Rhodesian ridgebacks are one of the most unique dogs on the planet. Named for the noticeable ridge of hair that grows backwards along their spine, these clever dogs are easy to spot in a crowd. However, not all ridgebacks are born with this distinctive patch of hair.
The Rhodesian ridgeback hails from the desert plans of Africa. Originally bred as a lion hunting dog, these large sighthounds were used to lure lions or other game into range for their handlers. Their distinctive ridge is linked to the Hottentot hunting dog, a semi-feral breed native to African tribesman of the region. These wild dogs were crossed with a variety of breed including mastiffs, bloodhounds, greyhounds and great danes to create the ridgeback we know today.
Ridge or No Ridge?
Ridgebacks should be born with their quirky ridge of backwards hair. Some puppies are born without the ridge, but it is a disqualifying fault according to the American Kennel Club. The lack of ridge is the result of a genetic flaw that is spread through poor breeding practices. Reputable ridgeback breeders remove ridgeless dogs from their breeding program to help keep the ridge in the ridgeback, but unscrupulous breeders simply pass it off and continue breeding.
These determined dogs are not for the faint of heart. Ridegbacks are first and foremost a sighthound, and hounds tend to be stubborn as mules. Any ridgeback owner will tell you these jovial dogs will amuse themselves through trash picking, toy destruction and yard excavation if you don’t keep them busy. Patience is a virtue when working with Rhodesian ridgebacks, and a handful of treats may be your best weapon against selective listening during training sessions.
Ridgebacks are typically a hearty breed, but there are a number of known health concerns. Dermoid sinuses are a genetic condition in ridgebacks. It appears as small lumps along the dog’s ridge, and these lumps may connect to the spinal cord. Dermoid sinus issues can lead to permanent lameness or paralysis and should be treated immediately. Hip and elbow dysplasia are also a problem in this large breed, as are hypothyroidism and bloat.
Louise Lawson has been a published author and editor for more than 10 years. Lawson specializes in pet and food-related articles, utilizing her 15 years as a sous chef and as a dog breeder, handler and trainer to produce pieces for online and print publications.