A ridged appearance
The other recognised breed of hound native to Africa is the Rhodesian ridgeback. Although developed in the southern part of the continent, it too may be related in part to those hounds occurring further north. The Rhodesian ridgeback is descended from crosses between European hounds, brought by the early settlers, and a native sighthound which was associated with the Hottentot (or Khorkor) tribespeople. They themselves had migrated south, bringing their distinctive hounds with them.
their distinctive hounds with them. The Hottentot dog, as it was known, was characterised by a ridge of hair running down its back. Although now sadly extinct, this feature remains in the Rhodesian ridgeback. It is a characteristic shared only with the Thai ridgeback from Asia, although it is unlikely that these breeds have any close relationship.
It is formed by bristly hair growing in the reverse direction to the coat itself, so that it causes the fur here to be raised. The ridge is broad across the withers, extending down the vertebral column and tapering away close to the root of the tail. It is actually an anatomical defect.
A relatively modern breed
Crossings between the European and African dogs were to result in a breed which had resistance to the illnesses prevalent in that part of Africa, plus speed, courage and good scenting skills. Modern development of the Rhodesian ridgeback was undertaken by the Reverend Helm during the 1870s. He introduced these hounds to Rhodesia (now known as Zimbabwe) from South Africa, where they had been kept by the Boer settlers in this region.
The Rhodesian ridgeback became highly valued by big game hunters of that era, in search of lions, to the extent that it also became known as the African lion hound. The keen tracking skills of the breed, possibly reflecting a bloodhound ancestry, coupled with its stamina meant that riders on horseback could find lions without great difficulty. If ambushed or attacked by its quarry, the Rhodesian ridgeback was in turn strong enough to defend itself.
The most famous examples of that period were bred by Cornelius van Rooyen, who lived in the vicinity of Bulawayo, over a period of 35 years. After his death in 1922, so moves were made to standardise the breed, and it was first recognised by the South African Kennel Club in that year. Six years later, the first Rhodesian ridgebacks were imported to Britain and these hounds have since become popular in many countries worldwide.
worldwide. A standard was established for them under the auspices of the American Kennel Club during 1959. In contrast to many hounds, the Rhodesian ridgeback is relatively easy to train. Its size and power make it a popular choice as a guard dog, while its affectionate nature makes these hounds suitable as household pets.