A big game hunter, the Rhodesian Ridgeback derives its name from its place of origin, Rhodesia, what is now Zimbabwe. Various dogs, imported by Boer settlers in the 16th and 17th centuries, decided to breed their own hunting dogs that were suited to working vast acreages under a hot sun. To achieve this, several large breed dogs including Greyhounds, Great Danes, Mastiffs and Bloodhounds, were selectively crossed with native dogs of the Khoikhoi peoples, establishing a breed with stamina, strength and fearlessness. Utilised in packs while the hunters trailed on horseback, the Rhodesian Ridgeback was a keen hunter of lion, distracting the target long enough for the hunter to shoot at it. Further employments include guarding home and property, protecting children from predators, and retrieving flushed birds. The breed was first imported to the United States in 1950 and was officially recognised by their Kennel Club five years later.
Distinct in appearance, the 'ridgeback' is known as such for its unique coat characteristic, that sees a line of hair along its spine. A distinct trait of the Khoikhoi dogs, the Rhodesian adopted this trait when selectively bred, retaining it today. Further characteristic to the breed is its solid, athletic build, long legs, a deep chest for aiding stamina, a long, defined muzzle, a low-set, tapering tail, and eyes of a colouration matching the coat. The Rhodesian coat is typically short and close-fitting, usually seen in variations of wheaten, red and brown. The Rhodesian is otherwise known as the 'Lion Dog' or 'African Lion Hound.'
Whilst being determined on the hunt and fearless in safeguarding its family from potential danger, the Rhodesian is otherwise obedient, calm and loyal, adapting well to the home setting. Possessing a natural authority as the original pack leader, the Rhodesian Ridgeback benefits from firm leadership, early socialisation and consistent obedience training in order to settle well into domestic life. In general, a healthy Rhodesian Ridgeback will weigh 30-40 kg depending on its gender, with a life expectancy of 10-12 years when exercised regularly, given constant human companionship, and mentally enriched.
Despite being sturdy and resilient, the Rhodesian Ridgeback is susceptible to various health complaints, ranging from mild to more serious. These include optical disorders, such as cataracts, entropion and progressive retinal atrophy, as well as hip dysplasia and association orthopedic complaints. More serious incidences of bloat and gastric tortion are commonly observed in the large breeds, and the Rhodesian Ridgeback is no exception. Other conditions include mast-cell tumours and various cancers, inactive thyroid, and a degenerative spinal cord disease known as Degenerative Myelopathy.