The Rhodesian Ridgeback is the type of breed that stands out not only because of its conspicuous hair ridge trait, but also because it is one of the few breeds of dogs of African origin. The Rhodesian Ridgeback is thought to be a cross between native South African dogs and dogs of settlers, such as Great Danes, Mastiffs, and Greyhounds. Like many other dog breeds the Ridgeback was born to guard and hunt, but they were meant to do so in the much tougher veldts of Africa where lions roamed freely. The requirements needed in a dog for this type of environment are a certain combination of sturdy physical characteristics and a keen intelligence.
Obviously, the most defining trait of the Rhodesian Ridgeback will be its signature swath of hair that runs from the shoulders to the hips yet grows in a hip to shoulder direction. Commonly referred to as a ridge, the characteristic is immediately present upon birth. Although it is possible for a Ridgeback to be born without this trait, these occasions are actually quite rare. In fact, the distinguishing feature is required in the breed's standard as set forth by reputable kennel clubs all over the world. Other than to distinguish the Ridgeback as one of two breeds in the world to have this unique characteristic, the ridgeline serves no real purpose.
The amazingly developed sense of smell of this hound breed comes from its days as the African Lion Dog that hunted the savannahs for lions. Many owners note that a strong prey drive is evident right from the beginning. With its origins still very much a part of its temperament, the Ridgeback requires the type of owner who not only recognizes but respects the characteristics that come with being part of a wild dog breed. The Rhodesian Ridgeback is fiercely protective of its territory, especially when it comes to other males. New owners are recommended to heavily socialize this breed from the beginning to curb aggressive streaks.
One of the best traits of the Rhodesian Ridgeback is their bark, or lack thereof. As a hound, the breed has a hearty and robust vocalization; however, they are not the type to simply bark and bark with reckless abandon. The seasoned Ridgeback owner knows that when a Rhodesian barks incessantly, trouble is afoot. This trait is what has given the breed their sterling reputation as a guard dog. This, just like their webbed feet for walking on the African sand, is also a trait that stems from their days in the wilds. Rhodesian Ridgebacks have no problem appreciating their lives as part of loving homes as long as owners find a way to appreciate the breed's leftover instinctive quirks.