Rhodesian Ridgebacks are intelligent, active, and alert. These traits in addition to their keen sense of smell and ability to work livestock allowed the Rhodesian Ridgeback to be used as farm dogs. Their intelligence and their high activity level mean they need physical and mental stimulation, including participation in dog sports such as agility, tracking, lure coursing, hunting, obedience as sport, or even just jogging with their owner, which can also help them bond with their families.
The Rhodesian Ridgeback dates to sixteenth-century South Africa, when the dogs were bred to be lion hunters. The Hottentots of South Africa used the Ridgebacks to hunt big game by tracking and trapping them. In 1877, Reverend Charles Helm imported two Ridgebacks to Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, where they were bred into the modern version. The new breed earned a reputation as being very good hunters and guards. Rhodesian Ridgebacks are a combination of seven distinct breeds including the Khoi dog of Africa, the Greyhound, the Bulldog, the Collie, the Pointer, and the Airedale and Irish Terriers. The result is a dog that is tough enough to face a lion or other big game, but fast enough to avoid the horns, claws or teeth of such an adversary. The distinguishing feature of the Ridgeback is a ridge of hair along the back that runs in the opposite direction of the rest of its coat. Rhodesian Ridgebacks were first admitted to the American Kennel Club in 1955.