While scent hounds use their nose to find their quarry, sight hounds use their eyes and their tremendous speed. The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a breed that seems to exhibit both tendencies. When first officially recognized, the Ridgeback was grouped in with gundogs. However, after twenty years and much discussion they were reassigned to the hound category. The debate as to whether they were sight hounds or scent hounds began almost immediately. Not only does the discussion span the boundaries of the globe, how one classifies the Rhodesian Ridgeback seems to be based breed characteristics, cultural differences, and the humble opinion of thousands of Ridgeback enthusiasts.
Those who believe the breed is a scent hound follow the line of reasoning that the thick African bush requires the breed to primarily use their nose to sniff out quarry. As many animals of the African savannah are masters of camouflage, sighting quarry would be extremely difficult. The Rhodesian Ridgeback also possesses a precaudal gland, something that sight hounds typically do not possess. A precaudal gland is located at the base of the tail and is commonly used for marking territories. The trait is more typically found in wolves who largely rely on scent for their all around survival.
Others counter that the body type and the Ridgeback's speed and agility make it a sight hound. The Ridgeback was commonly used to help hunt lions. While some scent tracking is necessary for this task, the Ridgeback's ability to avoid the dangerous claws of its quarry would require extreme gifts in sight and agility. Sight hounds also have great stamina thanks to a nicely developed lung capacity, something the Ridgeback has in abundance. The sight hound not only needs but expects a good amount of physical activity. Many Rhodesian Ridgebacks that take part in agility courses have shown to do extremely well.
While each has a strong position, there are those who reject both lines of thought and classify the Rhodesian as a type of Cur Dog. Though the word cur brings up a derogatory sentiment for some, in this instance a Cur Dog refers to those types of canine that have traits specifically geared for hunting. They are considered true blue hunters that locate quarry by combining sight and sound with razor sharp proficiency. Many feel this is the most accurate description of the Rhodesian Ridgeback. The Cur Dog often displays both physical and temperamental traits that belong to both sight and scent hounds; and they can work in a number of different climates. Currently, the Rhodesian Ridgeback is used in a number of geographic settings, from dense forest to grassy fields. They use their nose and eyes to seek out bears, boars, elk and other large quarry.