When the Dutch landed at Table Bay in 1652, they found the Cape was inhabited by the Hottentots, who hunted with medium- sized dogs, reddish brown or tan in colour, with a short mane of hair on their backs, which ran from hips to shoulder. The Settlers were impressed with their hunting skills, but the Hottentots would not part with any. The European-bred, sporting type dogs fell prey to the dangers & diseases of the African bush, so were crossed with the indigenous ones and useful, hardy frontier dogs were developed. The ridge of the Hottentot dog manifested itself in many of the offspring of these matings; as a dominant gene it recurred for generations. These dogs with their owners explored & expanded northward, hunting, farming, etc.
In the late 1800's, mainly British settlers colonised land north of the Limpopo River and created Rhodesia, which was "lion country" and a suitable dog was desperately needed. The ancestry of the early Ridgeback made him perfect for that purpose: he possessed a good nose, speed, stamina, courage, dash & spirit, hunting skills, immunity against disease and his identity - the ridge.
The main characteristic of the Rhodesian Ridgeback is the ridge: clearly defined, tapering and symmetrical, with 2 identical crowns, formed by hair growing in the opposite direction to rest of the coat. They are strong, handsome, muscular and active dogs, symmetrical in outline, capable of great endurance with a fair amount of speed.
They are light wheaten to red wheaten in colour, and stand between 24" and 27" at the shoulder. Bitches should be smaller and have very feminine heads, while the mature male is handsome and upstanding.
They are dignified, intelligent, aloof with strangers but showing no aggression or shyness. Fidelity is a marked characteristic and they make wonderful family pets, but require strong leadership as they are pack animals! Kind, firm and consistent handling is the key to a happy relationship with this powerful athletic breed, which will always employ their Sight & Scent hound abilities when out and about!
Hip and Elbow scoring is now essential in avoiding these problems in the breed. The Dermoid Sinus is the major hereditary defect in the breed - generally understood to be caused by the incomplete separation between the skin and spinal cord during the development of the skin and central nervous system. There has been significant research into the genetics of this defect and it is hoped that there will soon be a DNA test to allow breeders to identify carriers and keep them out of the gene pool. This would save much suffering for affected puppies and distraught owners, should the defect go unnoticed by a breeder.
While Epilepsy and Entropian also occur, cancers in dogs are probably of greater concern to most RR owners/breeders.