The elaboration of the Rhodesian Ridgeback Breed standard

As approved by the Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of The United States

A visual elaboration can be seen at rrcus.org – shortcut

General Appearance

A Ridgeback represents the perfect balance between power and elegance. The power should come from soundness and conditioning, not from excessive size. The elegance comes from style, presence and carriage. The Ridgeback should give a clean appearance with body lines blending smoothly. A male should be masculine, not coarse or cumbersome. A bitch should be feminine but strong, not weak or delicate.
The Ridgeback is an athletic dog, clean-muscled, upstanding, well balanced and smooth in outline, a dog intended to hold large and dangerous game at bay. He is agile, quick, light on his feet and intelligent enough to stay out of harm’s way, brave enough to defend his master.

Size, Proportion, Substance

Desirable weight should be a guideline. Appropriate weight should correspond with the height and bone structure of the dog/bitch. A heavier-boned animal may weigh more, a finer-boned animal less than the 85/70 pound ideal as described in the Standard. A mature Ridgeback should be slightly longer than tall. The back should be strong and firm. The length should be carried in the rib area, allowing for ample room for heart and lungs. The well-coupled loin is neither too long nor too short, but well balanced with the rest of the dog. A long loined dog may be fast, but he lacks the ability to stop, turn and maneuver which is required by the Standard. Overall balance and symmetry is most important.


Elaboration: The head must be in proportion with the rest of the body. The backskull is flat, never domed, free from wrinkles when in repose.
When the ears are brought forward in an alert position, the skin is furrowed with expressive wrinkles on the backskull between the ears and above and between the eyes. The planes of the backskull and muzzle are parallel and equal in length. Cheeks are clean and flat, not rounded or bulging. The head should never give a wedge shaped impression. Eyes: The eyes should be spaced moderately well apart, rounded, bright and sparkling with intelligent expression, not small, recessed nor sunken. The color should harmonize with the pigmentation of the dog. Black-nosed (pigmented) dogs should have a brown to dark brown eye. Liver or brown-nosed dogs should have an amber-colored eye, with preference given to the darker shades of brown or amber. Yellow eyes on a black-nosed dog are undesirable. Ears: When the ears are brought forward to attention, they are raised even with the top of the head. The ears should hang close to the head and cheek, flaring outward to frame the head. Muzzle: The muzzle is long, deep and powerful and finishes up fairly full in width, strong in underjaw. Depth of muzzle should be in the muzzle itself, not in the leather of the lips alone. Bite: Scissors bite is preferred, but a level bite will occasionally be found and is acceptable. Emphasis must be placed on the development and proper position of the canines.

Neck, Topline, Body

Elaboration: Neck, Chest and Body: The neck should be fairly long and elegantly arched. Throatiness or a ewe neck should be penalized accordingly to the severity. A chest that is too wide or too narrow is inefficient and hinders speed and diminishes endurance. The brisket on a mature dog should reach well to the elbow. Topline and Tail: The topline flows smoothly from the top of the head down the neck and over the shoulders. The point above the shoulders is the highest point of the backline, never lower than the loin or hindquarters, standing or moving. The back is firm, standing or moving- neither swayed nor roached. The loins are strong. The arch of the loin should not be exaggerated. The croup is neither flat nor steep but blends smoothly and finishes out with the tail set neither too high not too low. Standing, the tail may fall between the hocks or may be tucked towards the abdomen. A kink or dud joint is considered undesirable, as is a tight curl.


Elaboration: Shoulders: The shoulder blades should be long, well laid back and sloping: upper arm is of equal length and placed so that the elbow falls directly under the withers. Forelegs: The bone of the front legs should have plenty of substance, more so when viewed from the side than from the front. The pasterns should be strong and slightly sloping. Feet: The feet should be well knuckled up with thick pads. Flat, thin-padded and splayed feet are incorrect.


Elaboration: The strong, elastic muscles of the hind legs should be carry well into the inner and lower thighs. The stifles are moderately well bent. Hocks should be well let down and straight from hock to pad. Rear angulation should balance and compliment the front. The muscling should be clean and well defined, denoting speed and agility.


Elaboration: Puppies usually have heavier coats than adults. More densely coated dogs may exhibit pellet-like molting patterns throughout the coat which should not be penalized.


Elaboration: A Ridgeback hair is banded, lighter at the base, darker at the tip. The color may range from light wheaten (buff) through various shades of gold to red wheaten; all shades are acceptable. Lighter wheaten highlights are usually noted over the shoulder blades. Clear-faced dogs or dogs with black on the muzzle, ear and around the eyes are equally acceptable. However, these black points should not continue as a solid mask over the eyes. Ridgebacks with black pigmentation may have black hair interspersed throughout the coat; dark brown hair may be seen on a liver/brown-nosed dog. If the amount of black or dark brown is excessive, it is undesirable. Our standard does not condemn white.
Some white is permissible and excessive white is not desirable. Small socks and white on the chest on an otherwise typey, sound dog should not eliminate him from consideration. The scale of points allows 3 points out of 100 to Coat and Color. Emphasis should be placed on the general conformation. To quote from Maj. T.C. Hawley’s definitive work The Rhodesian Ridgeback, “We must, at all costs,
avoid a fetish that white is taboo.”


Elaboration: The Standard is very precise regarding the ridge. The ridge is located on the dog’s back. Any variation in length of ridge or placement of crowns (whorls) is incorrect and is to be considered a fault. The amount of variation and the severity of the fault is up to the individual assessing the dog. The width of the ridge is immaterial. Occasionally there will be a parting of hair at the top of the ridge. This is not to be considered a fault unless it contains a complete crown (whorl). A ridgeless dog is to be disqualified.


Elaboration: The trot should be effortless and flowing, covering the maximum amount of ground with the least amount of effort. As speed increases, the legs angle inward toward a center line beneath the body. The head is carried slightly above the level of the back, the
backline remains level and firm, never high in the rear or loin. The tail blends smoothly, carried slightly above the level of the back, never gay nor curled. At all speeds the gait is effortless, rhythmic and smooth, denoting efficiency, presence and style.


A fine hunter and tracker, the Rhodesian Ridgeback is a fast and agile “sighthound” and possess considerable stamina for the hunt, but in the home it is a calm, gentle, obedient, good dog. Good-natured and well intentioned but can be boisterous around children. They are intelligent,
cunning and straight-forward dogs that are loyal to the family, have something of a mind of their own, are brave, vigilant, reserved toward strangers. This breed needs thorough obedience training, early and proper socialization with people and other dogs, and firm owner leadership to become the excellent companion he can be. Ridgebacks react best to an extremely consistent and equable approach to positive training. They are intelligent and learn quickly, but they are also strong and a bit stubborn. Training should be gentle and start young while the dog is still small enough to manage. They are also very good watch dogs, but not suggested for guard dogs. Males may be combative with
other dogs. Provided this dog meets cats and other pets when it is young, any potential problem will be prevented. Do not overfeed this breed. Ridgebacks make excellent jogging companions.

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