In the early history of the breed, it was a common notion that Rhodesian Ridgebacks (or African Lion Dogs, as they were initially called) had a good bit of lion in their lineage – a myth that has only recently fallen by the wayside. Due to the fact that Rhodesian Ridgebacks were proficient lion trackers, the common belief was – and in many cases is still believed even amongst the misinformed to this day - that they actually hunt and kill lion. Although a romantic notion, it is an exaggeration of the hound’s capabilities and strength, as a Rhodesian Ridgeback dog, although smarter, is no match in killing authority. The true hunting talent of the Rhodesian Ridgeback lies in its ability to distract his majesty’s attention and keep it at bay until the hunter arrives on the scene to conclude the life of the big cat.
Descriptions of Rhodesian Ridgebacks are sparce, but what is available from the writings of antiquity we know something of dogs belonging to the early inhabitants of the country and the settlers that inevitably followed. Knowledge of the history of the breed is formed largely on anecdotal evidence, passed down from oral tradition. However, this much is known – the Ridgeback did not exist in its present form in the early history of the breed. Rather, it was spawned from a group of similar dogs that performed a specific task. Some of these dogs displayed an aberration in the form of an irregular hair pattern along their backs in the shape of a ridge, which attracted the attention and curiousity of their observers. Being various in stature, some had a somewhat finer bone structure – like a greyhound, or Saluki; yet others were more solid in shape and bone density. Some had flat ears and some had prick ears. An Interesting point of note was that it seemed that the dogs showing the greatest expertise and agility in the hunting arena were those with flat ears; the inevitable result was that they were used more frequently for breeding purposes.