A little bit about the breed’s history and appearance
The Dutch, Germans and Huguenots who migrated to South Africa in the 16th and 17th centuries brought with them Danes, Mastiffs, Greyhounds, Salukis, Bloodhounds and other breeds. However, for more than 100 years from 1707, European immigration was closed; consequently, the importation of additional dogs of these or other breeds was not possible. Good hunting dogs, therefore, became hard to come by and their value was high. The settlers needed a dog that could flush a few partridge, pull down a wounded stag, or guard the farm from marauding animals and prowlers at night.
They also needed a dog that could withstand the rigors of the African bush, hold up under drastic changes in temperature, from the heat of the day to nights below freezing, and go a full 24 hours or more without water if need be.
They required a short-haired dog that would not be eaten alive by ticks. In addition, the settler needed a companion that would stay by him while he slept in the bush and that would be devoted to his wife and children.
Out of necessity, therefore, these settlers developed, by selective breeding between dogs which they had brought with them from home countries and the half-wild ridged dog of the Hottentot tribes, a distinct breed of the African veldt, which has come to be known as the Rhodesian Ridgeback.
The Hottentot dogs played the most important part in the development and ultimate characteristics of the new breed. Throughout all of the interbreeding and crossbreeding between these native dogs and those of the settlers, the ridge of the Hottentot dog was respected and retained. In due course, the Hottentot dog established the foundation stock of our present day Rhodesian Ridgeback.
There is no doubt the Rhodesians (now people of the country known as Zimbabwe) have developed the breed as we know it today from the original stock. In the year 1875, the intrepid missionary, Rev. Charles Helm, undertook a journey from his home in Swellendam in the Cape Province of South Africa to Rhodesia. He was accompanied by two of these dogs. While the Rev. Helm was in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) Cornelius von Rooyen, the big-game hunter and early authority on the South African wildlife, borrowed the two dogs to take along on a hunt. Von Rooyen soon concluded that they possessed excellent instinctive hunting qualities and thereupon pioneered the breeding of a pack of the species as hunters of big game for his own use.
They have since been bred on an extensive scale in Rhodesia and were given the name of that country. Their hunting characteristics have also proved to be useful in hunting native game in other parts of the world.
Intelligent and ever alert, their heads are held high with pride and, with a set of feet that will carry them over any sort of country, they are the only breed of dog in the world that can keep a lion at bay for the hunter to kill….and live!
In their appearance Rhodesian Ridgeback should represent a well-balanced, strong, muscular, agile and active dog, symmetrical in outline, and capable of great endurance with a fair amount of speed.The emphasis is on agility, elegance and soundness with no tendency towards massiveness.
The Rhodesian Ridgeback’s distinguishing feature is the ridge of hair along its back, running in the opposite direction to the rest of its coat. It consists of a fan-like area formed by two whirls of hair (called “crowns”) and tapers from immediately behind the shoulders down to the level of the hips. The ridge is usually about 5 cm (2 Inches) in width at its widest point.
Male Ridgebacks should stand 25–27 inches (63–69 cm) at the withers and weigh about 85 lb (39 kg) (FCI Standard); females should be 61 – 66 cm (24–26 inches) tall and about 32kg (70lb) in weight but many are much larger.
Ridgebacks are typically muscular and have a light wheaten to red wheaten coat, which should be short, dense, sleek and glossy in appearance, neither woolly nor silky. White is acceptable on the chest and toes.
Ridgebacks have a strong, smooth tail, which is usually carried in a gentle curve backwards. The eyes should be set moderately well apart, round, bright and sparkling. They should have intelligent expression, their colour close to the colour of the coat. As a temperament these dogs are dignified and intelligent, aloof with strangers, but showing no aggression or shyness.