Rhodesian ridgebacks, or ridgies, have made the successful leap from African hunter to American housemate and familiaris family member. Large and swift, lean and muscular, ridgies are legendarily quiet companions who rarely bark. But they are as loyal -- and as fiercely protective, especially of children -- as canines come.
The African Lion Hound
Rhodesian ridgebacks, also known as African lion hounds, were bred to protect African farmers, who mixed European dogs with half-native dogs kept by Khoikhoi tribespeople. Ridgies quickly evolved into hunting dogs for big game hunters when the hunters noticed that the dogs could hold lions at bay.
Ridgies are famous for the long strip of fur that runs down their spines, but many purebreds do not actually sport this signature Mowhawk. Still, the ridgeback is the only breed that grows a strip of fur in the opposite direction of the rest of its fur.
Quiet but Energetic
Rhodesian ridgebacks rarely bark unless something is up, so it is wise to listen when they vocalize. Or it could mean they're bored, which also means it's wise to pay attention. Bored ridgies are destructive ridgies. They are high-energy dogs who like to run, play and exercise. They can make mincemeat of a clean house if ignored for long.
Smart but Reckless
Rhodesian ridgebacks are hounds, and that means they are smart and intuitive. But their natural energy level makes them reckless. Ridgies must be kept behind high fences, because they will leap short ones or run straight through electric or "invisible" fences. They also tend to run straight into the street, paying no heed to passing cars.
Ridgies have no off switch when it comes to food; they're never full. If left to eat enough food, they'll happily eat themselves sick or obese. Rhodesian ridgebacks aren't considered the world's hungriest dog for nothing.
Being natural-born hunting hounds, Rhodesian ridgebacks have a strong impulse to chase. This makes them fun to play with, but ridgies can easily get carried away and vault a short fence or chase unfamiliar animals they see. Always play with a ridgie in a safe, controlled area.
Despite their inborn urge to chase and to stalk lions, Rhodesian ridgebacks actually love cats and other animals with whom they're familiar. If raised in a house of pets and children, ridgies are loyal friends, though they tend to see strange animals as either competition or prey.
- Dan Kitwood/Getty Images News/Getty Images