At the time when the breed was standardised, every dog carrying a ridge was called a Ridgeback. Colours of all shades were present, blacks, even brindles, but the most common due to the Labrador, was the pale cream colour. Remember that the Ridgeback came from a number of different breeds, and the parentage was selected primarily for temperament.


When I was seven years old, mother had a personal invitation to attend a dog show in Johannesburg. It was the first specialty show. There was an excitement and thrill because not only was this a long and expensive journey, but it was thrilling to be a part of history.

She heard the call to attend and the only way to get to Johannesburg was via the train. Mother and I caught the overnight train, together with her two bitches. They traveled in the guard’s van, and according to the South African station rules, had to have both collar and chain to be allowed on the train. Mother was shocked, as she did not like having her darlings chained. However as there was no other way, she had to comply.

I remember driving in the taxi with the vast amount of luggage, which she always took along with her, and this was packed into the boot. I sat on the back seat with the two dogs.

The dog show was a huge success. There was a news documentary produced for the films called African Mirror. We made the news. They had a lot to say and even photographed me. This was an ordeal as I had skipped school and did not like to be caught out having fun.

There were over seventy dogs and for the first time I saw what the average Ridgeback looked like. Mother liked the colour red, so she showed Glenaholm Gay, as Gay had a brown colour, one of the darker colours in that collection of dogs. As the judge moved up and down the line, he pulled out the dogs he fancied until the bitch I was showing started to move up the line. When mother realised that the judge had his eye on her bitch, she came to me and swapped dogs and took Glenaholm Greta on to a resounding win.

After that astounding day, when she tasted that incredible success, she showed her dogs with fortitude and stamina.

The interesting thing is the memory of ALL THOSE DOGS BEING A WHEATEN COLOUR. There were silver, cream, pale yellow, beige, and fawn colours. The standard says they should be wheaten. That is exactly what they were.

Glenaholm Greta was a blond WHEATEN colour. All the dogs were wheaten. There were only two out of that entire group of Rhodesian Ridgebacks, which had the prevalent red colour of today’s fashion.


The recessive or dominant genes in the DNA of the parents, give rise to the colouration of the offspring. At this time, there were a large amount of tawny colours found in the Ridgeback ancestors, being the Great Dane, Labrador, and Mastiff breeds. The dominant colour was not red as these breeds were dominantly blond.

I heard a judge saying that one of the most perfect Ridgebacks he had judged had a red setter for a sire. The long coat was not dominant. This is how the red was introduced into the original breed.

He was one of many who told me snippets that formed a strong platform of my current knowledge. The founder breeders not only introduced the red into the breed, but they crossbred to whatever breed they admired.

The ridge was dominant so the look of the Ridgeback came from a collection of different animals. They did this as they felt strongly that this was needed to create the character and look necessary to become their dream dog. This was justified by the explanation that for example that other breeds such as the Saluki or Afghan were thousands of years old. Our Rhodesian Ridgeback was brand new and could be formed before the bloodlines became too rigid and limited and the faults [and virtues] would be cemented in.

Colonel Pienaar of the Moshate kennels told me that he had introduced bull terrier. He bought a male from mother and then sent her two bitches, which were kennel raised, and had terrible temperaments, so she sent them back via the inevitable train. They had no stop and she also disliked their long narrow heads and triangular eyes. He said they would be red but they weren’t. She was deeply disappointed.

Black is a problem colour as it is very dominant. A first cross to a Doberman would produce brown progeny, as there is the liver nose in the Doberman. There would be a lot of black in the coat and if the dogs were line bred in the future, then the black in coat would become dominant.