HISTORY OF THE BREED:
The Rhodesian Ridgeback originates from Southern Africa and is known for it's endurance, skill in tracking and ability to hold even the fiercest predator in Africa, The King of Beasts at bay. The Ridgeback is the result of Dutch colonists called Boers, settling in Africa and crossing their European dogs including greyhounds, terriers, and long-legged bull dogs ( just to name a few) with the Khoi native "ridged" Hottentot dog. The infusion of the native Hottentot blood produced generations of dogs that not only possessed the hallmark "ridge" but these dogs also benefited from an increased resliliency against local pests and disease. The native Hottentot also passed on keen, instinctual knowledge, critical for adaptation to any environment and an uncanny intelligence at outwitting the most deadly predators.
In the late 19th Century, Cornelius van Rooyen a big game hunter in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) introduced two Greyhound-esq ridged, females into his pack of lion dogs. The resulting offspring excelled at hunting, tracking and holding even the "King of Beasts" at bay long enough for the hunter to take aim and take down the dangerous animal. These dogs were so agile and adept at hunting they easily protected the ranch from other predatory animals such as jackels, leopards and baboons. The ridged dogs had a far greater endurance, keeping up effortlessly with riders on horseback all day. The ridged dogs could take down the most nimble of game including antelope and gazelle bringing home meat for the camp and ranch. They were also known then - just as they are today for their loyalty and protection of their family, understanding their place in the family unit and also, having a sweet, patience and affection for children.
The breeds official recognition came later through Francis Barnes, a pioneer and enthusiast of pure-bred dogs. In 1915 he bought his first Ridgeback dog and later purchased a bitch named Judy. This was the start of the famous Eskdale Ridgebacks. It was Barnes that became very aware of the need to establish a breed standard. He was continuously coming across Ridgebacks of different size, coat and color. In 1922 a small meeting including Barnes and six others convened to discuss establishing a breed standard, the result was the formation of the Rhodesian Ridgeback Club. The Rhodesian Ridgback breed standard was created later that same year, much of it was designed around the Dalmation Standard as a template to estblish the vision of the breed of Ridgeback that we know and love today. The essentials of the breed standard have remained unchanged except for the elimination of brindle as an acceptable color. The Ridgeback was officially recognized by the South African Kennel Union in September of 1924. The first Ridgeback Championship was attained four years later. The breed gained increasing popularity, with many farms and ranches revering Ridgebacks as the perfect combination of both guard and hunting dog.
The first Rhodesian Ridgebacks came to the U.S.A. during World War II. The O'Brien's who established the Redhouse Kennel of Arizona bought 3 Ridgebacks from Major Tom Hawley in 1949. The dogs were imported to the U.S. on January 18th, 1950 when they arrived in Boston, MA. T. Chaika of Redhouse, a brown-nosed female, Gaesar of Redhouse, a dark-nosed male and Zua of Redhouse, a dark-nosed female. Meanwhile, Margaret Lowthian Cook (mentor to Margaret Smith Davis, my mentor!) and her associate Gene Freeland of San Diego, CA were working very hard to import and establish a foundation of Ridgebacks here in the U.S.A. Margaret's foundation bitch was purchased from Glennaholm Kennels in Rhodesia. Margaret and Gene established Lamarde Perro as their kennel name which, is loved and managed by her daughter-in-law Sally Cook (who is a wonderful and dear friend of ours) today. The dream of Gene, Margaret and the O'Brien's was for AKC to have the breed officially recognized by AKC. The Rhodesian Ridgeback Club was established in the early fifties. The aims of the RRClub was to - introduce and popularize the breed, gain AKC recognition and keep a Stud dog record book. The efforts of these "original pioneers" were rewarded in November 1955 when the Rhodesian Ridgeback was recognized by the American Kennel Club as the 112th acknowledged pure bred breed dog. The Ridgeback was placed in the Hound Group. The Rhodesian Ridgback Club of the United States was formed in 1957. The Founders of the club were: Margaret Lowthian Cook, Gene Freeland, James and Julia Minotto. The Rhodesian Ridgback Club of the United States (RRCUS) remains to this day and stands strong with over 400 members nationwide. RRCUS hosts our National Rhodesian Ridgeback Specialty every year in early October and last years 2018 entry boasted 498 dogs in the combined competitions including: Conformation, CGC, Obedience, Rally, Agility & Lure Coursing.