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Is The Rhodesian Ridgeback Vs Lion Battle Myth Or Reality?

Is The Rhodesian Ridgeback Vs Lion Battle Myth Or Reality?

The Rhodesian Ridgeback vs Lion battle has been ongoing for centuries, since the first time these canines appeared.

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are one of the most magnificent dog breeds for several reasons, including the fact that they went through one of the biggest transformations in the canine world.

In the past, these canines were the right hand of lion hunters, which is why they were often used during the hunting of the King of Animals. This is actually one of the reasons why these canines are called “African Lion Hounds” or “African Lion Dogs”.

However, as time passed, these canines slowly entered family homes and were getting adapted to life within a household.

Nowadays, this magnificent, wheaten-colored canine that comes from South Africa… Rhodesia, to be exact, is known as a companion dog that is loyal to its owner, and a great guard dog that protects both its family and its property.

The Ridgeback dog isn’t popular just because of its looks, but because of a myth that they’re capable of fighting lions. This is exactly why they’re known as lion-hunting dogs.

Can A Rhodesian Ridgeback Kill Lions?

Rhodesian Ridgeback and lion fight

The Rhodesian Ridgeback vs Lion battle has been interesting to a great number of dog enthusiasts, especially those who are familiar with the history of these canines.

The theory of Rhodesian Ridgebacks killing lions has been alive for decades, but now it’s time to finally reveal the truth.

One thing is sure – Rhodesian Ridgebacks were companions of lion hunters, which is one of the main reasons why they were bred initially, along with the fact that they were considered one of the best herding canines in general.

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However, the truth is that Rhodesian Ridgeback canines weren’t used for the killing of lions in the first place, although they were used in the hunting of these wild animals.

In point of fact, the likelihood of this dog being able to kill a lion is quite remote.

Even throughout its time as a hunter, this canine was never known to have killed a lion despite popular belief to the contrary.

The truth is often obscured by the numerous myths that circulate about it even today.

Rhodesian Ridgeback Vs Lion Battle

To know what the Rhodesian’s chances against a lion are, it’s important to compare these two animals both physically and mentally.

It’s crystal clear that both of these animals are strong, powerful, and able to fight, but is it really possible for a dog to fight a lion?

According to the differences in their physical appearance, it’s highly unlikely that a Rhodesian Ridgeback could win over a lion, even though they’re excellent hunting dogs.

Ridgebacks are considered large dogs, and there’s no doubt about that, but that is only if you compare them to other dog breeds such as Pitbulls, Bulldogs, Rottweilers, and other canines.

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Lions are generally at least 13 to 15 inches bigger than Rhodesians, which grow up to 27 inches at most, according to the American Kennel Club’s (AKC) breed standard.

In terms of weight, the difference is even bigger as lions usually weigh from 280 to 420 pounds, while the dog doesn’t weigh more than 90 pounds.

It’s interesting to notice that lions are faster than Rhodesians, even though they carry a lot more weight. However, the majority of their weight is in muscles, which enable lions to be fast and agile.

Can A Rhodesian Ridgeback Fight Against A Lion?

At this point, many people might think that it’s impossible to compare these two animals at all, let alone fight against each other.

Many start to question the history of the Rhodesian Ridgebacks in general, thinking that it is impossible that they could even go on hunting expeditions with their dog owners.

It is true that since the lion is superior to the Rhodesian Ridgeback in height, weight, biting force, and even speed, the odds are always going to be stacked against the Rhodesian Ridgeback.

Still, that doesn’t mean that Rhodesian Ridgeback puppies weren’t one of the best dogs for lion hunting. However, their role in hunting expeditions was different from what is known nowadays.

Were Rhodesian Ridgebacks Even Used For Lion Hunting?

The quick response to this question is “yes,” the Ridgeback was used for hunting these wild animals. One of the reasons why it’s called the African Lion Hound is because of this.

