5 Incredible Facts About The Ridgeback
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5. RIDGEBACK – A HUNTING DOG
The Rhodesian Ridgeback originates from South Africa, where European farmers already in 1652 brought dogs from their countries, mix-breeding them with local dogs better suited to the climate, and eventually, the Rhodesian Ridgeback was created. In 1924, the breed was acknowledged by the South African Kennel Union.
The origin of the Ridgeback can be seen as a mishap, a something that just happened. The European mastiff type dogs that came along with the European farmers bred with native dogs, and in time, people noticed that these dogs were exceptionally good at hunting – especially larger prey. Over the years, they became brilliant hunters of lions, bears and boars, and a breeding program was begun to fine tune these qualities.
The hunting style of a Rhodesian ridgeback differs slightly from other hunting breeds. They hunt in packs of four or five dogs, and the surround their prey to prevent him from escaping, and then they wait until their human companions catch up for the kill. The dogs do not perform the kill themselves, but they lead the human counterparts to the prey, and keep it there. To these dogs, survival is more important than the kill.
4. ENERGY LEVELS
Being such a large dog as they are, one would think they need enormous amounts of exercise, but they actually need less than one might think. That being said; they still do need physical exercise, and are happy to go on long walks, hikes, have playtime with their human, but they also need mental stimulation to not get bored and therefore also destructive. Combine the two in canine sports like tracking, agility, they have been known to enjoy lure coursing, and you’ll have a very happy dog.
3. MENTALITY AND TRAINABILITY
A Rhodesian ridgeback is a hunting dog of mastiff type – they are called the African mastiff, after all. Like most mastiffs, and most hunting dogs, the ridgeback is strong-willed and independent. With this comes high intelligence, and they are in general quite reserved to strangers. While they may be quick to react on unknown situations, they are equally quick at analysing and deciding whether the situation is dangerous or if they can relax. This, and the fact that they are quite territorial, makes them excellent as guarding dogs.
The ridgeback was bred to hunt. They were bred as a working dog, and know how and when to make decisions on their own. That makes them very independent, which can be difficult to deal with if you don’t know how to handle that. For this reason, they do differ working with, from herding or retrieving breeds who are keener on working together with their human companion.
That doesn’t mean a ridgeback cannot be trained. This needs to start early, with socialization and basic obedience, to give your dog the best circumstances to become an amazing canine companion. To be the best trainer for your ridgeback, be sure to use positive reinforcement, but remember you also need to be a strong, consistent leader to give direction and guidance throughout your dog’s life. With a breed like the Rhodesian ridgeback, this is ever so important.
If you have other animals, especially smaller ones, the Ridgeback may not be the best choice for you. Since they, after all, are a hunting breed, their prey drive is very high and smaller pets like cats, birds, rabbits et cetera, may be seen as fair game.
2. LOOKS AND HEALTH
The Rhodesian ridgeback is an impressive dog. They stand quite tall, between 22 – 27 inches to the shoulder, and weigh about 70 – 85 pounds. Their coat is a beautiful wheat in different nuances, and some individuals have a black mask, or white markings. To the flipside, they do shed all year around, but not much, and you won’t have to do much grooming other than the occasional brush through. Don’t forget to keep their nails trimmed, and check those flappy ears regularly, to keep your Ridgeback in good condition.
When it comes to health, the Ridgeback is quite healthy. Among the most common problems that can arise, are some skin conditions, thyroid function, hip and elbow dysplasia, eye anomalies, and dermoid sinus, a tube like opening in the skin. If you decide to get yourself a Ridgeback, please take care to choose a breeder who screens their breeding stock for these things, to get the best circumstances for your Ridgeback puppy.
Taken care of properly, given both physical and mental exercise and stimulation, your Ridgeback could easily stay with you up to ten years. For a breed of this impressive size, this is a really good life expectancy.
THE RIDGEBACK OF TODAY
Since the Ridgeback moved out of South Africa, their use as hunting dogs has been slightly diminished. In various countries they are still used for hunting, but some hunters believe they work too different and too slow to be effective in how they hunt.
A Rhodesian ridgeback of today is most commonly living with the very active person who can accommodate their needs. In some countries, they are successfully used as tracking dogs. A ridgeback can also find joy in canine sports like agility, lure coursing and other physically challenging activities.
No matter what you choose to do with your ridgeback, I strongly recommend you are an experienced dog person with great knowledge of the importance of that calm, consistence leadership. A ridgeback is not the perfect choice for a first-time-owner, and if you still want one of these glorious dog, I suggest you surround yourself with people who can help you with both training and to develop your leadership skills.