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The above photo is reproduced with kind permission from the Rhodesian Ridgeback Club (The Parent Club) Archive, Zimbabwe

The breed today known as Rhodesian Ridgeback was established in 1922, thanks to the passion, constance and drive of Mr. Francis Richard Barnes. Let's follow the words of Mr. B.W. Durham witness of those days, as he told about them some years later in an article for the South African Kennel Union Gazette (Dec. 1950):

The chief, if not the sole, credit of getting the breed standardised and recognised by the South African Kennel Union, is due to Mr. F. R. Barnes of Figtree - then resident in Bulawayo. I think it was in 1922 that Mr. Barnes circularised the many owners of "Ridgeback" or 'Lion Dog", as they were beginning to be known, and asked owners to bring their dogs to the meeting to be held on the second day of the Bulawayo Kennel Club Show to endeavour to formulate a standard with the object of later recognition by the South African Kennel Union.

The response must have been gratifying to the convenor. A large number of owners attended and well over 20 dogs were paraded. I attended by invitation. These dogs were of all types and size, from what would be regarded as an undersized Great Dane to a small Bull Terrier; all colours were represented - Reds and Brindles predominating -.

The convenor addressed the gathering and there was general agreement that a club to further the interests of the breed be formed. Mr. Barnes then asked for suggestions as to the standard to be adopted. Owners were reluctant to come forward, each naturally thinking his the correct type.

Finally a spectator with some knowledge of the breed took a dog and suggested that his size and configuration be adopted, then chose another specimen for its head and neck, a third for legs and feet, and, making use of some five different dogs, built up what he considered to be aimed for. A few days later Mr. Barnes compiled the standard, a club was formed, Mr. Barnes' standard adopted and this, with some later amendments and alterations is the standard in use today.

It must be noticed that the witness " with some knowledge of the breed " was Durham himself, at the time the only "ALL BREEDS" judge in Rhodesia. Beyond this Mr Barnes, Mr Durham and Mr. C. H. Edmonds took part in the drawing up of the standard, the latter a senior Vet Surgeon for South Rhodesia at the time.


But let's go 50 years back, to Rev. Charles Helm who lived in Matabeleland at the end of last century, the southern region of today's Zimbabwe, Rhodesia up to 1980. Helm ran the mission of Hope Fountain, not far from the kraal of the matabele king Lobengula, where years later the city of Bulawayo was to be founded.

In 1879 he brought two ridged dogs from the Swellendam district, to his new house. The dogs were Lorna and Powder. The mission was located at a crossroad and stop place for the many travellers crossing the region, among whom were a number of "white hunters" after big African preys, elephants and lions.


Among the people visiting Helm's house there was Cornelius van Rooyen who lived in Mangwe, only 90Km. south of Hope Fountain, and one of the most famed hunters at the time. He was impressed by Helm's dogs and asked him for crossing them with the dogs of his own pack. This breeding resulted in more rigdged dogs closer to the hunting needs of van Rooyen.

He continued to breed and improve his dogs which started to be known as "van Rooyen dogs". Many had a ridge.

Today our understanding of the "White Hunters" (thanks to the movies) is of middle aged people, just like Michael Douglas or Stewart Granger, full of wisdom and experiences when in fact, in 1879 Rev. Helm married "Nellis" van Rooyen, when he was already a renowned hunter, with Miss Maria Margareta Vermaak: Nellis was 19 years old and Maria 14!

Francis R. Barnes, then living in Bulawayo, obtained his first ridged dog in 1910 from Mr. Graham Stacey, owner of a farm nearby Figtree, who had his dogs from van Rooyen. So the circle was closed between Helms and Barnes, through van Rooyen.

Hence the Rhodesian Ridgeback is the result of the efforts of hunters, breeders and dedicated people who have managed to cross dogs and get the best out of some European breeds like the Irish terrier, Great Danes, pointer, greyhound and the bulldog-not the same of today's, but taller and more agile at the end of 1800-, with the breeds already existing there when the Europeans arrived.

At this point it is time for the question: where does the "ridge", the distinctive mark of the breed, come from?



