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Ridgeless Rhodesian Ridgebacks – Facts & Traits

Ridgeless Rhodesian Ridgebacks – Facts & Traits

Also called the African Lion Dog, the Rhodesian Ridgeback is a beloved pooch in many homes.

It is a protective and loyal dog with a strong will. For this reason, the doggie can double up as an affectionate couch potato and a guard dog.

Although he may act aggressively towards strangers, he is also sweet and even-tempered around those he loves.

No doubt the Rhodesian ridgeback makes a great pet for any kind of home.

As for looks, the breed is large, strong, and muscular.

Besides his short dense coat and dark-muzzled ears, he is also famous for his signature ridge. After all, that’s where he got his name from.

It has a dark ridge of hair running along the dog’s spine in a backward direction.

However, not all Rhodesian ridgebacks have the ridge.

That’s right—some are born without it.

And in this post, I will cover some of the most important things you may want to know about the ridgeless variety.

Let’s dive right in…

Do All Rhodesian Ridgebacks Have A Ridge?

Not really. Granted, most of the Rhodesian ridgebacks have a ridge but a small percentage don’t have a ridge on their backs.

 It is pretty difficult to tell the two varieties apart especially if you are new to the world of Rhodies.

The fact that both types have the same temperament and behavior further makes it hard to differentiate them.

Rhodesian Ridgeback Without Ridge

Ridgeless Rhodesian ridgebacks are just that – ridgeless.

They lack the identification feature – the hairs running along the back going in the opposite direction from the dog’s coat hairs.

This occurs as a result of a genetic mutation.

Ridgeless Rhodies are typically the result of heterozygous parents who don’t possess a copy of the ridge mutation of any of their parents.

The ridge mutation is dominant and not recessive. One parent can pass the gene to some of the puppies in a litter.

Is Ridglessness A Defect?

Back in the day, puppies without a ridge were either euthanized or culled at birth.

The trait was considered atypical for the breed and thus undesired.

Also, the presence of a ridge was believed to guarantee stronger hunting instincts for the doggie.

Of course, this is largely a myth as all Rhodesian ridgebacks – regardless of whether they have a ridge or not are great hunters.

However, some ridgeless Rhodies seem to have defects.

If the trait is homozygous, it can potentially increase the risk of the dog contracting Dermoid sinus. This is a neural-tube defect that affects the entire breed.

If not surgically removed, the dermoid sinus will abscess causing great pain for the dog.


Rhodesian ridgebacks date back to the 17th century when they were largely used as hunting dogs by the Khoikhoi people of South Africa.

Europeans discovered the breed and brought it back home by the early 1800s.

Over time, as researchers began developing the breed, they realized that some of the puppies in specific litters would turn up ridgeless.

Sadly, many were killed because the trait was an anomaly to the breed.

Additionally, kennel clubs came out to say that ridgeless Rhodies were banned from the show ring.

That made the dog undesired by many. However, having learned that Rhodesian ridgebacks without a ridge are as loving and intelligent as their counterparts, many people are willing to adopt them as pets now.

How Common Are Ridgeless Ridgebacks?

According to an article on Wikipedia, 1 in 20 Rhodesian ridgeback puppies are born ridgeless.

 When two heterozygous (ridged dogs with one copy of the gene) are bred together, the litter has a 25% chance of being ridgeless, a 50% chance of being heterozygous and ridged, and a 25% chance of being homozygous and ridged.

Consequently, if one parent is heterozygous and another homozygous (ridged dogs with two copies of the ridged gene), all puppies will be ridged.

Can You Breed A Ridgeless Ridgeback?

There are no laws banning breeders from breeding ridgeless Rhodesian ridgebacks.

However, since Rhodies without a ridge may contract Dermatoid sinus, you may want to leave them alone.

Else, you are creating a problem for other people.

Ridgeless Rhodesian Ridgeback Temperament

Expect your dog to be loyal, protective, strong-willed, and intelligent.

He will be friendly with those he loves but aloof and shy towards strangers.

Although he is good with kids and other animals, he should be socialized early.

On the negative side, the breed is arrogant and stubborn.

A strong alpha leader will help tame his wild side.

Potential Health Issues

As mentioned before, a homozygous ridgeless Rhodesian ridgeback is more likely to develop Dermoid sinus.

Luckily, surgery will take care of the problem. Additionally, like other Rhodies, the breed is susceptible to the following conditions.

  • Hypothyroidism: this is an ailment of the endocrine system whereby the thyroid gland fails to produce enough thyroid hormone. For Rhodies, it leads to varied symptoms including hair loss and weight gain.
  • Degenerative myelopathy: this refers to a spinal cord condition that causes progressive paraparesis. Symptoms include slipping of the back limbs and foot-dragging.
  • Bloat: also called the gastric dilatation volvulus, bloat is a condition in which the stomach is stretched out and rotated due to excessive gas in the tummy.

Is Ridgelessness A Disqualification?

Ridgelessness is, sadly, a disqualification of the Rhodesian ridgeback by the American Kennel Club as well as many of the other kennel groups around the world.

This means a dog without a ridge cannot be shown.

However, he can take part in other competitions such as agility sports, endurance raining, and more.

Is Ridgeless Rhodesian Ridgeback For You? 

A ridgeless Rhodesian ridgeback is certainly a good pet to own if you love Rhodies in general.

He is loyal, affectionate, good with kids/dogs if well-socialized, and very protective.

As an ardent hunter, expect him to have lots of energy. For this reason, he requires plenty of physical stimulation.

The breed is also intelligent but can be very stubborn and arrogant.

Be sure to offer challenging mental games and strive to be a firm leader..

Closing Thoughts

Rhodesian ridgebacks are called so because they have a trademark ridge along their backs.

Still, ridgeless members of the breed are also available.

They may not be as many as their ridged counterparts but they do exist.

Besides having an increased risk of Dermatoid sinus (in homozygous varieties only), this dog is pretty much like any other Ridgeback pup in every other way.

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