Rhodesian Ridgebacks: Regal, Athletic, Affectionate & At Risk

May 18, 2022

Some people may not know this breed of dog, the Rhodesian Ridgeback has an interesting past and is squarely seen in our future. What about space? This relatively rare breed of dogs has a great back story as well as how they recently made news. Learn about these beautiful dogs, how they got their name, and why they are at risk for hip and elbow dysplasia as well as arthritis.

Beneath the Rhodesian Ridgeback's trademark ridge is one large hound dog. Ridgebacks are fast and powerful athletic dogs. If you like variety, this is not the breed for you. They come in only one color: wheaten, which is a tan-brown color. However, that tan could be a different shade from lighter to darker. Ridgebacks also have two nose colors: black and the less commonly seen brown. Ridgebacks are faithful friends, protective and affectionate with those they love. They are great protectors at home and have a lot of affection to give to their families. If you bring a Rhodesian Ridgeback home, here are the facts you might want to know.  

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are good family dogs. Ridgebacks today are less often hunting dogs and are more often a cherished family dog. Not surprisingly, they are also excellent watch dogs. Their powerful bark, combined with their size and athletic bodies, could ward off anyone who tried to harm the Ridgeback’s family. Ultimately, they are very laid-back hounds with a quiet and gentle demeanor. Before we get into the "Dogs in Space" story of the episode on Netflix at the end of this article, let's check into our breed details! 

Rhodesian Ridgeback Puppies are Adorable!

Check out some of these wonderful Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy pictures! They are the most adorable hounds, and their lovely faces can melt hearts. Which is good, because they can sometimes be mischievous!

Adorable Rhodesian Ridgeback Puppy


Puppies at play is about the cutest thing ever, but these frisky Rhodesian Ridgebacks are especially sweet! If you are considering adding a Rhodesian Ridgeback to your pack, be sure to check out the reputable sources for Rhodesian Ridgeback puppies.

Playful Rhodesian Ridgeback Puppies

What causes a ridge on a Rhodesian Ridgeback?

The trademark Rhodesian Ridgeback ridge are the unique striped markings on their back. This stripe is the defining characteristic of this breed. The Rhodesian’s “Ridge on their back” or “Ridgeback” is hair that is growing backwards from the rest of the dog’s coat. It is more prominent when the dog is excited, but you should be able to clearly see the stripe down its back for it to be considered a Rhodesian Ridgeback. The stripe starts at the shoulders area and goes down the entire back, all the way to the hip area. A Rhodesian Ridgeback without a ridge is not considered a Rhodesian Ridgeback. In fact, if the Ridgeback is ridgeless, it would be disqualified from show in most AKC-certified shows.

Rhodesian Ridgeback Dogs Ridge View

Are Rhodesian Ridgebacks hunters?

Rhodesian Ridgeback hunt and were bred to be hunters. In fact, the theory of the stripe is that purebred dogs in South Africa were bred with wild dogs to create a tough, tenacious, and athletic hunting dog. According the AKC, the dogs with the pronounced ridge on their backs, came back from big game hunts more often than those without. This ridge became a selection process for a good hunting dog. They continued breeding the dogs with the ridged back to preserve these important Rhodesian Ridgeback hunting qualities.

A member of the Hound category, this breed is native to South Africa and is still a great hunting dog with tracking and baying instincts. Rhodesian Ridgebacks hunters have a unique history for hunting as they were the only dogs known to be able to help to hunt lions in a time in parts of Africa. The Ridgeback was used in big game hunting because they were able to keep a lion at bay for the hunter and not be eaten by the lion.

 Rhodesian Ridgeback Breed Standards

Rhodesian Ridgeback Adult Hunting

Here is a list of the breed’s standards. As already stated, this is one breed that is known for the ridge on its back. If it does not, it is not considered a Ridgeback. This is only important if you are in the show ring at your favorite AKC event. Most do not care about this fact, but it should be noted as most dogs do not have a physical trait required to prove they are a certain breed.

  • Recognized as a Breed by the AKC: 1955
  • AKC Breed Popularity: 41 out of 204 Dog Breeds
  • Height: 25-27 inches (male), 24-26 inches (female)
  • Weight: 80-85 pounds (male), 70-75 pounds (female)
  • Life Expectancy: 10 years
  • Group: Hound Group


The most common Rhodesian Ridgeback mixes are:

  • Rhodesian Ridgeback-Boxer mix
  • Rhodesian Ridgeback-Labrador Retriever mix
  • Rhodesian Ridgeback-Golden Shepherd mix
  • Rhodesian Ridgeback-Mastiff mix
  • Rhodesian Ridgeback-Beagle mix


Things to Consider adding a Rhodesian to the family

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are great additions to any home. Here are a few points that make it especially so, as well as a few items you might want to consider when determining if they are the right fit for your household. 

  • Rhodesian Ridgebacks have short hair and rarely need groomed. This is a benefit for households that do not want to worry about grooming their dogs. They will need an occasional bath as they are notorious hounds, known for rolling in anything. 
  • Rhodesians are also very athletic dogs. This is a good fit for the runners of the world. But they do not necessarily always need to be exercised. Rhodesians are like most dogs and two good outings in the morning and the evening will be sufficient. 
  • Do you like to partake in dog mobility contests? Rhodesian dogs are naturals for sporting activities such as lure-coursing. It is fun to watch them chase the lure along the way. They have tremendous speed but also longevity for the course. 
  • Rhodesian Ridgebacks have a mind of their own. Because they are hounds by nature, they use their instincts a lot and are known to follow scents. This is a good reason to be sure your dog has the proper training techniques down. "Sit, Stay and Come" need to be taught for a great relationship at home. 
  • The hound aspect comes into play when you are bringing a Rhodesian Ridgeback home. It is recommended they have a fenced in yard so they stay where they should. 