However, this did not take place in the manner that enthusiasts of the current Ridgeback assume it did.

The Ridgeback’s initial hunting function did not involve hurting lions in any way. Essentially, these dogs were used as “bait” for lions.

They were trained to chase lions and other wild animals, tease them, and take them to the point at which hunters could get them.

This is exactly why Rhodesian Ridgebacks were known as lion dogs.


The exact history of these canines is not completely clear as unknown dogs with ridges on their back appeared in regions of both Asia and Africa.

It is believed that some of these pups are the long-lost ancestors of Rhodesian Ridgebacks. Considering that Rhodesian-like pups appeared in caves of Zimbabwe (as parts of paintings), it’s natural to think that those ancient dogs are truly the ancestors of today’s Ridgebacks.

However, what is known is that in order to improve their hunting abilities, Boer farmers in Southern Africa bred this magnificent dog breed for a long time.

These farmers were looking for experienced hunting dogs that were capable of becoming reliable guardians, survivalists, and even companion canines.

One of the canine breeds that were used for the breeding of Rhodesian Ridgebacks was the Hottentot hunting hounds, which were traditionally bred by the Khoikhoi people.

Other types of canines that were bred with the Hottentots were mostly European breeds like Mastiffs, Bloodhounds, Great Danes, and Greyhounds.

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The breeding of these dogs has resulted in the creation of canines with distinctive looks and amazing agility, which is why they became one of the best working dogs, especially in the field.

Initially, Ridgebacks were used as guard dogs, working canines, and hard-working helpers on the farm.

However, the lion hunters found them a good choice for their expeditions, which is why these dogs were brought to Rhodesia in the 1800s.

Although it is believed that they were brought there to fight lions, this wasn’t the case at all as their role was mainly to lure lions to a spot from which they would be visible to hunters.

But, their role in lion hunting has been later misunderstood as the myth of Rhodesians fighting and killing the king of the jungle was born.

Are They Still Used For Hunting?

a woman petting a Rhodesian Ridgeback dog

The days of lion hunting seem to be behind the Rhodesian Ridgebacks, at least when it comes to pups in the United States as nowadays, this dog breed is rather considered a family canine and companion dog.

Their strength and agility are still highly appreciated, which is why these dogs are usually recommended for people who have an active lifestyle.

But, this might not be the case in other countries, especially those that have hunting as an integral part of their tradition.

In regions where hunting is still an important part of the culture, there is no question that dogs of this breed continue to fulfill the duty of hunters.

Although some people have the impression that these canines don’t have a strong prey drive anymore, that is far from the truth.

Even after being kept as a family canines for so many years, they have not lost their natural desire to hunt. This is something that every owner of Rhodesian Ridgebacks should keep in mind.

They might not have the urge to go hunting wild animals if they’re trained and socialized from an early age, but you might notice your dog pursuing small animals during walks, time in the dog park, or even in your back yard.

That is why these canines shouldn’t go out without a harness or a leash, especially if they won’t be in a fenced area.

We can all agree that the sole thought of the Rhodesian Ridgeback vs Lion battle seems intriguing, although many people will immediately conclude that a dog, no matter how strong and big, has zero chances against one of the strongest animals in the wilderness.

One of the reasons why this myth has been ongoing for so many years is the fact that the other names for Rhodesian canines include “lion dog”, “African Lion Hound”, “South African Lion”, etc.

These names imply that their main task was to fight lions, although, as we already learned by now, this is not the case.

The mythical battles that never took place, at least not during any known hunting expedition, were interesting enough to be passed from one generation to another.

There is a thin line between a myth and a fact, especially if it’s as intriguing as this one, which is why it’s no surprise that this myth is still alive even today.


Rhodesian Ridgebacks lie on a man's knee
Are Rhodesian Ridgebacks Good Guard Dogs?

The primary responsibility of Rhodesian dogs was to protect their owners, Boers, which is one of the traits that has remained to this day.

