Rhodesian Ridgeback- Living with Giants
Rhodesian Ridgeback. African Lion dog
by Robert Hudson
A breed that evolved from an ancient African dog, the Rhodesian Ridgeback is a living example of the long time relationship between man and dog. The people in the region of southern Africa lived with a large breed, semi wild hound. The early European settlers of the 17th century called it a fearless guard dog.
By the 18th century the Dutch brought many different breeds to the region that were bred with the native dog. Greyhounds, Great Danes, Irish Wolfhounds and Bloodhounds were all added to the native’s gene pool. Modern day Rhodesian Ridgebacks retain 4% pre-colonial ancestry.
Karen Kellogg and her husband have two gentle giants, Kimba and Olive.
“My husband and I owned a veterinary clinic in Portland for two decades. Dr. John’s favorite patient was a stunning Rhodesian Ridgeback named Diesel. Diesel was a very big boy, stoic, majestic and he took over any room he sauntered into.
My husband fell in love with Diesel, and he would be so happy when he got to work with him in the clinic. John told me ‘I promise you this, one day I am going to get my very own Diesel!’ We got our first ridgeback, Kimba in 2015, and our second in 2016. I have been “all in” with this breed since then, creating a network of local ridgebacks for play dates, hiking, etc. I am also an active volunteer for Rhodesian Ridgeback Rescue of the U.S.”, Karen told me.
Why a Rhodesian Ridgeback?
“Intelligence, majestic appearance, physically strong, loving, sweet, soulful, athletic, stubborn, goofy, funny,” Karen said without hesitation. And despite their history of being a guard and hunting dog, (the natives used the dog to hunt lions), the Rhodesian Ridgeback is a loyal family dog.
“Are these big, strong, brave lion hunters good with kids? Absolutely YES! Ridgebacks are hounds, and hounds thrive being in a pack. Their family becomes their center of their universe, and their pack. A well trained ridgeback with good house manners is an ideal dog to grow up alongside of a child. These dogs see themselves as the playmate, the protector, and big brother or sister to their human siblings.
Ridgebacks are very sensitive, intuitive and gentle with children once they grow out of the shark tooth puppy phase. They are amazing family dogs, loyal, and very tuned in with the family,” according to Karen.
What is that ridge?
The most distinct physical feature of the breed is the ridge down the center of it’s back. What is it? A ridge of hair running along its back in the opposite direction from the rest of its coat. It consists of a fan-like area formed by two whorls of hair (called “crowns”) and tapers from immediately behind the shoulders down to the level of the hips. The ridge is usually about 2 inches (51 mm) in width at its widest point. Its all hair- no bone or cartilage. This differs from many dogs whose hair stands straight up along its backbone when they are excited.
Not a Couch Potato
The Rhodesian Ridgeback is an active breed that needs rigorous exercise. Karen explains, “Ridgebacks are extremely athletic. In fact, I think of them as thoroughbred racehorses. They are a well muscled dog that can run endlessly, navigate rocks and hillsides, cross rivers on logs, and play with other dogs.
Ridgebacks can be naughty, and if not exercised appropriately, you may find you lose a favorite purse, your glasses or remote control when your Rhodesian Ridgeback is bored and not well exercised. When my ridgebacks were young, we would hike several miles in the morning, and then hike or take a very long walk in the afternoon.”
Rescuing Rhodesian Ridgebacks
Karen works at a Ridgeback rescue.
“Ridgeback Rescue of the U.S. is an all volunteer rescue group with many dogs coming and going. . All dogs are in foster homes throughout the U.S., so we have a constant need for more. Many of the dogs coming into rescue are trained and have had happy lives up to this point.
Others were not so fortunate, and had little training or human socialization. This may have been due to a backyard breeder or neglect. The foster parents work with the dogs to help them settle down and they work on all aspects of training. We work very hard on socialization.
Some dogs will always carry some of their past baggage with them. Those dogs are only placed in adoptive homes with a lot of experience with this breed. We screen potential adopters very carefully, to ensure that we are placing the right dog with the right humans. We do not just want a home for the dogs, we want the RIGHT home. This ensures that the humans are happy and the dog is happy!
I work mainly with potential adopters. My greatest joy is when I receive a photo or a video of the adopted ridgeback happy. Playing with their family, going on a camping trip, or even just lounging on the couch. To see the dog so comfortable and loved, and to know the family is so happy is my joy….this is why I do what I do!”