BREED INFORMATION

Your Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of Queensland Inc Resource Center provides useful information on the Breed and selecting a puppy.

This information is intended to provide anyone considering purchasing a Rhodesian Ridgeback a clear picture of what they are letting themselves in for! 

We aim to give you enough information to decide whether a Ridgeback is the dog for you, to get you thinking about some activities you may do together and to give you an idea of what the breed officially looks like, as well as a brief history of the Rhodesian Ridgeback.

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HISTORY OF THE BREED

The Rhodesian Ridgeback originated in Southern Africa where the early European settlers mated their imported sporting breeds with the small fierce hunting dogs owned by the Hottentots in order to produce a guard/hunting dog ideally suited to the local conditions.

The Hottentot hunting dog had a ridge of hair along its spine running in a reverse direction to the rest of the coat.  The historian George McCall Theal was the first to describe this characteristic ridge when writing on conditions in Southern Africa before 1505. The ridge of the Hottentot hunting dog became a feature of the cross matings between the European breeds and the indigenous dogs.  These “Ridgebacks” were used as functional all purpose guard and hunting dogs and it was found that they surpassed any other breed when hunting lions.  Ridgebacks were not expected to kill lions – no dog could do that as a lion is an extremely powerful and heavy big cat standing about 95cm at the shoulder. The Ridgeback would track the lion and bail it up enabling the hunter to come in and shoot it. This required intelligence, cunning, tremendous athleticism and agility on the part of the dogs. Ridgebacks were expected to chase, catch and pull down lesser game, and would kill a lion cub without hesitation.

The first recorded pair of ridged dogs to go from to Central Africa (then Rhodesian now ) were taken by the Rev. Charles Helm in 1879 to Hoe Fountain Mission (near what is now Bulawayo ) probably from the Swellendam, Cape Colony .

During the late 19th century the reputation of the Ridgeback in the hunting field became established by the exploits of the famous big game hunter in Rhodesian named Cornelius Van Rooyen who had a pack of these dogs. Van Rooyen’s dogs were very similar to today’s Rhodesian Ridgebacks. By the late 1920’s when the days of big game hunting on a grand scale were drawing to a close it became apparent that Ridgebacks might disappear if the breed was not standardised and breeders encouraged to strive to conform.

The standard of the breed borrowed much from the Dalmatian standard and was drawn up by Mr F R Barnes after he called a meeting of “Ridgeback” owners in Bulawayo in 1922. This standard was accepted by the South African Kennel Union (now the Kennel Union of South Africa {KUSA}) in 1924. 

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CHOOSING YOUR RIDGEBACK

Before you finally decide on a particular puppy, remember that you are choosing a friend and companion for the next 10-12 years so the decision you are about to make should be based on temperament as much as conformation. 


If you are inexperienced, the best way to gain knowledge is to make the time and effort to inspect as many litters as possible.

The most important questions to ask yourself are:
*  Can you afford to feed a puppy that will grow into a large dog?
*  Can you afford veterinary costs for immunization, worming and unexpected illnesses or accidents?
*  Do you have the time to devote to training a new puppy and later exercising a large dog?
*  Is your property securely fenced?
*  Can you afford suitable housing and care for your dog when you go on holidays?
*  Will the breeder you purchase from be available for advice on raising your puppy?
*  Is your whole family happy with the characteristics of this breed?
*  If you do not intend to show can you afford to spay or neuter your dog or conversely are you happy to have an early neutered puppy on purchase?
*  Have the puppies been raised in a clean, social environment and are they happy and inquisitive?

The whole litter should have been wormed every 2 weeks since birth and should have been vaccinated at 6-8 weeks of age for distemper, hepatitis and parvovirus.  This vaccination takes between 10 and 14 days to give the puppy immunity.

When you inspect a prospective litter, take a good look at both sire and dam (if available). 

1. Do they have any noticeable faults such as undershot or overshot jaws, flat or splayed feet, timid or aggressive temperaments? 

2. Are they both physically active and agile with good muscle tone and free flowing movement? 

3.  More importantly are they loving, confident, outgoing dogs who appeal to you in look and temperament?

4.  Have the sire and dam been x-rayed and scored for hip and elbow dysplasia?


If both sire and dam appear to be basically sound in conformation and temperament look at the litter overall. 

1.  Are the puppies even in size or do they range from tiny puppies to very large puppies?  An average litter numbers 8-10 pups; if there are 3 or 4 in the litter did the breeder have to cull any? 

2.  If so, what were the problems? 

3.  Was there a large percentage of dermoid sinus (explained later on this page), ridgeless and/or misshaped ridges?  Some puppies are born with a lot of black shading apparent through their coat, but if you are looking at them between 6-8 weeks, there should be little or no black shading on the bodies of the puppies. The main coat colour must be wheaten, e.g. honey coloured or reddish gold or shades thereof but not black, cream, brindle, grey/blue or black/ tan/white - while these colours are not admissible into the show ring and must be desexed they can make perfectly acceptable pets.

It is recommended that the puppy you decide to purchase is registered with the Canine Control Council of Queensland (T/as Dogs Queensland) by the breeder. 


There is a big difference between a puppy having 'papers' and being Dogs Queensland registered similarly an even larger difference between a breeder being 'registered' (e.g. with the local government under State Government legislation) and being 'registered' with a prefix (breeder identifier) with Dogs Queensland who are the State body of the Australian National Kennel Council (ANKC). 