Owners of this dog breed will agree that this is one of the best large guard dogs they have ever had. Although they’re not as popular as German Shepherds or other guard canines, this doesn’t mean they’re any less capable of protecting their family and their home.

There are many people who claim that their Rhodesian is their canine security system at home.
However, this claim is still not backed up by the experts as Rhodesian Ridgebacks are still not included on the list of recommended guard dogs that are maintained by the American Kennel Club.

This may lead some people to question whether or not the Rhodesian Ridgeback is as effective at guarding as we believe it to be.

According to the experience and the historic background of these canines, it’s safe to say that they’re just as capable of guarding their home as any other guard canine breed.

However, keep in mind that they can be quite strong-willed, which is why it’s important to train them from early puppyhood.

Are Rhodesian Ridgebacks Aggressive?

This is one of the questions that makes complete sense as many people would regard canines that are bred for lion hunting as aggressive dogs.

However, Rhodesian Ridgebacks are far from aggressive dog breeds, although they might appear hostile in certain cases.
One of the best ways to describe this canine breed would be to say that they’re protective dogs with a great amount of energy which requires daily exercise. They won’t be overly aggressive to all strangers, but they definitely won’t be fond of them either.

These pups are not nearly as vocal as Huskies, GSDs, Beagles, and other dogs, but they will find a way to let you know if they feel any kind of threat near you.
Ridgebacks are definitely not overly aggressive, but this doesn’t mean they’ll never show any type of negative behavior. That is why training is considered a key point in preventing such behavior.

Their independence, strong will, and suspicion towards strangers are just some of the traits that make them excellent guard canines.
Over time, dogs of this breed have acquired the ability to warn of impending danger in the form of lions by howling and jumping around in an effort to herd the lion into a corner.

Still, although they have such a historic background, the Ridgebacks have managed to become devoted furry buddies that show attention to every member of the family, including adults and children, which contributes to their status as excellent family dogs.

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How Do You Train Rhodesian Ridgebacks?

Although lions and Ridgebacks don’t have a lot in common in terms of physical appearance, there are certain characteristics they do share, which are mainly related to their personality.

Courage, bravery, stubbornness, and a strong-willed nature are excellent traits, but they might make the training process more challenging, especially if you don’t start with it from an early age.
However, this should not discourage you from getting a Rhodesian Ridgeback because they are loyal, protective, and more than worth the time and energy you will need to put into training one.

Rhodesians are highly intelligent canines, and they’re able to pick up new skills in a short period of time, which is why their stubbornness during training can be tolerated.
The good traits these dogs possess make them excellent candidates for training, and even though it might not seem easy in the beginning, it will all pay off.

One thing is for sure… in order to be properly trained, these canines need strong authority and ownership. If you’re not sure whether you’ll be able to train your pet by yourself, you can take a few training classes from a professional dog trainer to learn the basics.

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Training is essential for a Rhodesian Ridgeback, but it must be carried out in the correct manner for it to be effective.

Socialization and obedience are two of the most important training methods that should be implemented from early puppyhood.
If you complete these tasks, you’ll be able to complete any type of training without a problem.

Make sure to include positive reinforcement within each training session if you want your pup to work with you. They can sense both positive and negative energy, and it affects their behavior.

Remember, they’re a highly intelligent breed, which is why they love being mentally challenged. Therefore, it is recommended to include early neurological stimulation into their training routine from the early days of their life.

Who Lives Longer: Lions Or Rhodesian Ridgebacks?

The Rhodesian Ridgeback vs Lion comparison isn’t just about their strength, agility, or mental health. They can be compared in many aspects, including their lifespan.

It might come as a surprise to some people that Rhodesians and lions have almost the same life expectancy. However, this depends on several factors that will be described in the paragraphs below.

First of all, it’s important to determine the difference between male and female lions in terms of lifespan.

The life expectancy is substantially longer in females than in males as the first ones can live up to 16 years, while the latter ones usually live up to 10 or 12 years in the wild.

