Rhodesian Ridgeback

A Complete Breed Guide for Rhodesian Ridgeback Dogs

Last Updated NOVEMBER 2023

This article is written by Pet Circle's qualified veterinarian, Dr Samantha Wycherley, BVSc

Bred originally for hunting lions in the wild plains of southern Africa, the Rhodesian Ridgeback has come a long way since its mighty origins. Intelligent, loyal, and undoubtedly regal, the 'Ridgie' is now a popular and much-loved family dog. Although they can be a little stubborn, these handsome golden giants can make an incredible family member if you're willing to put in the time with their training.


1. Rhodesian Ridgeback Facts

2. History

3. Personality

4. Best Toys for Ridgebacks

5. Best food for Ridgebacks

6. Health Concerns

Further reading

images of rhodesian ridgebacks

Image credit: @dea_und_herr_gold

Rhodesian Ridgeback Facts

Breed size: Place of origin: Intelligence
Large Zimbabwe (at the time 'Rhodesia') High
Breed group: Energy level: Weight range:
Hound group High Females 29-34kg, Males 36-41kg
Life expectancy: Tendency to bark: Height range:
10 to 12 years Rarely Females 61-66cm, Males 63-69cm
Drool factor: Ease of training: Coat type:
Low Moderate - intelligent but stubborn Short, dense, sleek and glossy
Shedding factor: Overall grooming needs: Colours:
Low Low maintenance Wheaten to red colour. Occasionally white on the chest and toes.

Do Ridgebacks shed?

Yes, but they are considered low volume shedders.

How much does a Ridgeback Puppy cost?

You can expect to pay around $3000 or more for a Ridgeback puppy from a registered breeder with parents that have been hip and elbow scored.

How long do Ridgebacks live for?

The average life expectancy of a ridgeback is 10 - 12 years. As with any breed, they will live much longer if you take good care of them, never let them become overweight (which can be tricky as they are very prone to obesity), and keep their teeth in top condition!

Are Ridgebacks good pets?

Ridgebacks can make excellent pets when well trained however as they are a large breed and can be quite protective they aren’t recommended for first time dog owners.

Do Ridgebacks bark a lot?

Ridgebacks have a low tendency to bark. They will generally bark to alert you to something out of the ordinary, and some will bark when they are bored. But for the most part, this isn't a particularly vocal breed.

How big do Ridgebacks grow?

A rhodesian ridgeback male can grow to around 40kg! And females are usually smaller weighing around 30kg.

How do I choose a Ridgeback breeder?

When looking for a Ridgeback, your options are to: a) adopt from a rescue (this is our top recommendation!) b) buy from an or online marketplace or pet store (NOT recommended!), or c) Research a reputable breeder. Never purchase a puppy without inspecting the breeder's premises and asking the 10 Breeder Checklist Questions first. Good breeders socialise their animals, house them humanely, allow you to inspect their premises, and select for healthy traits and good temperaments. Read our Guide to Finding a Good Breeder for more tips.

Are Ridgebacks good with children?

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are amazing with children, but both child and dog must learn to behave around one another. Because of their size, younger and more excitable ridgebacks may knock over small children by accident. Ridgebacks are protective of children and other household members.

Rhodesian Ridgeback History

drawings of rhodesian ridgebacks with lions

Rhodesian Ridgebacks originated in Southern Africa in what was known as Rhodesia at the time (now Zimbabwe). It may surprise you to know that these gentle pets were once bred to hunt lions! They are sometimes referred to as the 'African Lion Hound'. They were used by the Boer farmers as a hunting dog that could survive the African climate. They are a tough breed of dog!

The name 'Ridgeback' comes from the ridge of hair along the spine which stands out due to growing backwards. The Ridgeback was admitted to the American Kennel Club in 1955 as an official breed.

Rhodesian Ridgeback Personality

rhodesian ridgeback on sand dune

Image by @sir_jamesridgeback

Ridgebacks are known for their loyalty, independence, intelligence and tendency to be stubborn! This stubborn streak can make them a little tricky to train so its important to be consistent and start training early.

Ridgebacks are active and energetic puppies but they do tend to become calmer and more placid when they're older.

The Best Toys for Ridgebacks

Ridgebacks love to chew! Tough, long-lasting toys are best for those lion hunting jaws!

Kong Extreme

Made from an ultra-durable, all-natural rubber formula, the KONG Extreme also has an erratic bounce, making it perfect for fetch and playtime as well.

KONG Extreme Dental

Made from the KONG Extreme rubber formula, this enticing chew toy is designed to last. The cotton rope helps massage teeth and gums.

Chuck It Classic Long

An extra long ball thrower to help you launch your Ridgeback's ball further than ever before to satisfy those intense fetch cravings!

Kong Cozie Elephant

Luxuriously cuddly, this soft toy is ideal for snuggling and provides comfort to dogs of all ages.