Top Health Problems of Rhodesian Ridgebacks

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are large, healthy dogs. There are some things you can attribute it to their ancient breeding history that kept them in tip top shape. There are some tests you can review to see if these dogs are susceptible to these types of illnesses. It is always good to be familiar with this list in case your RR might have these illnesses. They are:

  1. Canine Elbow and Hip Dysplasia. Do not be alarmed as this is one of 114 known breeds that get elbow hip dysplasia. There will be joint problems arise, especially in these ball and socket joints. This causes pain and impacts their mobility. It can be mild or extreme, needing attention.
  2. Osteoarthritis, or arthritis. Because of the natural ability to run distances, joint problems can arise, making Rhodesian Ridgebacks at very high risk for osteoarthritis. Arthritis is as painful for dogs as it is for humans. And just like humans, there is something you can do about it. Learn more about arthritis in dogs and check out all the risk factors.

The most notable trait of the Rhodesian Ridgeback is the fact that they have what might seem like an endless appetite. These beautiful creatures will eat anything you put in front of them. It is your job as their pet parent, you do not let your dog eat too much. Often, our dogs do not know when they are truly full. They love to eat. Overweight Rhodesian Ridgeback dogs can further damage joints and put unnecessary wear and tear on their joints. It is important to keep your naturally athletic dog fit.


Keep your Rhodesian Ridgeback fit, not fat

When discussing your dog's health, it's important for most breeds to stay more on the fit side, rather than the fatter side. This is especially true when it comes to your Rhodesian Ridgeback. 


  1. Rhodesian Ridgebacks are known for their hearty appetites! If you keep food out all the time, they will eat all the time.
  2. Don’t fall for the impressions they are starving. Those doggie eyes! You can’t stand it. Yes you can. Be strong. They already ate. Most Ridgebacks always seem hungry. Don’t fall for the guilt-trip!
  3. A trim Ridgeback is a healthy Ridgeback. Keeping extra weight off your dog will not only make her look and feel good, but it will also help prevent injury. Ridgebacks are by nature athletic and enthusiastic dogs, and they can easily hurt themselves if their excessive body weight impairs their agility.


Protection and Prevention Key to Rhodesian’s Health

Rhodesian Ridgeback Adult Picture

As most of the of the Rhodesian Ridgebacks are a very healthy dog. However, because of their size, they will and can run into joint-related health problems. Rhodesian Ridgebacks are an ideal dog candidate to work to protect and strengthen their joints safely and naturally by adding an all-natural joint supplement to their diet. Joint supplements can promote joint health and cartilage development which keep dogs active and youthful, longer. This can delay or help prevent joint issues further down the road.

Glyde™ Mobility Chews

Parnell Living Science are the experts on osteoarthritis (OA) or arthritis in dogs and cats. We created a unique formula with key anti-inflammatory ingredients to combat the signs of aging. Glyde uses natural, gluten-free ingredients to promote healthy joints to let your dog do everything he or she loves to do!  Glyde is the only nutraceutical that contains proven levels of three key components that work to relieve the painful signs of arthritis.

Glyde's proven formula has all-natural ingredients and high levels of glucosamine and chondroitin, plus Green Lipped Mussel (GLM) which work together to protect your dog's joints and help repair damaged ones. The proven levels of these key ingredients are what makes the formula unique:

Protecting a dog’s ability to run and play is key to preserving quality of life.  That’s why early recognition and treatment of osteoarthritis (or arthritis in dogs) is so important.  20% of dogs over the age of 1, and 80% of dogs over the age of 8 will shows signs of OA.  Glyde can help protect your dog from signs of aging through arthritis.

 Rhodesian Ridgeback’s Space Debut

If you haven’t tuned into the Netflix’s documentary series “Dogs,” you are missing out on amazing tales of the human bond with their dogs. One episode in Season 2 of this series presented us with the amazing story of a retired astronaut with his Rhodesian Ridgebacks. The story is, once you are officially declared an astronaut, you get to take photos with your family in your new uniform. During the photo session, astronaut Leland Melvin wanted to bring his family: his two Rhodesian Ridgeback dogs. However, NASA is strictly against dogs on NASA property. What Melvin went through to smuggle his family in the photoshoot was quite remarkable. The results propelled the space program and Melvin to new highs.

Netflix took Melvin on his next adventure in the episode “Space for Dogs,” where Melvin his pack of Rhodesian Ridgebacks took an emotional trip to honor his friends, the deceased crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia. If you love dogs and aren’t afraid of shedding a few tears, this is must see TV!

Be sure to check out Leland Melvin's "Chasing Space" book available on Amazon! Or visit his website

How do you know if a Rhodesian Ridgeback is for you?

Beautiful Rhodesian Ridgeback Great Family Dog

Hopefully this gave you some important tips on what you need to know about adding a RR to your pack. These hounds are beautiful and interesting dogs. Ridgeback Rescue is a non-profit organization working to educate potential dog owners on what it takes to have one to call your own. They have a lot of questions you can ask yourself before bringing one home. Plus, they have helpful dog ownership tips on how to turn around some of the bad behaviors Ridgebacks are often guilty of. Be sure to do your research before bringing a Ridgeback home.


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Rhodesian Ridgebacks Love GLyde