Showsight Presents The Rhodesian Ridgeback

• Sight Hounds — Th is theory is founded on the hunting characteristics and Sight Hound breeds used by early Ridgeback pioneers to develop the dog. Classifica- tion as a Sight Hound is further sup- ported by the Ridgeback’s success in most lure coursing events. • Cur-Dog — Th ese dogs are a United Kennel Club classification within Scent Hounds, bred as hunting and livestock dogs by pioneering peoples who needed a dog protective of family and farm. Cur Dogs, inconsistent with other Hounds, are said to hunt using all of their senses—hearing, sight and scent as the situation demands. • Wagon Dog — Th is theory introduced at the Ridgeback World Congress in Ireland in 2008 and supported by the Hunting Ridgeback Association, is based on the breed’s functional history as a versatile hunting and ox-wagon dog, like the Dalmatian. Th is theory aligns itself with the FCI group clas- sification 6.3, a very special designa- tion within Scent Hounds, specially reserved for these hunting/wagon dogs. To date only the Dalmatian and Rho- desian Ridgeback are classified as such. • Ridged Primitive — Th is theory classi- fies the Ridgeback based on its descent from primitive type hunting dogs, spe- cifically a ridged dog. If you keep an open mind, you can see the merit in many of these classification arguments. If I had studied this informa- tion in 2009-2011, it is not likely that I would have supported the notion that a Ridgeback is a Sight Hound at the time. MOST PEOPLE SAY— WHO CARES? Modernly, most Ridgebacks are pets, companion dogs with great versatility that will, most often, readily participate in the wide range of activities important to their families. What happens at a dog show, even if they own a show dog, is part of another life, which for the most part does not affect them. So, truthful- ly, most folks don’t care how a Ridge- back is classified and they shouldn’t. They want the Ridgeback dog’s bundle of attributes, period. Should breeders care about group clas- sification? From a purist’s stand-point, yes. And if performance events are your thing, being recognized by ASFA as a Sight Hound allows Ridgebacks to course. But current classification as a Hound, in gen- eral, is satisfactory to most.

From the exhibitors perspective this may be a touchier subject if body type within the Hound Group was not reasonably diverse. For now, the Ridge- back fits in, well enough. Hound Group competitors know, however, that the extreme hounds tend to be more success- ful; Greyhounds, Afghans, Elkhounds and Bloodhounds have placed first in the Hound Group at Westminster, for exam- ple, most frequently. As a Ridgeback exhibitor, at the Group level, is where my concern about Sight Hound classification rushes in most imme- diately, followed by significant concerns as a breeder. “FROM THE EXHIBITORS PERSPECTIVE THIS MAY BE A TOUCHIER SUBJECT IF BODY TYPE WITHIN THE HOUND GROUP WAS NOT REASONABLY DIVERSE.” As it turns out, I am not the only Ridge- back breeder/exhibitor to have concern about the Ridgeback being classified as a Sight Hound. Orit Nevo, a well-respected Ridge- back breeder and FCI International judge from Israel, presented a similar concern at the Ridgeback World Congress in Canada in 2012. Apparently, many of the delegates from Europe and Africa had similar concerns about this same, seemingly American issue. WOULD CLASSIFYING A RIDGEBACK AS A SIGHT HOUND CAUSE CHANGE IN RIDGEBACK TYPE? You can say, of course not! Th e Ridge- backs we breed are expected to have par- ticular physical attributes as outlined in the Ridgeback standard. Th ere is or was a purpose to all of it: the sturdy form needed to engage game and the trot appropriate for endurance. Th e Ridgeback was intend- ed to exhibit a highly e ffi cient stride and

for that it needs a moderate, multi-purpose build, balanced in front and rear angula- tion. Boom, that’s it. So put Ridgebacks in the Sight Hound Group in conformation. Will the Ridge- back look out of type? Sight Hounds are structurally di ff erent than the Ridgeback. Th ink about the Greyhound, Afghan, Saluki and Whippet. Generally, Sight Hounds are leaner, longer-legged dogs, finer in bone, with aerodynamic heads and narrow jaws. Th e logical guess is yes, they will look out of type and so will the Irish Wolf- hound and Basenji. Conformation judging is just 100 plus years old. With time, when people start to forget the original purpose and nature of the Ridgeback, is there a danger that Ridgeback breeders will knowingly or intentionally let Ridgeback type drift toward the Sight Hound “benchmark” look? Specifically breeding for longer, leg- gier and lighter boned dogs? For the pur- pose of Group wins and Best of Breed competition? I don’t think so and this is where I disagree with Orit Nevo. IS THIS ALL FAR-FETCHED? I think it could happen more insidi- ously. It could occur in an odd, Darwin- ian “survival of the fittest” manner and very slowly, where dogs, naturally lon- ger, lighter boned and leggier, currently disfavored in Breed and Group compe- tition, gradually becoming the success- ful Group winner and then gradually the popular sire for unwitting breeders. Unintentionally, all of it; possibly chang- ing the breed, forever. Sources 1. Susan Chaney, “AKC Delegates Say ‘No’ to Group Realignment”,, March 2012 2. Orit Nevo, “Trotter vs. Galloper: Where Is The Ridgeback Heading?”, Canadian Rhodesian Ridgeback Congress, August 2012 3. invention-of-the-internet 4. The Rhodesian Ridgeback – Wiki, http:// 5. 6. Hunting Ridgeback Association, http://thehra. com/index2.htm 7. Westminster Hound Group Placements, http:// houndbrecords.html ABOUT THE AUTHOR Nancy Faville, JD, is the founder of Dia- blo Rhodesian Ridgebacks, in Pleasanton California, the accomplished breeder of a number of highly ranked Ridgebacks and a published author on Ridgeback versatility.


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