We’ve all heard the stories in regard to the Rhodesian Ridgeback being a ferocious hunting dog capable of killing lions. These stories are rife, all over the internet, and have been known to put potential owners off.
But how true are they, really? Can a Rhodesian Ridgeback really hunt that well? Are they even good hunting dogs at all, or has the Rhodesian Ridgeback simply got an over-inflated reputation?
The question ‘are Rhodesian Ridgebacks good hunting dogs’ is not the simplest to answer. It can depend on a number of factors including temperament, training, and circumstance. It is, however, certain that Rhodesian Ridgebacks have been exceptionally good hunters in the past, as their history shows.
The History Of The Rhodesian Ridgeback As A Hunter
The exact origins of the Rhodesian Ridgeback are unclear, but similar looking dogs have been noted in historical records from both Asia and Africa.
For example, tombs in Egypt from around 4000BC display pictures of dogs that look just like Rhodesian Ridgebacks with caves near Rasape, Zimbabwe doing the same.
These caves were also burial sites that showed the chief buried there’s prized possessions including sheep, cattle, and dogs that resemble the Rhodesian Ridgeback known as the Hottentot.
Used as a hunting dog the Hottentot was discovered by European Boers who arrived in South Africa in the 16th century. The Boers had brought their own breeds of dog with them such as Mastiffs, Great Danes, and Bloodhounds but these proved ineffective in the harsh African sun.
All of the dogs found South Africa to be way to warm for them so the Boers looked elsewhere for their hunting dogs. The result of this was a breeding program, so to speak, that involved the Hottentot and European breeds.
The product of this breeding was the dog we now know as the Rhodesian Ridgeback. A dog that was able to hunt by sight and sound and tolerate the African heat.
It wasn’t long before the Rhodesian Ridgeback became the hunting dog of choice, and could be seen on every homestead around. Here they used to take down injured stags, flush out partridges, and generally guard their territory at night.
In the 1870s several Rhodesian Ridgebacks were taken to Rhodesia (modern-day Zimbabwe) with the intention of using them to hunt the lion. They were not, however, expected to nor did they kill them.
Rather, the Rhodesian Ridgeback would seek, chase, harass, and corner lions until their masters could get to them. So exceptional were the Rhodesian Ridgebacks at this job that they earned themselves the title of ‘lion dog’.
From Hunting Dog To Pet
As with any other dog breed, the Rhodesian Ridgeback slowly made its way to distant shores.
In 1928, for example, the first one was shown in Great Britain by Mrs. Edward Foljambe. This was followed by in 1950 Mr. and Mrs. William O Brien taking several to America. Here they were recognized by the Kennel Club in 1955 with the first registered being Tchaika Of Redhouse.
Since then the Rhodesian Ridgeback has grown in popularity as a family pet which is no doubt due to their good looks and fabulous personalities.
Rhodesian Ridgebacks are, after all, loyal, affectionate, intelligent, confident, gentle, and fun. They’re pretty much all you could want in a family pet I’d say, wouldn’t you?
This divergence into being a family pet, however, now means that the Rhodesian Ridgeback is no longer being bred to be the perfect hunter.
Rather, they are being bred with other traits being more valuable. They are also not usually trained to be hunters by the average family that keeps them.
So Are Rhodesian Ridgebacks Still Capable Of being Great Hunters?
There can be no doubt that over time the Rhodesian Ridgeback has evolved. They are no longer just a hunting dog, but also a great family pet.
However, most Rhodesian Ridgebacks still possess the hunting instinct; including a rather high prey drive. This means that they are likely to chase neighborhood cats, and any other animal (wild included) they may come across.
Other dogs, however, are usually an exception to this rule although supervision may be required especially with smaller ones.
Rhodesian Ridgebacks are also still built to be great hunters. This is due to them being strong, muscular, and large. They are also exceptional at locating a scent and tracking it due to their heightened senses and athletic prowess.
Rhodesian Ridgebacks do not give up when on a scent and will often follow it for miles.