Almost certainly from the Hottentots - o Khoikhoi, as they called themselves. The Khoikhoi was the population the first Europeans found when they landed in Good Hope Cape region. The Khoikhoi had come from the Great Lakes Region some centuries before and, along with the big horned oxen and fat tailed sheep, they took with them in their migration a small-medium sized dog, 45 cm., pricked ears, a ridge on the back and a terrible temperament. Guardian and hunter.

This dog was widespread in the region, so it is likely to have mixed with European dogs, thus passing the ridge, that unique characteristic, to their offspring.



A few days after writing the standard Mr Barnes and some friends founded the Rhodesian Ridgeback (Lion Dog) Club sited in Bulawayo. On 29 December 1924 the club tried to have the breed recognised by the South Africa Kennel Union (SAKU, today KUSA, Kennel Union of Southern Africa), but unsuccessfully. It was only in 1926, February 4, that the affiliation was accepted by SAKU and the breed recognised as the Rhodesian Ridgeback.

This had been a point in Mr Barnes' wishes: that the new breed had a name, which would acknowledge the country of origin and its distinctive mark at the same time. Many others would have liked the name "Lion Dog", in South Africa in particular.



Mr Barnes registered his dogs (6) on 16 march 1926, among them there was EskdaleDingo, born on 15 May 1915 from Lion and Como. Barnes adopted the Eskdale name for both his kennel and his farm near Figtree.


The foundation of the breed was laid in these years, and the characteristics and the qualities of the breed we admire today in the Rhodesian Ridgeback come to us from those first breeders

The kennels we find in today's pedigree belong to those years:

Avondale of Mr. T. Kedie-Law from Rhodesia

Drumbuck of Mrs. L. M. Dickson who was among the founders of the Club

Eskdale of Mr. Barnes

Khami of Mr. G. Stacey

Kumalo of Miss M.J.S. Vigne

Munemi of Captain B.L. Miles, who collaborated with the Club for many years

Revelston of Mr. D. R. Keith from Swaziland

Rhodian of Mr. A. J. Walker, famous for his hunting pack

Sandvelt of Captain R. R. Dendy-Rawlins

Sipolilo of Arthur "Tractor" Smith, great hunter

Umvukwe of Miss Ainslie

Viking of Mr. Vernon H. Brisley, probably the greatest among the breeders of the time and the one who influenced the most the breed in those years.



From 1930 to 1949 Rhodesian Ridgebacks spread all over Southern Africa. Under the British Crown ruling the region life is easy: there are no borders, there is a widespread enthusiasm, the perception of being privileged citizens and a general welfare in which the white population participates. When the war arrives it is anyway far. It is in this context that the breed establishes and consolidates. In this period the first quality kennels were established, run by dedicated and experienced breeders and passionate people. Among the most important kennels:

Drumbuck of Mrs. A.M. Smithwick

Leo Kop of Miss Mabel Wellings, one of the most important of the time which much contributed to today's bloodlines

Lions Den, of Mrs. D. E. Strickland who worked for many years in the committee of the RR Club of Rhodesia, till she went back to England in 1950

De Holi the affix with an Esperanto name of Major T. C. Hawley. He was a famous breeder and also a historian of the breed with his book "The Rhodesian Ridgeback"

Gazeley of J. B. Bocock, who started breeding in 1947

Inkabusi of Mrs. I. Kingcome from Salisbury in Rhodesia, her husband, Dr. Martin Kingcome, carried out studies on the Dermoids Sinus and suggested recommendations to the Rhodesian Ridgeback Club in order to defeat it

Meyendell of Mrs. M. Mooiman from Sandown in Transvaal (RSA).


These years are of fundamental importance for the definitive affirmation of the breed. Some kennels will in fact produce subjects that left their mark in the pedigrees of next generations. The most authoritative perhaps was the kennel Glenaholm of Mrs. Phyllis McCarthy, Pitermaritzburg, Natal, founded in 1951. This kennel is still active today, after 46 years, run by Loraine Venter, Honeydew Transvaal, Mrs. McCarthy's daughter.

