This article of mine is about the best dogs ever ( well every dog is the best for their master but i am talking in terms of my own experiences with Ridgebacks). Our ancestral home has around five Ridgebacks, out of which one is my own. I am talking about my darling baby Zarah, I refer to her as my baby not only because I brought her up like my child but also because I helped my dog Shauna, in delivering Zarah and her siblings. Since, Zarah’s eyes opened she became one of the best teachers who helped me understand the breed called the Rhodesian Ridgebacks.
Popularly known as the African Lion Dog or the African Lion Hound, these dogs were bred by the African tribe Khoikhoi, who inhabited the Cape Peninsula, in order to prevent being attacked by Lions. The Ridgebacks are a mixture of various breeds brought in by the Dutch who invaded parts of Africa, such as, the Great Dane, Terriers, Blood Hounds and Grey Hounds, which were mixed with the dogs owned by the Khoikhoi tribe, popularly called the Indigenous African dogs. This mixed breeding later on led to the creation of the Rhodesian Ridgeback.
The Dutch did not use these dogs only to kill lions but also to hunt other game animals such wild pigs and Baboons.
Now let us talk about a Ridgeback’s appearence, when you look at your Ridgeback from the front, you will see a black snout, a black or a light brown nose and a dark or a light brown head. Ridgebacks have either light brown (to the yellow side) or dark brown eyes, so that depends. When you see it from the side, you will see a sleek and very agile body, coupled with well built shoulder and thigh muscles. Their sleek physique, helps them run 30 km without stopping along with a horse ! Their coat is very shiny, dense and very short, which makes it highly manageable. The skin under the coat can either be baby pink but mostly black. The color of the coat ranges from dark brown to light brown to woody. They have a strong, smooth and a very sleek tail, which is curved at the tip. They also have needle sharp teeth and can actually tear flesh if they wish too, when zarah bites, she literally pores holes in her prey’s skin. They make fabulous guard dogs.
When you see your Ridgeback from the back you shall see the most fascinating feature of the breed which helps it stand out and is actually it’s unique selling point, I am talking about the ridge of hair, growing in the opposite direction to the hair on the rest of it’s body. The ridge has two crowns on either sides (groups of hair shaped like a whirlpool) and usually resembles a needle or a dagger.
Now let us discuss the temperament of these dogs, while seeing Zarah grow up I noticed, that she was not bothered about any other human’s opinion about her, other than mine. By this I realized that she is a one man dog. Zarah like all the other Ridgebacks is very loyal to her master and to her family (master’s family). They are very independent dogs and don’t like too much hovering around. Ridgebacks prefer to ignore strangers instead of challenging them, but zarah bites any stranger she sees, so by this I mean they can be highly unpredictable by nature. Apart from this she is very intelligent, loving and extremely naughty. Ridgebacks, like any other dogs, are very sensitive, just because they are strong willed and powerful, one should not subject them to harshness, as their tender hearts shatter at the slightest roughness. Mind you, by roughness I don’t mean rough play but constant scolding and beating. A warning to all, if you try hitting your Ridgeback you might get hurt yourself.
Like any other breed, Ridgebacks too suffer from hereditary diseases, the main one being thyroid, so proper care should be taken. Also, since they are addicted to exercising, one should see to it that their Ridgeback gets sufficient amount of exercise each day.
Maintaining a Ridgeback is not much of a hassle, since they are blessed with a highly manageable coat. You can take a wet towel scrub their bodies, first in the opposite direction, which takes all the dirt, oil, dry skin and loose hair off the coat and then give them a massage with your bare hands which provides a shine to their coat.
As far as the food is concerned, my advice to you would be to give them home cooked food; I personally don’t trust dog food. Two of my dogs have lost their lives after being fed with dog food of a very reputed company. I would recommend home cooked food such as butter milk or chicken broth with boiled chicken pieces.
Ridgebacks can be trained, but one needs to be very patient with them, as I have mentioned earlier they have very tender hearts and are highly sensitive. Once they begin to obey your commands you should treat them with meaty chew sticks or chapatti or dog biscuits. DO NOT RAISE YOUR HAND ON YOUR DOG.
My Zarah, now 4 years old, has helped me understand this breed that originated from the wild. A tribute to our friendship.