the region it hailed from and its distinctive feature, a distinct ridge running down its spine.

This follows the path of the native dog breeds that were its ancestor.

Are Rhodesian Ridgebacks aggressive?

Without training, many dogs, the breed aside, would become aggressive. The Rhodesian Ridgeback is not an exception.

Though aggression is an undesirable trait, this breed can develop this behavior if not properly socialized.

Male unneutered Ridgebacks are also known to be aggressive towards other dogs of the same sex.

How To Calm An Aggressive Dog – 10 Proven Ways

Final Thoughts: Is the Rhodesian Ridgeback  Right for Me?

The Rhodesian Ridgeback is not meant for every dog parent and must be handled by someone experienced who can avoid this breed from developing undesirable behaviors.

While it isn’t a wild canine, it can also become a burden for new pet parents with no experience in handling big dogs.

Under the ideal owner, the Ridgeback is a loyal and devoted companion and a guardian that shows quiet affection and love.

It may not be your first choice of a cuddle buddy, but it can be a dependable friend.

10 Popular Rhodesian Ridgeback Mixes (with Pictures)

Featured Image: tkatsai / Getty Images

Authored By

Ben Pierce

Ben Pierce is a canine behavioral and nutritional specialist, professional dog trainer, and the CEO of Puplore. A former military working dog handler, Ben founded Puplore to provide owners with breed-specific information and to act as a go-to guide to health, nutrition, care, and to help them find the confidence they need to step up to the plate and become the best pup parents they can possibly be. A firm believer in treating all animals with kindness and compassion, and that positive discipline is paramount in achieving a harmonious canine-human relationship, Ben’s former and present careers have enabled him to become a leading light in his chosen profession and business.

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