Description by Stig G. Carlson, taken from his book the Pet Owner’s Guide to the Rhodesian Ridgeback.
A Ridgeback is a proud, elegant dog, whose body has a rectangular, but never quadratic appearance. It is a sclassic hunting dog, so look for body proportions with a ratio of 5:4, length to height. It can be slightly, but not much, more than this. A body with these proportions produces the most effective gait for a dog that was required to cover long, tiring distances, before a possible hunt even began. The overall word to describe a goo Ridgeback is BALANCE. He should be strong, but not too heavy; powerful, but never clumsy; elegant, but never weak or sleek like a greyhound; fast, but not the fastest; agile as few other dog breeds can be; and with staying power and energy. My motto is: there is only one extreme feature in a Ridgeback, and that is the total absence of extremes.
The Ridgeback head is that of a traditional hunter, with equal proportions between width and length of skull, as well as skull width or length to muzzle length. The muzzle should be strong, with a correct set of teeth and a good stop. The skull topline and that of the muzzle must be parallel. The Ridgeback head should never give a triangular impression, either seen from the side or viewed from the front. Bitches should show clearly feminine features, and males have a strong masculine look to them.
Any hunter, or runner, needs a strong base for long, hopefully well-trained muscles. The sound Ridgeback must have a long neck, that is not too thick and heavy, and a well-shaped front. The pro-sternum or the breastbone must be clearly visible from the side. The legs should have strong muscles with sufficient yet never heavy or round bones. The shoulder should be sloping, forming an angle of approximately 30 degrees with an imaginary line drawn vertically through the top part of the shoulder bone (the scapula), to the ground.
The chest is deep to accommodate large lungs and, in an adult Ridgeback, should reach down to the elbows. But the chest and front should never to too broad, as this would hamper the swift, unpredictable zig-zag turns which the true Ridgeback exhibits when in hunting mode.
The ribcage should be of sufficient length and end in an elegant curve towards the rear. A short ribcage combined with a long loin gives a week topline and less endurance.
The ridge is a symmetrical formation of hair growing in the opposite direction on the back of the dog. The ideal ridge starts directly behind the shoulder blades and extends to a point in line with the hip bones. At the front end the ridge has two whorls, called crowns, symmtrically placed on each side of the ridge. Any other formation either in the number or position, is considered incorrect. Above the crowns there is an arch, a symmetrical, bowed or arch-shaped formation at the starting point of the ridge. The arch must never be longer than one third of the total length of the ridge, including the arch. The ideal width of this ridge below the arch is 3-6 cms, depending on the size of the dog. The ridge is tapered towards the end.
THE FEET AND LEGS
The feet should be rather high, with strong, well arched toes giving he dog the ability to climb. Short toes are a fault, as is a flat foot, which leads to less stamina in motion.
If you have not seen a Ridgeback in motion, you have not seen a Ridgeback. It is essential that the angles of the front and hind feet are equal, giving the feet equal „stretch“, or ground coverage.
Attention should be paid to the root of the tail, i.e., the thick, first 10-15 cms of the tail. It is this part of the tail that is the decisive indicator, never mind about the rest of it. The root of the tail should be parallel with the ground in slow movement, if the croup is well balanced. Both a high-set root to the tail, and a rounded, sloping group with a low-set tail, signal weaknesses in the croup.
A well-built Ridgeback can turn and twist ad very high speed, which was a major factor in the breed’s success when hunting big game.
The ability to turn and twist has sometimes, incorrectly, been attributed to a short and compact body, but in the Ridgeback it is the muscular, rather flexible, connection between the ribcage and the shoulders and front legs which is the main source of flexibility. This is why the ribcage should be deep, but not be too broad, and never round as in a „barrel chest“. The Ridgeback, in full gallop, moves his hind legs outside the front legs, almost as a greyhound does, making full use of his hardworking, flexible back.
The founding father of the Breed Standard, F. R. Barnes, wrote: “ ….one would expect just such characteristics as the Ridgeback so markedly shows; speed, power, courage, fidelity and affection, and in addition a remarkable skill in tackling wide animals.“ Even-tempered and companionable with his own family, the Ridgeback can be aloof with strangers.