Rhodesian Ridgeback – African Lion Hound

Rhodesian Ridgeback

The Rhodesian Ridgeback, also known as the Lion Dog or African Lion Hound, comes from South Africa. This courageously outstanding breed was bred in South Africa by European settlers.

24 to 27 inches
70 to 85 pounds
life span
10 to 12 years
Hound Dogs
Adapts Well to Apartment Living
Good For Novice Owners
Sensitivity Level
Tolerates Being Alone
Tolerates Cold Weather
Tolerates Hot Weather
Affectionate with Family
Dog Friendly
Friendly Toward Strangers
Amount Of Shedding
Drooling Potential
Easy To Groom
General Health
Potential For Weight Gain
Easy To Train
Potential For Mouthiness
Prey Drive
Tendency To Bark Or Howl
Wanderlust Potential
Energy Level
Exercise Needs
Potential For Playfulness


The Rhodesian Ridgeback comes from South Africa, and Zimbabwe and was bred from native African dogs that the Khoikhoi tribe owned. This breed was an all-round farm dog whose purpose was to herd, guard, and hunt African lion. The Rhodesian Ridgeback is an outstanding family dog that was first imported into the U.S after World War 2.

Physical Description

Dog standing on the rocks

The Ridgeback is a large, compact, and muscular dog that is slightly longer than it is tall. This breed has a powerful back and loins, with a long tapering tail. It has a deep chest, and broad head that has wrinkling on the forehead when this breed is focused on something.

Ears are dropped and medium-sized, and eyes are intelligent and large. The muzzle is long and the nose is black. The coat is short, slightly rough and comes in many shades of wheaten red. Some Ridgebacks have small white markings on the chest or toes. The Ridgeback has a ridge along its back made from two tufts of hair grow in different directions.


The Rhodesian Ridgeback is even-tempered and dignified. This is a good-natured and laid-back dog breed that enjoys family as company. Intelligent and alert, the Ridgeback is very independent, so positive puppy training needs to start during puppyhood. Training can be a challenge if started too late. This dog breed has a high prey drive, so it should not be around small animals. The Ridgeback is good with children, yet wary of strangers, yet not aggressive.

Special Needs

The Rhodesian Ridgeback needs an experienced pet parent. It does well in the countryside with plenty of exercise. This dog breed needs plenty of socialization and positive puppy training starting early. Since this incredible dog breed escapes easily, fenced yards are a must. The Rhodesian Ridgeback does well with regular exercise and canine sports like canine surfing and field trials.

Possible Health Concerns

The Ridgeback is an active dog breed that may be susceptible to the following health conditions:

  • Elbow and Hip Dysplasia: These are common developmental disorders of the hip and elbow joints. The Ridgeback has an increased risk of both hip and elbow dysplasia. It is an inherited disorder.
  • Hypothyroidism: This occurs when there are decreased levels of thyroid hormones. Symptoms include hair loss, a dull coat, flaky skin with weight gain and muscle loss. Consult with your veterinarian for advice if your Ridgeback shows any of these symptoms.
  • Dermoid Sinus: This is a tube-like opening of the skin that is present at birth, and can be felt by the breeder or handler.
  • Eye Anomalies: Entropion is an inherited condition that can be found in This is when the eyelid is in-growing.
  • Bloat: This breed is deep-chested, and thus more prone to bloat. Bloat is a life-threatening emergency. It is caused by the twisting of the stomach, together with the accumulation of gas, with or without fluid. It is best to never elevate your Ridgeback’s water and food bowls. Stress is also a major factor in causing bloat. Never feed your Ridgeback a large meal, followed by exercise. At the first signs of dry vomiting, restlessness and discomfort, contact your emergency veterinarian. This is a true emergency that is life-threatening!
  • Hypothyroidism: This occurs when there are decreased levels of thyroid hormones. Symptoms include hair loss, a dull coat, flaky skin with weight gain and muscle loss. Consult with your veterinarian for advice if your Ridgeback shows any of these symptoms.
Dog jumping into the sea


The Ridgeback needs regular exercise, and also needs to participate in dog sports. This breed needs daily exercise to build, and maintain strong back muscles. The Ridgeback does well with farm life or in smallholdings with horses and other animals.

There are several forms of exercise that this breed enjoys like catch and retrieve, freestyle, lure coursing, agility, swimming, and long off-leash hikes. By enjoying sporting activities together with your Ridgeback, you’ll be building a strong bond. Outside of dog sports, pet parents can enjoy long walks, running, skating and biking.


Always consult with your veterinarian before changing diets. Your Ridgeback should always be fed the highest-quality dog food that you can afford. Never underestimate the importance of good nutrition, health, and brain health in your dogs. As usual feed the appropriate dog food for the life-stage of your Ridgeback. Ask your veterinarian about home-cooked meals with added vegetables, fruits and supplements.

Every Rhodesian Ridgeback is different, and some brands will be better suited for certain dogs. When it comes to dog foods, understanding your Ridgeback’s current health and nutritional needs is paramount. Some dog food options besides wet and dry food include dehydrated dog foods. Here’s why dehydrated dog foods are also a good option:

  • Fresh produce is dehydrated below 104 degrees, and is considered raw.
  • Meat and fish are steamed at approximately 140 and 165 degrees to kill food borne pathogens.
  • Meat and fish are then dehydrated at 125 degrees
  • Grains and potatoes are flash heated at temperatures higher than 210 degrees to make them more digestible. This also breaks down cellulose.
Puppies playing together


Routine daily grooming will keep your Ridgeback’s coat in superb condition. The Ridgeback is one of the easiest breeds to groom. A short-bristled brush or mitt should be used to maintain a shiny and healthy coat. This dog breed enjoys frequent baths, and having his teeth done daily. Twice yearly visits to the veterinarian for dental hygiene maintenance is a must. Ears need to be regularly wiped out, and nails trimmed regularly. If your Ridgeback does not enjoy having his nails trimmed, try out a nail grinder.

Adopting a Rhodesian Ridgeback

Ridgebacks are some of the most active puppies you can find. Fun-loving, active and sensitive, the Rhodesian Ridgeback can be rambunctious if left alone and bored. This breed needs an active and experienced pet parent. Because the Ridgeback may be depressed and aloof at the shelter, you will only get to really know and understand this breed once he’s at home.

Sensitive and kind, an asset to any family, the Ridgeback is loyal, fun-loving, and a great dog breed that needs his fair share of exercise and mental stimulation. Potential adopters need to keep in mind that this breed is territorial, and will most likely be dominant over your other dogs at home. Enjoy all the fun canine sports with the Ridgeback, because this is a magnificent South African dog breed that really loves any sporting activity.

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