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10 Incredible Rhodesian Ridgeback Facts You Need to Know

Melissa Gunter

By Melissa Gunter

Rhodesian Ridgeback

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are famous for the pattern or ridge that runs down their backs. However, there’s a lot more to these dogs than you could imagine. These loving and energetic dogs were originally bred to help hunt lions but now spend the majority of their time at their owner’s side. With so many interesting facts out there about these dogs, it’s only natural for people who own a Rhodesian Ridgeback or are considering one as a family pet would want to learn as much as they can. That’s what we’re here to do. Let’s take a look at 10 incredible Rhodesian Ridgeback facts that you probably don’t know but should.

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The 10 Most Incredible Rhodesian Ridgeback Facts

1. The Rhodesian Ridgeback Hails from South Africa

The original Rhodesian Ridgebacks were known as Van Rooyen’s Lion Hounds. In the 1800s, Van Rooyen was on the hunt for the perfect dog to face off against 600-pound lions. He wanted speed, bravado, and size all in one package. To achieve this goal, he gathered some of the most fearsome dog breeds around, including the Lion Hound. By singling out the best qualities he saw in these dogs, he began crossbreeding and created the first of this breed which was called Van Rooyen’s Lion Hounds. It was in 1922 that these dogs were discovered by a man named Francis Barnes. The Rhodesian Ridgebacks we know today were refined by him.

rhodesian ridgeback lying on a wooden table with flower
Image Credit: Frank Schrader, Pixabay

2. Rhodesian Ridgebacks Only Come in One Color

AKC standards set forth for the Rhodesian Ridgebacks only accept the color Wheaten. Light and red Wheaten are among the variations. According to them, any color you see on a purebred Rhodesian Ridgeback is merely a variation of Wheaten. While that may eliminate many Rhodesian Ridgebacks from the showroom, that doesn’t mean they can’t be welcomed into homes around the world.

3. Coming to America

It’s not unusual for a movie star to make a breed popular by showing off their dogs. However, it’s not common for one to be the reason a dog breed makes its way to America. Errol Flynn of Robin Hood fame was among the first people to bring Rhodesian Ridgebacks to America. Flynn fell in love with the breed while he was on a hunting trip in South Africa. He purchased his first dog of this breed from an English breeder in the 1930s. He then began to breed the dogs on his ranch in Hollywood making him the first breeder here in the states. Sadly, the line he created is now extinct.

Rhodesian Ridgeback
Image Credit: imch, Pixabay

4. Rhodesian Ridgebacks Aren’t Big Barkers

We all know some dog breeds are known for barking or being a bit noisy. That’s not the case with the Rhodesian Ridgeback. These dogs are normally pretty quiet. If you do hear them barking, you should definitely get up and investigate. When one of these dogs becomes vocal, something isn’t on the up and up.

5. Ridgebacks Love to Run

Considering the reason behind their breeding, it isn’t surprising that Rhodesian Ridgebacks love to run. While this can be fun for some families, you should be careful. These dogs have the speed that allows them to keep up with fast prey. At full stride, they can reach up to 25 miles per hour. This puts them on the list of the top 20 fastest dogs. So, if you have a Ridgeback, make sure it has lots of room to run and a nice high fence to keep them in the yard.

Rhodesian Ridgeback dog running on grass
Image Credit: Aneta Jungerova, Shutterstock

6. The “Ridge” Ancestor Is Extinct

The ridge that runs down the back of the Rhodesian Ridgeback is one of the breed’s most unique features. This ridge can be traced back to one of the Ridgeback’s ancestors, the Hottentot Dog. These dogs were known to travel with the Hottentot Tribe and were last noted in the late 1930s.

7. Rhodesian Ridgebacks Are Amazing Guardians

If you bring a Rhodesian Ridgeback into the family you should prepare for its protective nature. In the past, when these dogs weren’t hunting, they were protecting families from dangerous predators in South Africa. Once a Ridgeback becomes part of the family, they will use their formidable size and hunting background to keep everyone in the house safe. This means you should be particularly careful when you take them out and about.

Rhodesian Ridgeback
Image Credit: Osetrik, Shutterstock

8. Ridgebacks Do Well with Other Pets

If you have other pets in the house, don’t be wary of bringing a Rhodesian Ridgeback into the fold. These dogs do great with cats and other animals. This is especially true if they are introduced to these animals when they are young. There’s even a world-famous friendship between a Rhodesian Ridgeback named Raina and a cheetah named Ruuxa at the San Diego Zoo.

9. Ridgebacks Are Intelligent and Stubborn

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are known for their intelligence but they also have a stubborn streak as long as the ridge down their backs. To avoid issues with your Ridgeback showing out as they get older, training should be consistent and start at a young age. If you also use positive reinforcement, you may have a chance to get a handle on your Ridgeback before they have a chance to develop a stubborn streak.

Rhodesian ridgeback dog in a field
Image Credit: Nina Quka, Pexels

10. Rhodesian Ridgebacks Are Devoted People Dogs

Yes, Rhodesian Ridgebacks are big and formidable, and they were bred to keep lions at bay, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t people dogs. This breed is known for getting extremely attached to their families. They want to spend time with you and be wherever you are. They love with complete devotion and will go to great lengths to show it.Divider 5


The Rhodesian Ridgeback is an amazing dog breed that has earned its place in the hearts of people around the world. If you have one of these dogs in your family or are considering bringing one into the fold, you would be making a great choice. Knowing these incredible facts about this wonderful breed can help you better understand Rhodesian Ridgebacks and their actions so the bond you form can be even stronger.

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Featured Image Credit: du_weist_schon_wer, Pixabay

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