Rhodesian ridgeback beginnings

The domestic dog and the other Canine - wolves, wild dogs, foxes, jackals appear to have invaded Africa about 4 to 5 milion years ago, where man was evolving on the hight plains from Ethiopia south.

There is a drawing in an Egyptian tomb (4,000BC) that shows a Hound with drooped ears and what appears to be a ridge on its back. It seems that this was most likely the ancestor of the dog that was domesticated by the Hottentot tribe of Africa.

The first known evidence of the Hottentot hunting dogs is a rock painting near Rasape in Zimbabwe. The painting is of the preparations for the burial of a chief. The Hottentots most prized possessions were cattle, sheep, and hunting dogs.

Ancestors of ridgebacks were owned almost certainly by the Hottentots - or Khoikhoi, as they called themselves.

Rhodesian ridgeback history

The Khoikhoi people lived in the Cape Peninsula during the mid 17th century, had a hunting dog which was described as ugly, but noted for its ferocity when acting as a guard dog. This dog measured approximately 18 inches (46 cm) at the withers, with a lean but muscular frame. The ears have been described both as erect and hanging, but the most distinctive feature was the length of hair often growing in the reverse direction along its back.

The ridge is a mutation, and we will never know when it first occured. It is a feature which has been unworthy of note throughout history by many artists and writers, who we know saw ridged dog.

The first proof of the existence of ridged dogs was a written reference near Cape town in 1719. The reference was to the ridged Khoikhoi dogs, used by their owners and the European settlers to protect villages, cattle and sheep. However, ridged dogs have appeared in two other locales. In 1898 three Slughis were taken from North Africa, probably Algeria, to Holand. Two of the dogs had ridges. The other locale where ridged dogs have been recorded is the island of Phu Quoc in the Gulf of Thailand, between the Malay Peninsula and Viet Nam.

Since that time various cynologists speculated as to whether the Pu Quoc dogs were taken to Africa, whether Khoikhoi dogs were taken to Phu Quoc , or whether the ridge mutated in both places indenpendently. All three alternatives are possible, but the argument for African origin is greatly strengthened by the Slughi with ridges, and seems much the most probable.

1797 - Under this text is a beautiful drawing of a ridged dog whose owner was a pastor Cooper Williams.

This picture was printed in a J. Whebel book, where he wrote about breeds on two pages. This picture comes from a painting owned by Powell Snell from Glostershir.

Everyone can see a very similar signs of this dog from 18 century, with Ridgeback we know today.

drawing of a ridged dog

An engraving by Dr David Livingston shows Hottentot hunters with their ridged hunting dog. This drawing was done during his travels as a missionary in South Africa. David Livingstone "Missionary Travels in South Africa" (1857)

David Livingstone "Missionary Travels in South Africa" (1857)

By the 1860s, European colonisers had also imported a variety of mainly European dog breeds to this area of Africa, including such dedicated hunting dogs as Great Danes, Bloodhounds, Greyhounds, and terriers. Genetic analysis indicates that the Ridgeback and the Great Dane fall within the same genetic group  implies the Dane's major contribution.

In the 1870s, several of these dogs were taken to Rhodesia to hunt lions, chasing and harassing the lion until the hunter could shoot it.  The dogs were so successful that the "Lion Dogs" became popular, their distictive ridge becoming a trademark of quality.  By the 1920s, so many different types of ridged Lion Dogs existed in Rhodesia that a meeting was held to eludicate the most desirable points of the breed, which became the basis for the current standard.  Dogs meeting the standard criteria were known as Rhodesian Ridgebacks (the dog's former designation as Lion Dogs was deemed to sound too savage).


Milena from Rhodesian World

  • Oct 01, 2020
  • Category: Blogs
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