How To Train A Rhodesian Ridgeback To Hunt
Hunting with a Rhodesian Ridgeback is undoubtedly an activity that is enjoyed by both owner and dog, however, it is not an exercise for everyone.
Many people do not wish to partake in hunting moral reasons or ethical ones. This does not mean, however, that you and your Rhodesian Ridgeback cannot participate in hunting training.
Hunting, after all, does not have to involve animals. You could also hunt scent trails with inanimate objects such as retriever dummies at the end of them.
Teaching your dog to hunt is not a quick process and can’t be done overnight. Simple commands such as sit, come, or stay will not suffice as hunting requirements.
Hunting dogs need to build multiple skills, in fact, the best hunting dogs are exceptionally trained and skilled. So well trained, as it happens, that they can anticipate exactly what their owner needs and exactly when.
Hunting training also needs to begin from as early an age as possible and progress as your Rhodesian Ridgeback grows in both mental and physical strength.
How To Get Started
Before you can even begin hunt training a Rhodesian Ridgeback you’ll need to ensure that they have the basic commands down to a tee. These basic commands include:
You will also need various tools, depending on the type of hunting you are doing. These will vary from hunt type to hunt type and you should research them before you get started.
However, what every hunting dog requires, no matter what, is safety equipment. Safety of your Rhodesian Ridgeback has to be paramount and you will need:
- A bright vest to distinguish your dog from other animals
- A solid buckle collar
- A long leash
- Various retrieving dummies
Last, but not least your Rhodesian Ridgeback should also be correctly socialized and exposed to elements they may encounter whilst hunting. These include:
- Loud noises
Loud Noise Desensitization
The chances are that whilst hunting your dog is going to be exposed to loud noises such as a gun shot. They will need to be acclimatized to noises such as this in order to react correctly.
1 Introduce noise to your Rhodesian Ridgeback as soon as possible. Banging pans and other loud household noises are ideal.
2 Give treats when your Rhodesian Ridgeback ignores any loud noise.
3 Increase the sound level and vary the noises as they become more comfortable with those they have already been introduced to.
4 Introduce sounds that are relevant such as gunshot and whistles.
5 Take your Rhodesian Ridgeback on a hunt but keep them well behind the hunt line. As they become more used to the noises around them, move them forward.
Acclimatizing To Obstacles
Whilst hunting your Rhodesian Ridgeback is going to come across a wide variety of obstacles such as fallen leaves, water, grass, and tree trunks.
1 Expose your Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy to as many types of flooring as possible. Try fake grass, turf, grating, leafy wooded areas, and concrete. Get them to walk, play, and run on all of them.
2 Try dog agility as a way to get your Rhodesian Ridgeback to love obstacles. Jumps, weaving poles, balance beams, and seesaws are all good starting points.
3 When passing through wooded areas your Rhodesian Ridgeback is going to come across overhanging items such as branches. Help your dog to adjust to these by hanging towels or blankets over them and from their crate.
4 Train your dog to be comfortable going into tunnels and holes. They should also enter and exit these on command.
5 Finally, combine all your obstacle training with noises.
The last thing you want whilst hunting with your Rhodesian Ridgeback is for them to become distracted. This is partly because with distraction your hunt will likely fail but mainly due to issues of safety. Your Rhodesian Ridgeback should always return to you undistracted, and here’s how you can achieve that.
1 Teach your dog to touch your hand by holding a treat. When your dog touches your hand release the treat to them.
2 Once your dog has the hang of number one you should increase the distance your dog has to move to touch your hand.
3 When your Rhodesian Ridgeback reliably touches your hand from a variety of distances away you should discard the treat. You can still reward them but do not do so from the hand they are touching.
4 Add verbal and hand signals to recall your dog to touch your hand. Make the verbal signal a single word and the hand signal simple but distinctive.
5 Finally, you can add noise and obstacles to your distraction training before you move on to more advanced and more specific hunt training.