Introduction The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a hound dog with a light to red wheaten colour. The breed itself falls under the kennel classification of Hound, bred for their hunting skills though later used more for their protective qualities as a guard dog.
They are most distinguished by the genetic defect known as a ‘ridge’ running down their spine from the point of the shoulder blades to just before the hind quarters. The ridge is considered to be the main physical quality of the breed. Without such a ridge, a Rhodesian cannot be Kennel Club registered and must be castrated/neutered within a chosen time period (amended from the previous puppy-euthanasian practice promoted by the RRCG code of ethics). These Ridge-less puppies cannot be sold with registration documents and must be castrated/neutered before selling can be undertaken if the person(s) breeding is a member of the Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of Great Britain.
Like many pedigree breeds, the Ridgeback (as it is more commonly nicknamed) is prone to a series of inherited problems which may cause pain, suffering or illness during the span of their life. Though there are several genetic diseases and anatomical problems the ridgeback can become prone to, the main issues linked with the Ridgeback breed is Dermoid Sinus, a back problem causing pain and often fatal problems to the dog. There are many different controversial points linked to Dermoid Sinus and the ethical notions of breeding Ridged Rhodesians. Throughout the course of this report, points will be made into the ethical welfare and breeding of the Rhodesian, their role in the working dog world and the struggles of rehabilitating a working dog. History of Ridgeback Domestication Dogs are thought to be the first domesticated species of animal. Originally descendant from wolves, the first traces of Domesticated Canines are from 12 to 11 thousand years ago from Northern Iraq. The choosing of Canines as a companion animal was no stroke of luck, wolves showed all the qualities that humans looked for within a symbiotic relationship. The animals are feed able, friendly, fecund and show incredible family values.
The pack-instinct of a wolf is what makes the bond between a canine and it’s “alpha” (in most cases, the human family they live with) so strong. Ridgebacks receive their name from the early domesticated dogs of South Africa. The history of the breed boils down to the fact that these dogs were strong hunters, bred for their agility and strength. They were noted as being extremely loyal companions, marveled for their guarding ability. It was also documented that many of these dogs were bred later along the line for the cultural quality of their genetic defect- a spinal ridge. Brought over to Europe in the late 16th Century, the ridge on the animals provided them with popularity and interest. Introduction to Dermoid Sinus Dermoid (pilonidal) Sinus is an often-inherited tubular indention found within canines.
Usually located along the spinal column, a Dermoid Sinus is considered be a cyst skin defect. In severe cases, the Dermoid Sinus will extend from the skin in a tubular shape down to the dura mater (membrane of the spinal chord). Other cases of D.S include extensions to just below the tissue of the skin or formations of blind-ended sacs. The below reference image includes the several types of common D.S cases. D.
S is, in the opinion of some leading scientists and veterinarians, increased by the breeding standards created by the Kennel Club and Rhodesian Ridgeback Breeding Clubs on an international level. Figure II- an overview of the different depths of a Dermoid Tubular. http://www.starridgerrs.com/images/BreedInformation/DermoidSinus_5.gif The use of ridgebacks as Working Dogs And the effects on rehomingRhodesian Ridgebacks are classified as a hound dog due to their history of domestication being rooted within hunting. However, in more modern-day eras, the especially protective and large stance of the breed has made them suitable for working roles in the Military, Police Force, private land and home guarding and illegal dog fighting.
Ridgebacks are extremely loyal dogs and have been known to risk their lives for their owners. However, there are welfare problems to the treatment of animals in roles such as the military, police force and guarding. The Ridgeback is also known for its hunting behavior. However, for the purpose of this report and the overall conclusion, the working sections focused on are protection and agnostically linked to a decreased number of rehoming for all breeds within these working scenarios. Rhodesian Ridgebacks in the Police force, Guarding, Military work and Dog Fighting sportsGuarding will, naturally put the dog at risk of being physically harmed during any breaches of property. There are many reported cases of dog deaths linked directly to property guarding, the ridgeback being amongst those affected.
The breed will also be trained exclusively to show aggression towards unknown faces, giving them a stigmatic relation in the eye of the media. Rhodesian Ridgebacks will also experience life threatening situations in both military and police work, putting their own life on the line for the protection of their handlers. It is important to note that Rhodesians are less likely to be used within the Police and Military forces due to their nature as being more difficult to train than dogs such as German Shepherds. When a dog is retired from its, they will (in most cases) never truly be able to set back into domestic house-dog life as they are trained to be high alert, incredibly active and immediately responsive to anything they deem to be a danger or threat. Many working dogs have to retire into the homes of their previous handlers’ due to their notifiable “high strung” mentality.
Dog fighting is a commercial use of the ridgeback, the common illegal sport around the world in which often large, strong jawed dogs are trained throughout their lives to participate in the fighting and killing of other dogs for entertainment and gambling money. If a dog is rescued from these sports, especially in the case of Ridgebacks who are known for their temperamental dominance issues if not trained correctly, it is unlikely they will ever be able to settle into a normal home. Dog fighting is in breach with animal legislations of welfare such as the Animal Welfare Act (2006) due to animal’s “need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease”. Conclusion The genetic defect affects the adoption rate of some Rhodesian Ridgebacks, who may carry the genetic inheritance that would make them incapable breeding without the fault been passed onto their offspring in the genetic ratio within the stud or bitch. It is with this in mind that many Rhodesian’s who do not fit the breed standards to the dot are neutered to allow for more selective breeding as classified within the kennel club breeding standards. The main 6 characteristics and behavioral traits of a Rhodesian Ridgeback is that they are intelligent, dignifies, mischievous, loyal, sensitive and strong-willed. Due to these traits, Rhodesians (though lovely dogs) will often find difficulty in being retrained out of old habits.
If the dog is deemed to be too much of a problem once retired from its agnostically linked work, they may eventually fall into the Dangerous Dogs Act (1991) and the dog may be confined even further from a life of freedom and rest. It is not unknown for Rhodesian’s to be abandoned by their owners as they become too much of an overbearing dog. These dogs will end up in shelters and, if deemed too dangerous for adoption, will eventually be put down instead of rehomed. Ridgebacks born into homes as family pets are known for their “large lap dog behavior”, making them ideal family protective companions. However, dogs coming from working fields are more likely to not find this level of reassurance in their retirement life.