Rhodesian Ridgeback Standard
Brief History of the Rhodesian Ridgack
The Rhodesian Ridgeback is presently the only registered breed
indigenous to Southern Africa. Its forbears can be traced to
the Cape Colony of Southern Africa, where they crossed with the
early pioneers' dogs and the semi-domesticated, ridged, Hottentot
hunting dogs. Hunting mainly in groups of two or three, the original
function of the Rhodesian Ridgeback, or Lion Dog, was to track game,
especially lion, and with great agility, keep it at bay until the
arrival of the hunter.
The original standard, which was drafted by F R Barnes, in Bulawayo,
Rhodesia, in 1922, was based on that of the Dalmatian and was
approved by the South African Kennel Union in 1926.
The Rhodesian Ridgeback should represent a well-balanced, strong,
muscular, agile and active dog, symmetrical in outline, and capable
of great endurance with a fair amount of speed. The emphasis is on
agility, elegance and soundness with no tendency towards massiveness.
The peculiarity of the breed is the ridge on the back, which is formed
by the hair growing in the opposite direction to the rest of the coat.
The ridge is the escutcheon of the breed. The ridge must be clearly
defined, symmetrical and tapering towards the haunch. It must start
immediately behind the shoulders and continue to the hip (haunches)
bones. The ridge must contain only two crowns, identical and opposite
each other. The lower edges of the crowns must not extend further
down the ridge than one-third of its length.
A Ridgeback represents the perfect balance between power
and elegance. The power should come from soundness and
conditioning, notfrom excessive size. The elegance comes
from style, presence and carriage. The Ridgeback should
give a clean appearance with body lines blending smoothly.
A male should be masculine, not coarse or cumbersome.
A bitch should be feminine but strong, not weak or delicate.
The Ridgeback is an athletic dog, clean-muscled, upstanding, well
balanced and smooth in outline, a dog intended to hold large
and dangerous game at bay. He is agile, quick, light on his
feet and intelligent enough to stay out of harm's way, brave
enough to defend his master.
Behaviour and Temperment
The Rhodesian Ridgeback is dignified and intelligent. They are often aloof
with strangers, but should not show aggression or shyness.
Stable, fearless, intelligent, reserved with strangers, yet
accepting of his master's judgment. In the show ring, a reserved
attitude should not be confused with shyness. Unnecessary aggression
is not to be tolerated.
Should be of fair length, the skull flat and rather broad between the ears and
should be free from wrinkles when in repose. The stop should be reasonably
well defined. Eyes - should be moderately well apart and should be round,
bright and sparkling with intelligent expression, their color harmonizing
with the color of the dog. Ears - should be set rather high, of medium size,
rather wide at the base and tapering to a rounded point. They should be
carried close to the head. Muzzle - should be long, deep and powerful. The
lips clean, closely fitting the jaws. Nose - should be black, brown or liver,
in keeping with the color of the dog. no other colored nose is permissible.
A black nose should be accompanied by dark eyes, a brown or liver nose with
amber eyes. Bite - jaws level and strong with well developed teeth especially
the canines or holders. Scissors bite preferred.
The head must be in proportion with the rest of the body. The
backskull is flat, never domed, free from wrinkles when in repose.
When the ears are brought forward in an alert position, the skin
is furrowed with expressive wrinkles on the backskull between the
ears and above and between the eyes. The planes of the backskull
and muzzle are parallel and equal in length. Cheeks are clean and
flat, not rounded or bulging. The head should never give a wedge
Eyes: The eyes should be spaced moderately well apart, rounded, bright
and sparkling with intelligent expression, not small, recessed nor sunken.
The color should harmonize with the pigmentation of the dog. Black-nosed
(pigmented) dogs should have a brown to dark brown eye. Liver or brown-nosed
dogs should have an amber-colored eye, with preference given to the darker
shades of brown or amber. Yellow eyes on a black-nosed dog are undesirable.
Ears: When the ears are brought forward to attention, they are raised even
with the top of the head. The ears should hang close to the head and cheek,
flaring outward to frame the head.
Muzzle: The muzzle is long, deep and powerful and finishes up fairly full
in width, strong in underjaw. Depth of muzzle should be in the muzzle
itself, not in the leather of the lips alone.
Bite: Scissors bite is preferred, but a level bite will occasionally be
found and is acceptable. Emphasis must be placed on the development and
proper position of the canines.
Gait and Movement
- Chest - Not too wide but very deep and capacious and brisket
should reach to the elbow.
- Forechest - Visible when viewed from the side.
- Ribs - Moderately well sprung, never rounded like barrel-hoops.
- Back - Powerful.
- Loins - Strong, muscular and slightly arched, powerful.
- Tail - Strong at the root and gradually tapering towards the end,
free from coarseness. It should be of moderate length. It should
not be inserted too high nor too low, and should be carried with a
slight curve upwards, never curled.
RRCUS.org Elaboration: Topline and Tail
The topline flows smoothly from the top of the head down
the neck and over the shoulders. The point above the
shoulders is the highest point of the backline, never
lower than the loin or hindquarters, standing or moving.
