About the breed
The Rhodesian Ridgeback is the only breed of dog originating in South Africa to have gained official status. Unique to the Rhodesian Ridgeback is the ridge of hair growing forward on its spine and its natural antagonism for and courage to face the "king of beasts," the African lion. It is thought that the first ridged dogs were probably related to the Saluka and Pharaoh Hound and were taken by the Hottentot tribe, or "Khoikoi" (the tribal name preferred by anthropologists), on their thousand-year-long migration to Southern Africa. First description of the ridged dogs appears in writings which describe conditions in southern Africa prior to 1505. It was noted that these dogs were fiercely loyal to their masters, brave and hardy.
Undoubtedly some interbreeding with dogs imported from the continent occurred, but it was not until the late 1870s that the ridged dogs assumed any prominence. At that time, near Bulawayo in Rhodesia ( now Zimbabwe), a few of the dogs were obtained by Cornelius van Rooyen, a South African who hunted big game for a living. For thirty-five years he refined his pack of "lion dogs" or "van Rooyen" dogs as they were first known. To the speed of the basic greyhound blood in his first dogs he added the Pointer for scenting ability, collie, terrier and Great Dane to give his dogs endurance, agility, biting power and a short, wheaten-coloured coat. His dogs retained the ridge. They also retained the ability to protect wagon teams of oxen from lions at night and to track and bay lions and other big game by day, either to be shot or captured alive for zoos. After van Rooyen's death a group of fanciers in the Bulawayo area met together in 1924 to standardize the breed. A few days after this meeting a breed standard was draughted, a specialty club formed and official breed recognition sought for the Rhodesian Lion Dog from the South African Kennel Club. Because of the rather fierce connotation the name was later changed to Rhodesian Ridgeback.