early description of the "Rhodesian Lion Dog"
must pay tribute to those who recorded their thoughts and details about
the origin and history of the breed. One of the first to write about
the "Rhodesian Lion Dog" was C.H. Edmonds, Senior Veterinary
Surgeon of Southern Rhodesia, who published an article in the Farmer's
Weekly of 7 February 1923, entitled "A Valuable Hunting Breed of
Unknown Origin: Strong Characteristics". Edmonds stated that the
first specimens were imported into Rhodesia by Charles Helm from Oudtshoorn.
are rapidly decreasing in Rhodesia and, with them, the lion hunters.
It would be a great pity if this grand breed of dogs were allowed to
become extinct as there are still many uses to which they can be put,
but they are not likely to be so used.
A few people are still breeding them and I am informed that it is the
intention of the Bulawayo Kennel Club to apply to the South African
Kennel Club for authority to provide classes for them at its next show
A scale of points will have to be provided and, as a basis for discussion
amongst breeders, I suggest the following:
Height - 24 inches at the shoulder
Weight - 60 lb
Colour - Tawny, fawn or brindle
Coat - short and hard
Tail - Longish and thick, free from feather and carried
(Note: two breeders have advised the writer that considerable difficulty
is experienced in the tail as at times varying lengths of tail occur
in the same litter, some being only six to seven inches long like a
docked dog, others with a kink like a Bulldog and others with long tails
as described. I would ascribe this to the possible introduction of foreign
blood at some time.)
Head - Rather broad, cheek muscles well developed. In shape resembles
the old style of Bull Terrier
Muzzle - somewhat pointed
Ears - Low set
Eyes - Yellow, intelligent, with a bold, somewhat savage expression
distinctive feature of the breed - the man, razor-back, fiddle-back
or whorl, as it variously called - is a ridge of hair up to two inches
in height (usually less) that commences above the shoulders where it
is broadest and continues along the centre of the back finishing at
a point opposite the hips."
of guidelines, published as it was in a journal of repute such as The
Farmer's Weekly, must have attracted a lot of attention, especially
as it was the first authoratative writing about the Ridgeback and came
from no less a person than Edmonds, a recognised specialist. So to Edmonds
must be accorded the first description of the breed by a person capable
of doing so.
Setting the Standard
The chief, if not the sole, credit of getting the breed standardised
and recognised by the S.A. 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 "Ridgebacks"
or "Lion Dogs", as they were beginning to be known, and
asked owners to bring their dogs to a 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 S.A. Kennel
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 sizes, from what
would be regarded as an undersized Great Dane to a small bull
Terrier; all colours were represented - reds and brindles predominating.
convenor addressed the gathering and there was general agreement
that a club to further the interests of the breed be formed. Mt
Barnes then asked for suggestions as to the standard to be adopted.
Owners were reluctant to come forward., each naturally thinking
his was the correct type.
a spectator with some knowledge of the breed took a dog and suggested
that the size and configuration be adopted, then he 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 at.
few days later Mr Barnes compiled the standard, a club was formed,
Mr Barnes' standard adopted and this, with some amendments and
alterations is the standard in use today.
S.A.Kennel Union Gazette - December 1950