Another factor that determines the lifespan of lions is their health. There aren’t many animals in the wild that can be a threat to lions, but the harsh conditions of wildlife might have an impact on their health.

On the other side, Rhodesian Ridgebacks generally live up to 12 years, just like the majority of large dog breeds.
Therefore, the lifespan of these two animals is almost the same if the canines are compared to male lions.

Which Dog Can Fight With A Lion?

It’s highly unlikely that any dog is able to kill a lion (unless it’s not capable of defending itself), but there are certain breeds that are strong enough to fight them.

To be clear, Rhodesians can fight lions in terms of defending themselves successfully, but the winner will almost always be clear.
There is no canine breed that could possibly be stronger than a lion, but some of them, including a Rhodesian Ridgeback, might cause them serious injuries.

Rotties, Dogo Argentinos, Caucasian Shepherd Dogs, Bloodhounds, Boerboel Dogs, Irish Wolfhounds, and Kangals are just some of the breeds that have a strong stature, great endurance, and a powerful bite force.

It’s no surprise that this canine is considered capable of fighting lions as they’re one of the best large guard dogs.
These canines are known as a great addition to military and police forces, but they’re also excellent family pets as they’re not overly aggressive, but are able to defend their owner.

Their strength and courage give them a chance to fight even against huge animals, such as lions.

Dogo Argentino
These pups are known as great hunters of animals such as wild boars, deer, pumas, coyotes, and bears, so it’s no surprise that they’re able to hunt lions, too.
They grow up to the same size as Rhodesians, and they have a great bite force, which is why they should never be underestimated, even against lions.

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Caucasian Shepherd Dog
This is one of the best examples of a gentle giant. Although they grow even bigger than Rhodesians, and have immense strength, these canines are gentle and completely loyal to their owner.

Still, their gentle nature towards their family won’t save their enemies or potential threats from the force of their powerful bite.
If they ever come across a lion, Caucasian Shepherd Dogs will not surrender without a fight.

Bloodhounds might not have the force to fight lions, but they do have an impressive sense of smell that will lead a hunter right to the lion.

They’re one of the best and biggest scent hounds, which is why they’re usually a part of police or military forces.

The fact that they’re a Mastiff type of canine is enough to prove that these canines can stand strongly against big animals, including lions.
An interesting thing about these dogs is that Boerboels have the same origin as Rhodesian

Ridgebacks as they also come from South Africa.
Although they were primarily bred as farmer dogs, their role was to protect the farm from wild animals, including lions.

They might not be capable of killing a lion, but they can chase it away from the owner’s property.

Irish Wolfhound
Being one of the fastest canines in the world surely helps these dogs to fight lions, although I wouldn’t dare say they could kill them as they have a lower bite force of 225 PSI.
Irish Wolfhounds are big dogs, but their size doesn’t affect their agility.

These canines have a soft spot for their owner and family, so don’t let their looks stop you from getting one as a family pet.

If you’re looking for a dog with a powerful bite, this canine is the right choice.
They are believed to have one of the most powerful jaws in the world, with an amazing bite force of 743 PSI (which is almost 100 PSI more than lions).

That’s exactly why they’re one of the rare canine breeds that might even be able to overcome a lion, although there are still small chances that they could actually kill one.

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Wrapping Up

The Rhodesian Ridgeback vs Lion is a battle that has been popular for quite a long time as many people believe that the Rhodesian Ridgeback is capable of killing these magnificent wild animals.

It’s no surprise that these canines have such a reputation, considering that Ridgebacks are strong, agile, and alert.

However, even though they were indeed used in lion hunting, they haven’t fought lions directly, but lured and captured them so that lion hunters could get them.

Their hunting days have been impressive, although nowadays, they’re mainly used as guard dogs and companion canines.

These dogs might not be able to kill lions, but that doesn’t make them any less valuable or impressive.


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