Without the Dogs Queensland registration of breeder and puppy there is no guarantee that the puppy you purchase is indeed purebred. Even though the parents may have registration papers unless the breeder is a registered breeder with Dogs Queensland your puppy will never have Dogs Queensland registration papers with no guarantee of parentage or health testing. 


If in doubt contact Dogs Queensland (dogsqueensland.com.au) and check if the breeder is a Dogs Queensland registered breeder. 


All breeders listed in the RRCQ Breeders Directory have agreed to abide by the Club’s Code of Ethics and as member of the Dogs Queensland their Code of Ethics as well.

All puppies in Queensland that are registered with the Dogs Queensland must be sold with their papers registered in the new owner's name. 


If you have not received your puppy’s papers from Dogs Queensland within 4 weeks of receiving your puppy then do not waste any time and contact Dogs Queensland immediately.

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RIDGEBACK ACTIVITIES

The functions of the Rhodesian Ridgeback in are primarily those of a family companion and protector, with the greatest density of the breed being in major metropolitan areas.  The temperament of the breed is ideally suited with the dogs being gentle with children on one hand, fearless watch dogs on the other.  The character of the Rhodesian Ridgeback can best be described as eccentric, with a wicked sense of humour.  In reality a hound of great presence, intelligent and loyal, not disguising his affection, yet demonstrating a devotion to duty to the point of protecting its owner to the death if required.

Family Pet


This large, sleepy and apparently slow moving animal with its characteristic love of lazing, preferably leaning against you or sitting on your feet, can be transformed into a graceful streak of rhythmic motion or at times display an air of outright stupidity and clumsiness. This apparent stupidity and clumsiness disguises a high degree of intelligence. Children are treated to varying degrees of tolerance, from indifference to affection of embarrassing proportions. The great danger arises from the sheer size and strength, and boisterous enthusiasm for human play and affection. In common with other breeds, a Ridgeback should be respected and not treated as a rag doll to be dragged around or jumped on, particularly when a puppy.

Conformation Showing


Ridgebacks have been shown in Queensland since the early 1970’s as part of the Hound Group. Varying levels of success have been achieved up to and including Best in Show winners. The best of the best is usually on display at the Toowoomba Royal (March/April); Brisbane Royal “Ekka” (August) and the Club’s Championship show in June and Open show in September.

Obedience


The young and adolescent Ridgeback does have a tendency toward exuberance and naughtiness. It is important for new owners to gently but firmly assert their dominance. A Ridgeback will respond readily to flattery, praise and firm handling. With an inherent strong will and self determination it cannot be “beaten into submission” but should be jollied along to obtain the best results. A gruff voice will usually suffice to install discipline. In the obedience sphere a number of Ridgebacks have gained the basic obedience title of CD with some owners taking their dogs on to the top levels of Obedience Champion. The intelligence of the breed can be constructively channelled – despite that stubborn streak.

Agility


Ridgebacks often earn the epithet “Houdini Hound” for their surprisingly athletic feats of agility.  Ridgebacks excel at Agility trialling where the dogs are put over jumps, through tunnels, up A-Frames and over dog walks, etc, in a timed competition.  A number of dogs have successfully gained AD, ADX and ADM titles. They also excel at a newer form of Agility called Jumping Dog. It comprises of only jumps, tunnels and weave poles, with no contact obstacles as in Agility. A number of dogs have successfully gained JD, JDX, and JDM titles.

Lure Coursing


The Ridgeback is capable of achieving very fast racing speeds.  Their strength combined with their tenacity and cunning more than make up for any lack of acceleration. The Ridgeback’s forefathers were probably interbred with Greyhounds in order to enhance their speed in the hunt and so the breed is capable of recording fast times. This sport is one that perhaps best utilises the Ridgeback’s inherent abilities and is certainly one that most Ridgebacks thoroughly enjoy.

Endurance Trial


The 20km endurance test can be done by either bike of jogging with your dog under a time constraint, with the dog neither  lagging nor pulling ahead. Ridgebacks have no problem attaining this title (ET).

Hunting Dogs


The Ridgeback has plenty of stamina. Their endurance is such that he can run several miles at a fast lope and can go a good 24 hours or more without water.  A number of the breed are still worked in rural areas, primarily in the control of vermin such as rabbits and wild pigs. Ridgebacks have also been used in to track and kill foxes, pull down feral goats and point and retrieve birds such as ducks and quail. The distinctive combination of cunning and senses of sight and smell, coupled with amazing speed and agility for such a large hound, are often ably demonstrated. Yet with such apparent dynamism, great self control is the forte of a mature Rhodesian Ridgeback.

Guard Dog


The Boer settler used the Ridgeback to guard the farm from marauding animals and prowlers at night.  In addition he needed a companion that would stay by him while he slept in the bush and that would be devoted to his wife and children.  Henceforth the Ridgeback has taken the role of guard dog in the army and the diamond mines and is used by the Canadian Police Force for guard duty.  The Ridgeback demonstrates uncanny loyalty and devotion to his owner and family, often singling out one individual as their special possession, on which to unlash their affection.  It is often said that you do not own a Ridgeback, but rather they own you.  Ridgebacks do not give voice unnecessarily but only of sufficient proportion to warn of danger. This characteristic, coupled with a basically casual and lazy attitude to life can be deceptive, but rest assured, the ridged hulk that sleeps for long periods, often stretched out in front of doorways or on sofas, is rapidly stirred into an alert deterrent to trespassers.

Described as eccentric, with a wicked sense of humour.  In reality a hound of great presence, intelligent and loyal, not disguising his affection, yet demonstrating a devotion to duty to the point of protecting its owner to the death if required.

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