Ridgeback Standard and Elaboration

Breed Characteristics
The Rhodesian Ridgeback has the advantage of having keen sight, and a good nose for scent. Due to the wide-open terrain of the southern African veldt, coupled with the habits of the game to be hunted and the techniques required to hunt such game in that terrain, the Ridgeback was developed as a silent trailer, characteristic of its sighthound ancestry. When the terrain becomes more varied, where baying is desirable to keep track of the hunting pack (such as in areas of the United States where these dogs have been used), supplementation with baying hounds (more typical of scent hounds) has been done.

Possessing many of the characteristics generally associated with hounds, the Ridgeback has a quiet, gentle temperament, rarely barking. While able to enjoy lazing around in a patch of sun, or in front of a winter fireplace, a Ridgeback can be instantly alert if a stranger should appear or he is in pursuit of legitimate prey. Where he gave the impression of a big, lazy, slow-moving animal, the Ridgeback can be a threatening presence as a watchdog. Developed not only to hunt, but also as a family protector, his affectionate disposition makes him a trustworthy companion for a small child. He is easily trained, being, more than many hounds, of above-average tractability. However, because of this intelligence, an untrained Ridgeback can become a terrible nuisance! Trained, he is a pleasure as a companion, a hunting partner, or as a show dog or obedience competitor. Because of his innate abilities to protect his family, a Ridgeback should not be trained as a guard dog but rather the natural protective qualities should be supplemented with elementary obedience training for control.

U.S. Club Forms
In 1948 a group of enthusiastic Rhodesian Ridgeback owners in the United States organized the Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of America, for the primary purpose of accumulating the data and preparing the documents and pedigrees of dogs in the United States as required to obtain recognition of the breed by the American Kennel Club. Their activities were rewarded in 1955 when AKC conferred official recognition upon the breed.

After this recognition, which made possible the showing of Rhodesian Ridgebacks in shows for championship points, there was organized by owners and breeders throughout the U.S., the Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of the United States, for the purpose of sponsoring AKC-sanctioned matches and licensed shows. Both of these organizations were actively engaged in promoting the breed through national advertising.

Many Rhodesian Ridgeback owners and breeders were members of and supported both of these clubs. In order to combine the activities of the two clubs, they were, on March 6, 1959, combined into one organization under the name of the Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of the United States. The program of the combined clubs incorporated the promotion of the breed with publicizing and popularizing of the breed in the U.S., and forming a close association with the breed clubs in South Africa, Zimbabwe (Rhodesia), England and Canada. On April 10, 1968, the Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of the United States was incorporated in the state of Texas. Finally, on March 9, 1971, the American Kennel Club formally admitted the Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of the United States, Inc. as a member club.

RRCUS 1987

The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a dog of formidable power, dedication and courage. He claims an ancient heritage, yet is of relatively recent linage in terms of standardization of the breed.

Today’s Ridgeback is descended from a variety of breeds which were crossed by settlers of South Africa and Rhodesia with the native dogs of the Hottentot tribe. The ridge became his identifying mark.
The Rhodesian Ridgeback survived in various forms through the years because of his superb hunting ability. In addition to trailing and tracking large animals, he was also used to hold his quarry at bay. He was the protector of game wardens, farm families and hunters throughout South Central Africa, where the breed developed into it’s present form.

From its origin in Africa, the Ridgeback has lost none of his abilities as a hunter and guardian and he continues to be an excellent companion. The Ridgeback is a devoted family dog, totally loyal to his master. He is rather aloof and undemonstrative towards strangers.

This is the Rhodesian Ridgeback, a dog of incorruptible, independent character, who takes his responsibilities of companionship, protection and family dedication to heart. He never forgets love and understanding, nor does he lightly forgive harsh treatment. He is a dog of noble bearing, whose physical attributes should reflect his role as guardian, companion and hunter.

The Ridgeback represents a strong, muscular and active dog, symmetrical and balanced in outline. A mature Ridgeback is a handsome, upstanding and athletic dog, capable of great endurance with a fair (good) amount of speed. Of even dignified temperament, the Ridgeback is devoted and affectionate to his master, reserved with strangers. The peculiarity of this breed is the ridge on the back. The ridge must be regarded as the characteristic feature of the breed.
Elaboration: A Ridgeback represents the perfect balance between power and elegance. The power should come from soundness and conditioning, not from 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.

A mature Ridgeback should be symmetrical in outline, slightly longer than tall but well balanced. Dogs, 25-27 inches in height; Bitches, 24-26 inches in height. Desirable weight: Dogs, 85 pounds; Bitches, 70 pounds.
Elaboration: 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.

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.
Elaboration: The head must be in proportion with the rest of the body. The back-skull 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 back-skull between the ears and above and between the eyes. The planes of the back-skull and muzzle are parallel and equal in length. Cheeks are clean and flat, not rounded or bulging. The head should never give a wedge shaped impression.
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 under-jaw. 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.

The neck should be fairly strong and free from throatiness. The chest should not be too wide, but very deep and capacious, ribs moderately well sprung, never rounded like barrel hoops (which would indicate want of speed). The back is powerful and firm with strong loins which are muscular and slightly arched. The tail should be strong at the insertion and generally tapering towards the end, free from coarseness. It should not be inserted too high or too low and should be carried with a slight curve upwards, never curled or gay.
Elaboration: Neck, Chest and Body: The neck should be fairly long and elegantly arched. Throatiness or a ewe neck should be penalized accordingly to the severity. A chest that is too wide or too narrow is inefficient and hinders speed and diminishes endurance. The brisket on a mature dog should reach well to the elbow.
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.

The shoulders should be sloping, clean and muscular, denoting speed. Elbows close to the body. The forelegs should be perfectly straight, strong and heavy in bone. The feet should be compact with well-arched toes, round, tough elastic pads, protected by hair between the toes and pads. Dewclaws may be removed.
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.
Forelegs: 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.
Feet: The feet should be well knuckled up with thick pads. Flat, thin-padded and splayed feet are incorrect.

In the hindlegs, the muscles should be clean, well defined and hocks well down. Feet as in front.
Elaboration: 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 and agility.

Should be short and dense, sleek and glossy in appearance but neither wooly nor silky.
Elaboration: 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 permissible but excessive white there, on the belly or above the toes is undesirable.
Elaboration: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 type, 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.”

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.

Disqualification:ridgelessness. Serious Fault: one crown (whorl) or more than two crowns (whorls).
Elaboration: The Standard is very precise regarding the ridge. The ridge is located on the dog’s back. Any variation in length of ridge or placement of crowns (whorls) is incorrect and is to be considered a fault. The amount of variation and the severity of the fault is up to the individual assessing the dog. The width of the ridge is immaterial. Occasionally there will be a parting of hair at the top of the ridge. This is not to be considered a fault unless it contains a complete crown (whorl). Please note illustrations. A ridgeless dog is to be disqualified.

At the trot, the back is held level and the stride is efficient, long, free and unrestricted. Reach and drive expressing a perfect balance between power and elegance. At the chase, the Ridgeback demonstrates great coursing ability and endurance.
Elaboration: 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.

Dignified and even-tempered. Reserved with strangers.
Elaboration: 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

RRCUS 2/9/2004