Is a Rhodesian Ridgeback the Same as a Redbone Coonhound?

by Joanna Ehlers
Rhodesian Ridgeback dogs may grow to heights of 27 inches at the withers.

Rhodesian Ridgeback dogs may grow to heights of 27 inches at the withers.

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At first glance, the redbone coonhound and the Rhodesian Ridgeback appear a lot alike. Both members of the hound group, these active, affectionate dogs may be mistaken for one another due to their similar coloring and build. Upon taking a closer look, you'll notice remarkable differences between these two athletic and distinctive breeds.

Redbone Coonhound Beginnings

Descended from foxhounds, bloodhounds and Irish hounds, the redbone coonhound was developed in America by colonial settlers from Ireland and Scotland. These pioneers relied upon game animals for food and clothing, and they needed a hound able to track and tree the creatures. In the late 1700s, coon hunters focused their efforts on breeding swift-moving hounds who could tree raccoons quickly. Irish hounds, known for their speed, were introduced into the breeding mix to create what is known as the redbone coonhound. The breed was well-established before the year 1900 and was revered for the ability to track game over the roughest terrain. While raccoons are the hound's preferred target, they may track larger game as well.

Rhodesian Ridgeback Origins

The Rhodesian Ridgeback is one of two indigenous registered breeds hailing from South Africa. The Ridgeback's ancestors were the descendants of pioneers' dogs and the half-wild dogs belonging to the native people. Portuguese sailors landing at Cape Town in the year 1487 reported sighting dogs with the appearance of ridges on their spines. The Boers bred their own dogs to these dogs, called Khoi, to improve their suitability to rough frontier life and disease resistance. The South African Rhodesian Ridgeback Club reports that the Reverend Charles Daniel Helm brought his dogs to his mission in Bulaweyo in the year 1879, and these two females are considered to be the progenitors of the modern Rhodesian Ridgeback. A hunter named Cornelius van Rooyen continued developing the dogs by crossing the Khoi dogs with bloodhounds, greyhounds, bull terriers, Airedales and Irish terriers. The mixture resulted in a brave, agile breed known for the ability to silently stalk lions, in groups of two or three. As entrapping a lion is dangerous business, only the fittest and most skillful dogs survived to produce offspring.

Physical Appearance

Both the redbone coonhound and the Rhodesian Ridgeback are athletic and affectionate, loyal to their families and suited for hunting. The Ridgeback can be a little larger: 24 to 27 inches at the shoulder and 65 to 90 pounds, versus the redbone's 21 to 27 inches and 45 to 80 pounds. Females of both breeds are smaller than males. Both dogs have short, dense coats, but the Ridgeback's color is light wheaten to red-wheaten while the preferred coonhound color is dark red. The Ridgeback has high-set, medium-size ears that are wide at their base and rounded at the point. Redbone coonhound ears are longer, low-set and fine in texture. While the redbone's round eyes are dark brown to hazel and exhibit a pleading expression, the Ridgeback's eyes are in colors that harmonize with each specimen's coat color. The Ridgeback's most distinguishing feature is the ridge of erect hair that grows the opposite direction of his coat and is located between his shoulders and his hips. A lack of the ridge is considered a serious fault by the AKC.

Disposition Differences

The American Kennel Club reports that both Rhodesian Ridgebacks and redbone coonhounds display a dignified demeanor and even temperament. Ridgebacks prefer the company of their families and may not be outwardly friendly to strangers. Active redbone coonhounds also love their families, children especially; but, due to their intense energy levels, they are not recommended for families with young children until the dogs reach adulthood. Redbone coonhounds must be supervised in the company of cats, as their urge to hunt is instinctual and they may view house cats as potential quarry. Redbone coonhounds are aggressive hunters who follow scent trails with loud, musical voices. Ridgebacks are comparatively quiet and are amenable to living with other dogs and cats, but they are notorious over-eaters who will stuff themselves until they are sick if left unattended.

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