Rhodesian Ridgeback Diet and Nutrition

3 ridgeback puppies

Image credit: @dea_und_herr_gold

Rhodesian Ridgeback Puppies

Some points to note about Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy ownership include:

What To Feed A Rhodesian Ridgeback Puppy

Ridgeback puppies need to eat a premium, large breed diet that is nutritionally formulated to meet AAFCO Guidelines until they are 12-18 months of age. You may consider a Rotation Diet to provide exposure to different proteins and reduce the risk of food sensitivities.

Raw diets for Ridgebacks? Raw diets are not suitable or safe for Ridgeback puppies due to the risk of bacterial contamination, which can lead to food poisoning and upset their sensitive tummies. Plus, an unbalanced diet can lead to nutritional deficiencies. Read more about Raw Diets: The Risks and Benefits.

When should you transition a Ridgeback from puppy to adult food? As a general guide, Ridgebacks can usually be transitioned from a 'puppy' food to an 'adult' food at around 12-18 months of age. This does, however, vary depending on your dog's body condition score - if your pup is underweight, they may require a puppy food for a little longer. Likewise, if they're starting to show a bit of 'pudge', it may be time for a lower-in-calories 'Adult' diet.

Our top recommendations for Ridgeback puppy food include:

Royal Canin Maxi Puppy

This premium dry food is specifically formulated to support the health and wellbeing of large breed puppies.

Ivory Coat Large Breed Puppy

A wholesome, Australian made natural food designed specifically for large breed puppies like the Ridgeback.

Advance Large Breed Puppy

This diet is fortified with green lipped mussel powder to promote healthy joints and contains the correct balance of calories, calcium and phosphorus for an optimal, controlled growth rate.

Ivory Coat Large Breed Puppy

With real chicken as the number one ingredient, this puppy food contains all the essential nutrition your large breed puppy needs to grow and develop.

Best Food for Adult Ridgebacks

It's important to feed your adult Rhodesian Ridgeback a complete and balanced diet, and veterinarians particularly recommend feeding one that has been formulated for large breed dogs.

Although there are no specific feeding requirements for a Ridgeback, their diet needs to be age-appropriate and meet all of their daily nutritional and energy demands. Also, it is very important that you do not overfeed or immediately exercise your Ridgeback after a meal due to their increased risk of getting GDV and Bloat. Most Large Breed Adult or Puppy Food from premium brands including Hills Science Diet, Royal Canin, or Advance are suitable for Ridgebacks. These scientifically-formulated diets also contain balanced levels of protein, fat and carbohydrate plus vitamins, minerals and antioxidants for health and wellbeing.

Hills Science Diet Adult Large Breed Light

This premium adult dog food is specifically designed for large breed adults and has an adapted calorie content to aid weight control.

Royal Canin Maxi Adult

With kibble specially designed to slow your Ridgeback's mouth shape, this premium quality food contains nutrition tailored the the specific requirements of adult large breeds.

Wellness Core Grain Free Large Breed Adult

Containing meat as the first 3 ingredients, no meat by products and fortified with glucosamine and probiotics, this Wellness Core product is a very high quality natural diet ideal for large breed dogs.

Advance Large Breed

This high quality, grain free dry food contains functional ingredients like pumpkin seeds and blueberries to promote immunity, and chicory root for natural sources of prebiotic fibre to support gut health.

Ridgeback Health Problems

ridgeback standing on top of sand dune

Image by @sir_jamesridgeback


Rhodesian Ridgebacks, like other large breed dogs, can be prone to elbow dysplasia. Elbow dysplasia is a condition which means the elbow develops abnormally and can lead to pain and arthritis in the joint.


Hip dysplasia is another condition often seen in large breed dogs. This occurs when the 'ball' of the hip doesn't fit perfectly in the 'socket' and the socket is too shallow. This often results in pain and arthritis.

Check with your breeder to see if the parents have been hip and elbow scored. Parents with perfect elbow and hip scores and less likely to have offspring with joint issues (although it is still possible).

Dermoid sinus

Dermoid Sinus is a genetic condition which is known to affect ridgebacks. A dermoid sinus is a neural tube defect and affected dogs will have a small opening on the skin on the midline of the back. Often a thickened cord can be felt underneath the skin. This open tube can sometimes extend all the way into the spinal cord which can lead to serious consequences such as meningitis. This is usually treated surgically.

Best joint supplements for Ridgebacks

Due to their propensity to develop conditions of the joints, many Ridgeback owners are advised to provide joint care preventatively. Suitable joint care methods for Ridgebacks may include joint care supplements, a joint care diet, or even simple things like ensuring your dog maintains a healthy weight.

4cyte Joint Support

A premium quality, vet recommended joint supplement containing green lipped mussel and epitalis to help support joint health and ease the symptoms of arthritis.

Sasha's Blend

Sasha's Blend powder and chews contain green lipped mussel, abalone and marine cartilage which are rich in omega 3 fatty acids and glycosaminoglycans to support joint health.


Available as powder or tasty chews, Glyde contains glucosamine, chondroitin and green lipped mussel to support joint health and mobility.

Rosehip Vital For Dogs

Rose Hip Vital is a supplement powder for dogs needing joint support, immunity boost or improved performance. This patented formula is 100% natural and plant-based.