Canine Hunters: What Dog Hunted Lions?

Rhodesian Ridgebacks were bred in Africa to hunt lions. Today, they’re beloved companions that thrive with lots of love, attention, and exercise.

Jun 11, 2024By Nikita Hillier
what dog hunted lions

Rhodesian Ridgebacks, also known as African Lion Hounds, were specifically bred for one remarkable purpose: to hunt lions. Their strength, courage, and unwavering determination in the scary face of danger have made them legendary among dog breeds.

In this blog, we are going to look into the fascinating world of Rhodesian Ridgebacks, their unique characteristics, and their remarkable hunting abilities. We’ll also introduce some other dog breeds bred for hunting large exotic animals.

Rhodesian Ridgebacks Were Bred to Hunt Lions

dog fighting lion
Image credit: Ridgelove Rhodesian Ridgeback Kennel

These incredible and athletic lion hunters are more than just impressive. Rhodesian Ridgebacks were developed by the indigenous Khoikhoi and later refined by European settlers, particularly in what is now Zimbabwe, but used to be Rhodesia. These dogs were selectively bred for their ability to track, corner, and hold large game, including lions.

Their most distinctive (and coolest) feature is the long ridge of hair along their back that grows in a different direction from the rest of their coat. This is where their name comes from! Not only were these dogs tasked with hunting lions, but they also used to hunt dangerous animals including leopards and wild boar.

Their interesting hunting techniques involved silently tracking their prey, using their keen sense of smell to detect scent trails, and then fearlessly confronting the animal until the hunter could arrive to dispatch it. Not only did this require a lot of physical strength, but also agility, intelligence, and an insane amount of bravery.

This breed’s ability to work independently and make quick decisions makes them an invaluable asset to hunters and settlers in Africa.

These Dogs Are Protective and Fearless

rhodesian ridgeback puppy with stick in mouth
Image Credit: Andrea Lightfoot on Unsplash

This breed is all about loyalty and natural protective instincts. They also make very devoted guardians and companions. But above more than this and their hunting prowess, Rhodesian Ridgebacks possess many other notable characteristics, including:

Loyalty to Loved Ones

Despite their fearless reputation as hunters, Rhodesian Ridgebacks are typically affectionate, gentle, and good-natured dogs. They form really strong bonds with their family and are known for their protective instincts, making them incredible watchdogs.

Impressive Size and Strength

These dogs are large, muscular canines that typically weigh between 70 to 85 pounds for males and around 65 to 75 pounds for females. They have super powerful and athletic builds that enable them to excel in a number of activities including agility, obedience, tracking, and other breed-specific sports.

Low Maintenance Grooming Requirements

While their short, sleek coat only requires minimal grooming, Rhodesian Ridgebacks do shed moderately and benefit from regular brushing to remove loose hair and dirt. You will also need to keep up with routine teeth cleanings to avoid dental disease.


close up of rhodesian ridgeback face
Image Credit: IIona Frey on Unsplash

These dogs are very energetic and athletic. They thrive in environments where they can receive plenty of exercise and mental stimulation. Because of their size and activity requirements, they do not make good apartment dogs.


Training your dog to perform basic tricks and commands is crucial for these dogs to develop into well-behaved companions. Positive reinforcement is the key when teaching this breed to be more sociable and friendly toward other humans and dogs. When socialized early, they fit in well and make great companions.

Five Facts About Rhodesian Ridgebacks

rhodesian ridgeback hunting in forest with owner
Image Credit: Victoria Alexandrova on Unsplash

Now, let’s take a look at some facts about Rhodesian Ridgebacks that will have you shocked! There really is so much to love about this cool breed!

These Dogs Can Tolerate Extreme Heat

Rhodesian Ridgebacks have a super cool ability to tolerate high temperatures. This trait stems from their African heritage where they have successfully evolved to withstand the hot climate of savannas. Their short, dense coat and well-muscled body help them dissipate heat efficiently.

These Dogs Are Independent Thinkers

These dogs have a very strong independent streak. While they are loyal and trainable, they have a strong will. This can make training a real challenge at times. This is why consistency is so important and should always be paired with patience and positive reinforcement.

Rhodesian Ridgebacks Have a Unique Walking Pattern

Rhodesian Ridgebacks have a very unique and effortless gate known as single tracking or lion gait. This movement resembles the stealthy stride of a lion and contributes to their agility and endurance, helping them cover long distances with ease.

These Dogs Are Surprisingly Sensitive

Rhodesian_Ridgeback grey background
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are actually pretty sensitive dogs despite their large size and fantastic hunting abilities. They are deeply in tune with their owner’s emotions and can be greatly affected by changes in environment and routine. They respond very well to praise and gentle guidance.

Rhodesian Ridgebacks Have Some Health Considerations

While they are a generally healthy breed, Rhodesian Ridgebacks can be prone to certain health conditions, including:

Proper diet, exercise, and love can ensure a dog lives a healthy life.

Other Large Game Hunting Breeds

While Rhodesian Ridgebacks are known for their lion-hunting prowess, they are not the only breed with a history of hunting large game. Several other breeds from various parts of the world were also bred for similar purposes. These include:

  • Scottish Deerhounds: Known for their elegance and grace, Scottish Deerhounds were bred in Scotland for hunting deer, particularly red deer in the rugged terrain of the Scottish Highlands. These wonderful sighthounds possess great speed and agility, allowing them to easily chase their prey with remarkable efficiency.
  • Irish Wolfhounds: As one of the tallest dog breeds in the world, Irish Wolfhounds were historically used for hunting wolves. They also hunted large game such as elk and wild boar in Ireland. Despite how big they are, they are known for their loving and gentle nature, making them great family pets.
  • Anatolian Shepherd Dogs: Originating from Turkey, Anatolian Shepherd Dogs were bred to protect livestock from predators such as bears, wolves, and even cheetahs. Their size, strength, and protective instincts make them great guardians, especially for flocks and herds. They are some of the best livestock protectors you will find.
Nikita Hillier
By Nikita Hillier

Nikita is a huge animal lover who has grown up on a farm with many different animals, from dogs and cats to horses and cows! She has a lot of experience in the equine industry and is even in the process of studying for an internationally accredited Equine Sports Massage Certificate! In her spare time, she enjoys writing and spending time with her beloved animals!