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Are you familiar with the phrase, “keeping a lion at bay?” Well, it was derived from the Rhodesian Ridgeback’s main purpose: to confront and corner big-game prey such as lions, bears and boar for hunters in South Africa. That’s where this incredible breed was developed in the 18th century by Boer farmers, who needed a multipurpose hunting dog and home guardian. But that’s not all the Rhodesian Ridgebacks are famous for. Ridgebacks are also immune to insect bites and can keep up with a running horse for 30 miles! But the hallmark of the breed is certainly the clearly defined ridge on its back formed by hair growing in the opposite direction to the rest of its coat. The ridge tapers up from the hips to the shoulders, where it has two identical crowns (whorls) directly opposite each other. This the Ridgeback picked up from its ancestors, the half-wild dogs of the native Hottentot (or Khoikhoi) people. In 1950, two outstanding Rhodesian Ridgebacks were imported into the United States, and in 1955, the American Kennel Club officially recognized this powerful and courageous breed.

These days, Ridgebacks are still used for hunting, but can also be found competing in various dog sports such as agility, lure coursing, obedience and tracking. Rhodesian Ridgebacks also make great hiking and jogging companions, and are the dog of choice for athletes such as Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis.