The history of the Rhodesian Ridgeback

The dog with the ridge on its back. Jokers will ask you if that thing on its back is a zipper.
The ridge itself is formed by a line of hair on the spine that grows in the opposite direction. The line must be clearly defined, symmetrical, narrowing towards the end and must have two crowns.

When Jan van Riebeeck arrived on the Cape in 1652, carrying out orders from the VOC, he met the Hottentot people with their cattle, sheep and dogs.

One thinks that the Hottentots came from the northern parts of Africa towards the south. During their journey they drove along the Bushmen. Since early 16th century their dogs are mentioned in writings by the white as being sharp, keen on a fight, small posture with upright ears, alike jackals ánd having a ridge. Not many similarities except for the ridge.

Ridgebacks in the field

Statements from the 19th century will tell us that the Hottentot dogs now carry hanging ears and were of a reasonable size. The close likeness between the dog and a jackal is not being mentioned any more.

In South Africa there were Boer dogs: big, hefty dogs whose job it was to defend hearth and home and to go hunting with the settlers on lions, leopards etcetera. They had to be brave with a fine nose, quick with super-fast reflexes, able to jump high and run over long distances. Quite a list of demands but the dogs that couldn’t perform quickly dropped out of the picture.

The big game population diminished dramatically in the middle of the 19th century and because of that the Boer dog population was reduced as well. But Rhodesia (nowadays Zimbabwe) was still a hunters heaven and it makes sense that the Boer dogs arrived there, imported from South Africa.

Especially Cornelis van Rooyen, a famous and notorious hunter, used and bred them frequently. He managed to breed a dog that had the required speed, maneuverability, power and perseverance.
He created their reputation of courage and temperament. Van Rooyen crossed his dogs with African ridged dogs and these native dogs inherited their mutation to their offspring. From then on these dogs were called Liondogs.

No one expected them to actually kill a lion. In a pack they had to hunt a lion and keep it at bay in the open field. It wasn’t easy working with the King of beasts and many a dog, not fast, clever or quick enough died in the process.

The selection of dogs was merciless and the sole selection factors for breeding were utility, courage and temperament. The exterior was of minor importance and there were Ridgeback in every size, shape and form you can imagine.

It wasn’t until 1922 that a certain gentleman called Barnes had the idea to organize a meeting with some twenty owners and their best dogs. The dogs were compared to one another, the most typical ones selected and a standard of the ideal Ridgeback drawn up. It was then that the very first Ridgeback club was founded. Since this all happened in Rhodesia did the dog get the name Rhodesian Ridgeback.

The standard was admitted to the Kennel Union of Southern Africa (KUSA) in 1924.

When interested about the origin and history of the Rhodesian Ridgeback I can recommend the book “Rhodesian Ridgeback Pioneers” written by Linda Costa.
A reference to her website can be found in “links”.

The Rhodesian Ridgeback in the Netherlands

Mrs ME Goedhart Bakker-Hofbauer with Indoena In- Goyama and Ntombi In-Goyama

first Ridgeback arrived in the Netherlands in 1946. His name was Pegasus and he belonged to the aviator Mrs. Ida van Zanten.
Mrs. M.E. Goedhart Bakker-Hofbauer (left picture) imported two Ridgebacks from Ermelo, South Africa in 1947.
They were half-brother and sister Indoena and Ntombi In-Goyama bred by Mr. De Geus. They produced two litters; the first in 1949 and the second in 1950. Indoena van de Tafelbaai, born in the second litter, went to my mother Ans Trésoor-Homan in 1953.

The first Van de Tafelbaai litter , mrs. Goedhart Bakkers kennel.

Goedhart Bakkers grandson has granted me permission to publish some of the original documents of import, pedigrees etcetera, which he found after his grandparents both passed away.

Ntombi and Indoena shortly before departure to the Netherlands in October 1947.

The Dutch Kennel Club recognized the breed officially in 1949 and appointed mrs. Goedhart Bakkers husband to Pronkrug judge.