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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.