Heritage of the Rhodesian Ridgeback reaches back to the ancient and all but extinct Hottentot dogs. The Hottentot’s, nomadic African tribe who can be tracked back trough history for more than a millenia, originate from the southern borders of what once was the Ethiopian empire (…Ethiopia, Sudan and Somalia). They as a shepherd tribe, were constantly on the move, traveling through Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) keeping and herding with them not only sheep and cattle but also their dogs, which had a dual role. They were extensively used for hunting and at the same time they were keepers and protectors of their herds and masters, keeping them safe from predators, mostly lions. The dogs were of smaller constitution who had a very distinct feature, the fur on their backs was growing in the opposite direction than the rest of the fur. These were not pretty dogs but they were obedient and very useful in day to day confrontation with danger. Another kind of dog is being mentioned in conjunction with the dogs mentioned before. The hound like, lighter dogs, who were very fast and agile, red-gray to yellow in color.The oldest recording of the Hottentots and of their dogs is a cave drawing named “Diana’s Pledge” found on the Vallhala farm in Zimbabwe. It is interesting that the Hottentot dogs were first named and described as such in the 1505. And the first drawings of these dogs were recorded in 1857 in the book by David Livingstone.
Herero, Bantu tribe, which has descendant from the northern part of Africa slowly, towards today’s Namibia was also herding their half wild dogs with them. These were somewhat different, heavier and more aggressive dogs, deer-red to yellow in color. All three breeds had one thing in common; the line of fur that was growing in the opposite direction, from the ridge along the spinal column.
An interesting mystery remains unsolved until this day, namely the connection between the Rhodesian Ridgeback and the Phu Quoc breeds. The Phu Quoc breed is named after the Cambodian island in the bay of Siam. Their Sieamese name is “Mah Lang Thuan” which translated means Ridgeback. It is the assumed, that the Phu Quoc dogs, which are also caracterised by the same kind of ridge on their backs, with aid of the Fenecian traders or in some different way reached southern Africa, which would mean that the Hottentot dogs and with that the Rhodesian Ridgeback are the descendants of the Phu Quoc breed. The other theory states, that the dogs with the distinctive ridge were brought to Asia with the slaves that were sold to Siam. The only undisputed fact remains that these two breeds are close cousins and the ridge proves it.
During the 16. and 17. century, the white settlers, the Dutch Burs, Germans and Hugenots who immigrated to South Africa brought with them their working dogs. Noticing the excellent hunting skills of the native dogs the cross bred them and in such gained an excellent hunting dog and an excellent watch dog, whose loyalty could not be bought, not even with food. The breeds of dogs that are mentioned as the possible cross breeding breeds are Bloodhound, Pointer, German Pointing Dog, Airdale Terrier, some authors even mention the Collie and the Retriever. The best characteristics of the european breeds, combined with the Hottentot dogs gave an excellent hunting dog, which is highly praised. Ridgeback is considered to be one of the highly valued breeds of dogs.
The missionary C. Helm is mentioned among others as a father of this breed. The famous big game hunter C. van Rooyen is also mentioned as one of the founders of this breed. They paid special attention to retain all of the good characteristics required to make a good hunting dog. In addition to that they tried to create a dog that would be almost impervious to disease and insect bites.
in the 1902 the “Lion Dog Club” was founded in Bulaway and thanks to the lovers of this magnificent breed and especially to the breeder Fracis Barnes in 1922 a meeting was held in Rhodesia in order to set the name and the standard for this breed. Thirty dogs were shown and the first standard of the breed was conceptuated, based on the Dalmatian. Since 1922 Ridgeback is being bred in South Africa and Rhodesia under the today known name and standard. In 1924 first dogs of the breed were officialy registered and in 1926 the Kennel Union of South Africa (KUSA) recognized the breed as a hunting dog.
From Africa this proud lion hunter spread throughout the world gaining admiration among all canine friends