The back is firm, standing or moving- neither swayed nor
roached. The loins are strong. The arch of the loin should
not be exaggerated. The croup is neither flat nor steep
but blends smoothly and finishes out with the tail set
neither too high not too low. Standing, the tail may
fall between the hocks or may be tucked towards the
abdomen. A kink or dud joint is considered undesirable,
as is a tight curl.
- Limbs - Forelegs should be perfectly straight, strong and well boned,
with the elbows close to the body. When viewed from the side,
the forelegs should be wider than when viewed from the front.
Pastems should be strong with slight spring.
RRCUS.org Elaboration: Forlegs
The bone of the front legs should have plenty of substance,
more so when viewed from the side than from the front.
The pasterns should be strong and slightly sloping.
- Shoulders - Sloping, clean and muscular, denoting speed.
RRCUS.org Elaboration: Shoulders
The shoulder blades should be long, well laid back and
sloping: upper arm is of equal length and placed so that
the elbow falls directly under the withers.
- Feet - Compact and round, with well arched toes,
and tough elastic pads, protected by hair between the toes and pads.
RRCUS.org Elaboration: Feet
The feet should be well knuckled up with thick pads.
Flat, thin-padded and splayed feet are incorrect.
- Hindquarters - Muscles should be clean, well
defined, good turn of stifle and strong hocks well let down.
RRCUS.org Elaboration: Hindquarters
The strong, elastic muscles of the hind legs should be carry
well into the inner and lower thighs. The stifles are moderately
well bent. Hocks should be well let down and straight from hock
to pad. Rear angulation should balance and compliment the front.
The muscling should be clean and well defined, denoting speed
Straight forward, free and active.
The trot should be effortless and flowing, covering the
maximum amount of ground with the least amount of effort.
As speed increases, the legs angle inward toward a center
line beneath the body. The head is carried slightly above the
level of the back, the backline remains level and firm, never
high in the rear or loin. The tail blends smoothly, carried
slightly above the level of the back, never gay nor curled.
At all speeds the gait is effortless, rhythmic and smooth,
denoting efficiency, presence and style.
Hair should be short and dense, sleek and glossy in appearance,
but neither woolly nor silky.
Puppies usually have heavier coats than adults. More densely
coated dogs may exhibit pellet- like molting patterns throughout
the coat which should not be penalized.
Light wheaten to red wheaten. A little white on the chest and toes is
permissible, but excessive white hairs here, on belly, or above toes is undesirable.
A dark muzzle and ears permissible. Excessive black hairs throughout the coat
are highly undesirable. Note: puppies are often born with excessive black hair.
Generally, the excess black fades by 8 to 16 weeks.
A Ridgeback hair is banded, lighter at the base, darker at the tip.
The color may range from light wheaten (buff) through various shades
of gold to red wheaten; all shades are acceptable. Lighter wheaten
highlights are usually noted over the shoulder blades.
Clear-faced dogs or dogs with black on the muzzle, ear and around the
eyes are equally acceptable. However, these black points should not
continue as a solid mask over the eyes. Ridgebacks with black
pigmentation may have black hair interspersed throughout the coat;
dark brown hair may be seen on a liver/brown-nosed dog. If the
amount of black or dark brown is excessive, it is undesirable.
Our standard does not condemn white. Some white is permissible and
excessive white is not desirable. Small socks and white on the chest
on an otherwise typey, sound dog should not eliminate him from
consideration. The scale of points allows 5 points out of 100 to Coat and Color. Emphasis should be placed on the general conformation. To quote from Maj.T.C.Hawley's definitive work The Rhodesian Ridgeback, "We must, at all costs, avoid a fetish that white is taboo."
Size / Weight
Dogs: 25 inches to 27 inches, 85 pounds
Bitches: 24 inches to 26 inches, 70 pounds
Desirable weight should be a guideline. Appropriate
weight should correspond with the height and bone structure of the
dog/bitch. A heavier-boned animal may weigh more, a finer-boned animal
less than the 85/70 pound ideal as described in the Standard.
A mature Ridgeback should be slightly longer than tall. The back
should be strong and firm. The length should be carried in the
rib area, allowing for ample room for heart and lungs. The well-coupled
loin is neither too long nor too short, but well balanced with the
rest of the dog. A long loined dog may be fast, but he lacks the
ability to stop, turn and maneuver which is required by the Standard.
Overall balance and symmetry is most important.
The hallmark of this breed is the ridge on the back which is formed
by the hair growing in the opposite direction to the rest of the coat.
The ridge must be regarded as the characteristic feature of the breed.
It should start immediately behind the shoulders and continue to a
point between the prominence of the hips and should contain two identical
crowns (whorls) directly opposite each other. The lower edge of the crowns
(whorls) should not extend further down the ridge than one-third of the ridge.
These ridges may be commonly seen in the ring and are acceptable.
*The width of the ridge is immaterial.
Faulty, undesirable ridges
Most faults are cosmetic only. They place the dog into a pet category, but
have no effect on the companion value of the dog (and the dog could care less).
Here are some examples of faults that are stictly cosmetic but will most likely prohibit
the dog from being a winner in the show ring because they will be point markdowns.
- Single crown, misplaced crowns, more then 2 crowns, ridgeless.
- White marking on the side, under the jaw, above the toes.
- Curled tail or kinked tail.
- Ears too short, to high, to far back.
- Feet turned slightly out, front or rear.
- Snippy nose (not flat on end)