But other kennels greatly contributed:

Isimangamanga Of Mrs. J. B. S. Yeates who started breeding in the 50s

Mindemoya of Mrs. F. H. A. Pritchard in Bulawayo

Rockridge of Mrs. Howard in Johannesburg

Thornbury of the Greens in Johannesburg

Maxwood of Mr. S. Cawood in Honeydew, Transvaal

Mpani of Mrs. Mylda Arsenis in Salisbury, Rhodesia. Mrs. Mylda Arsenis was an active supporter of the breed, both as a breeder and as a member of The Parent Club where she held various offices. She had her first litter in1964. In 1979 she moved to South Africa.

These years are quite difficult for Rhodesia and have significant consequences for the breeders in the country. In fact momentous events were to occur when the white population claimed on 18 November 1965, with unilateral declaration, the independence from the British Commonwealth, and a long and difficult time of civil war started.

The war caused several kennels to disappear and others to move to South Africa. The war finished in 1980 with the declaration of independence of the Republic of Zimbabwe. This period was a serious blow for the Rhodesian Ridgeback in Rhodesia, and only after several years since the end of the war the canine heritage of the country could be rebuilt.

In this respect a fundamental contribution is certainly due to Margaret and Sammy Wallace from Harare (formerly Salisbury) with their kennel Mushana. They had started breeding in 1968 and up to today they have produced outstanding RRs exported all over the world and present in the lineage of the best champions in many countries.

Beyond their activity as breeders the Wallaces have also acted as the guardian of the tradition and "culture" of the breed with their action within The Parent Club of which they are respectively Secretary and President. Sammy Wallace also is an International judge of the breed.

Finally among the important kennels it must be mentioned Shangara of Mrs. and Mr. Megginson. They arrived in South Africa in the mid-70s for a short holiday. Today they still live in Verwoerdburg in Transvaal, where they breed RR. Among the many outstanding RRs they bred there is "Paco", Shangara Checheni, RR of the year 1980, 81,82,83,84,85, winner of 105 BOB, and perhaps one of the most complete RR ever seen.


As a proof of the long standing existence of RRs in Australia there is a curious photo of early 1900 showing three nurses of the Australian Army Nursing from the Boer war, with a RR with quite a lot of white on the chest, legs and muzzle and posing very proud of himself.

Later, in the 30s, there was an unusual arrival in the country: Mr. Koster, life member of the Parent Club, took with him two RRs on a journey around the world on a yacht. Once he landed in Australia, he gave the RRs in exchange for an Australian Cattle Dog. This is understandable considering the risk for the storeroom!

But it is in the 60s that breeding starts to develop in Australia, notwithstanding quarantine even more strict than the British one. The first kennel was Serengeti of the Adams in Western Australia.

More followed in those years to cover all the countries' states:

Glenrowan of the Morris in New South Wales

Lionheart of Diane Price in New South Wales

Zambesi in Northern territory

Chilolo in Qeensland

Maleema in South Australia

Ulundi in Victoria


Actually there is no conclusion: for the History of a breed, its breeders and lovers never ends. This short history aims at sketching out the effort of women and men who devoted part -sometimes all their lives, to a wonderful breed and wonderful friends. This history does not arrive to today: the very recent years are too close, but it is always important to remember that at present there are people in the world who, following Francis R. Barnes' lesson, breed, protect and love Rhodesian Ridgebacks.

LONDOLOZA Rhodesian Ridgebacks thanks and acknowledges Sandra Piscedda (Italy) for her kind permission for the use of this article.

I felt it was important to include this history on my web site so that the people who are interested in the Rhodesian Ridgeback learn more of its origin and get a better insight into the wonderful breed of the Rhodesian Ridgeback.



F.C.I. STANDARD No. 146 dated 10/12/96 Adopted in Australia 1/1/98 - Country of Origin: South Africa

To learn more about the Rhodesian Ridgeback we have included the Standard on our website. We hope you enjoy learning more about this wonderful breed of dog. Whilst reading the Standard we hope you enjoy listening to the music, "Candle In the Wind".

UTILIZATION: The Rhodesian Ridgeback is still used to hunt game in many parts of the world, but is especially prized as a watch-dog and a family pet.

