223 — Rhodesian Ridgeback: Power and Elegance

Murphy Stack lo res

Balancing act of the Rhodesian Ridgeback

Denise Flaim, Rhodesian Ridgeback breeder, judge and historian, shares her knowledge as the RRCUS National Specialty kicks off in Colorado.

The first impression of a Rhodesian Ridgeback, Flaim said, is a “smooth dog with an unbroken fluid line from the top of the head, lovely crested neck, smooth withers, straight topline, gently sloped croup, slightly longer than tall, handy sized for trotting all day. Well angled. Not an empty front, moves freely and effortlessly. Lovely head, round dark eye, triangular ear.”

The Ridgeback, Flaim noted, is that perfect balance of speed and strength. The original dogs routinely coursed large African antelope. As with other sighthounds, the size and bone of the breed always parallels the prey it hunts. They need to be heavy enough to bring down large game like a 200-pound Nyala; lithe and fast enough to catch it. While the breed features a diversity of style within type, the ideal is a dog lacking exaggeration in any part.

“If you don’t know (a breed’s) history you’re doomed,” Flaim said “because you can’t understand its function and morphology.”

Ch. Swahili Jeff Davis — first American champion — with owner and founding Ridgeback breeder Col. Morrie de Pass of Mississippi.

Ridgebacks in Africa

In brief, according to Flaim, when the Dutch went to southern Africa in the late 1600s, they found an unimproved “border collie looking” dog that had a dorsal rise of hair on its back, Flaim summarized. These indigenous dogs that hung out with Koi Koi people, interbred with the Continental dogs, resulting in dogs that had native knowledge, resistance to tse tse flies and more.

Buff of Between Two Rivers, South African, whelped 1924.

The Boers moved to Rhodesia in the late 1800s, and a popular big game hunter acquired ridged bitches and interbred them with his pack. The resulting dogs were excellent at lion hunting.

Flaim was quick to clarify what that actually entailed. The dogs would be taken with rich European hunting parties, in small packs of two or three, to find a lion and harass it, like a matador. Overall athleticism that let the dogs get out of the way of claws was most important.

“Any Ridgeback foolhardy enough to make contact with a lion, soon exited the gene pool in an unceremonious fashion,” Flaim said.

What travels with the ridge?

An endurance trotting breed, the Rhodesian Ridgeback should move effortlessly and freely.

The breed’s trademark ridge is important, Flaim observed, because “nothing exists in nature if it’s not functional. In Ridgebacks, the dogs that carried the ridge were superlative hunters and could survive in the harsh climate of southern Africa.

“Who knows what native knowledge or traits travel with that ridge,” Flaim said. “For example, Ridgebacks don’t jump into standing pools of water. They want graded entrances. In Africa, if you jump into a standing pool of water you encounter something that wants a snack.”

Rhodesian Ridgeback parent club website: https://www.rrcus.org/

And Allison Foley, Leading Edge Dog Show Academy, tells us how to use cornstarch for dematting.


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1 Comment

  1. Dianne Oakwood on 08/10/2019 at 11:57 AM

    The pic w Col. DePass–that’s my sister Ginny on left, and I, Dianne, on right!

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