The most prominent feature of the Rhodesian Ridgeback is also the one this dog is known for - a line of hair that grows in the opposite direction from the rest of his coat. This "ridge" lies along the backbone of the dog, but isn't a protrusion from the dog's body. It's merely a line of hair that grows toward the dog's head, rather than in the natural direction of the coat. Because the coat of the Rhodesian Ridgeback is short, the line of hair is very noticeable. This ridge of hair comes from the ancestors of the Rhodesian Ridgeback. The Khoikhoi is a dog that was kept by native South African tribes and that dog has the same distinctive ridge of hair.
A combination of the Khoikhoi, Mastiff and some other breeds that probably included the Deerhound resulted in the Rhodesian Ridgeback. In South Africa, the dogs of the tribes were given many tasks. Sometimes, these animals were trusted to "run herd" on the children of the tribe. Children were allowed to play outdoors under the strict eye of the dogs of the tribe.
These dogs were fiercely protective and parents could go on with their work knowing that the dogs would alert the adults if a child tried to wander off or encountered danger. The Rhodesian Ridgebacks were sometimes given this task. That's not to say they were playmates to the children, but that they had a job to do. Today's Rhodesian Ridgebacks have retained that protective instinct. They don't tend to make the best playmates for children who want to scuffle and play rough, but are protective of anyone they've bonded with - including children. This trait makes them a good watchdog.
The protective nature must be handled well from an early age or they can be fierce and aggressive when protecting their territory and those they feel responsible for. Rhodesian Ridgebacks as a breed are some tone of brown, called "wheat" by most breeders. White markings are completely acceptable and usually fall on the animal's chest or feet. If the coat is light brown, the nose tends to be dark brown. If the coat is darker brown, the nose may be black.
This breed is fairly large with healthy adult males weighing upward of 100 pounds and standing well over two feet tall. As a rule, these are extremely hearty dogs. If you remember their ancestry, it's no wonder that able keep normal routines even when the weather is very hot. But these animals can also withstand cold weather as well.
The do well as outdoor dogs, though many also willingly make the change to indoors. These dogs were bred primarily for hunting and they continue to be extremely able in that arena. They also have great stamina so they make good companion dogs for people with plenty of acreage to roam. (Remember that hunting instinct and be wary of allowing them free reign with other animals.
) They'll lope along beside a four-wheeler or become an excellent running partner.
For more information on Rhodesian Ridgebacks and other Popular, and not-so-popular breeds of dogs, visit The Hound Dog Directory