BRIEF HISTORICAL OVERVIEW: The Rhodesian Ridgeback is presently the only registered breed indigenous to Southern Africa. Its forebears can be traced to the Cape Colony of Southern Africa where they crossed with the early pioneer dogs and the semi-domesticated, ridged Hottentot hunting dogs. Hunting mainly in groups of two or three, the original function of the Rhodesian Ridgeback or Lion Dog was to track game, especially lion, and with great agility, keep it at bay until the arrival of the hunter.

The original standard, which was drafted by F.R. Barnes, in Bulawayo, Rhodesia in 1922, was based on that of the Dalmatian and was approved by the South African Kennel Union in 1926.

GENERAL APPEARANCE: The Rhodesian Ridgeback should represent a well balanced, strong, muscular, agile and active dog, symmetrical in outline and capable f great endurance with a fair amount of speed. The emphasis is on agility, elegance and soundness with no tendency towards massiveness. The peculiarity of the breed is the ridge on the back, which is formed by the hair growing in the opposite direction to the rest of the coat.

CHARACTERISTICS: The ridge is the escutcheon of the breed. The ridge must be clearly defined, symmetrical and tapering towards the haunch. It must start immediately behind the shoulders and continue to the hip (haunches) bones. The ridge must contain only two crowns, identical and opposite each other. The lower edges of the crowns must not extend further down the ridge than one-third of its length. A good average width of the ridge is 5cm (2ins.)

TEMPERAMENT: Dignified, intelligent, aloof with strangers, but showing no aggression or shyness.

HEAD AND SKULL Cranial Region: Skull Should be of a fair length (width of head between ears, distance from occiput to stop, stop to end of nose, should be equal), flat and broad between the ears; the head should be free from wrinkles when in repose.

Stop: Should be reasonably well defined and not in one straight line from the nose to the occipital bone.

Facial region Nose Should be black or brown. A black nose should be accompanied by dark eyes, a brown nose by amber eyes.

Muzzle Should be long, deep and powerful.

Lips Should be clean, closely fitting the jaws.

Cheeks Should be clean.

EYES: Should be moderately well apart, round, bright and sparkling, with intelligent expression, their colour harmonising with the colour of the coat.

EARS: Should be set rather high, of medium size, rather wide at base and gradually tapering to a rounded point. They should be carried close to the head.

MOUTH: Jaws strong with a perfect scissor bite, i.e. the upper teeth closely overlapping the lower teeth and set square to the jaws. The teeth must be well developed, especially the canines or holders.

NECK: Should be fairly long, strong and free from throatiness.

FOREQUARTERS The forelegs should be perfectly straight, strong and well boned with the elbows close to the body. When viewed from the side, the forelegs should be wider than viewed from the front. Pasterns should be strong with slight spring.

Shoulders: Should be sloping, clean and muscular, denoting speed.


Back - Powerful

Loins Strong, muscular and slightly arched

Chest Should not be too wide, but very deep and capacious; the brisket should reach the elbow.

Forechest - Should be visible when viewed from the side

Ribs - moderately well sprung, never rounded like barrel-hoops

HINDQUARTERS: In the hind legs the muscles should be clean and well defined with good turn of stifle and strong hocks well let down.

FEET: Should be compact and well round with well arched toes and tough, elastic pads, protected by hair between the toes and pads.

TAIL: Should be strong at the root and gradually tapering towards the end, free from coarseness. It should be of moderate length. It should not be attached too high not too low and should be carried with a slight curve, never curled.

GAIT/MOVEMENT: Straight forward, free and active.

COAT Hair Should be short and dense, sleek and glossy in appearance but neither woolly nor silky.

COLOUR: - Light wheaten to red wheaten. A little white on the toes is permissible, but excessive white hairs here, on belly or above toes is undesirable. A dark muzzle and ears permissible. Excessive black hairs throughout the coat are highly undesirable.

SIZE: The desirable heights are:

DOGS: 63cm (25 ins) to 69cm (27 ins)

BITCHES: 61cm (24 ins) to 66cm (26 ins)

WEIGHT: the desirable weights are:

DOGS: 36.5 Kg (80 lbs)

BITCHES: 32 kg (70 lbs)

FAULTS: Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportions to its degree.

NOTE: Male animals should have two apparently normally developed testicles fully descended into the scrotum.

Midi music: Circle Of Life from The Lion King