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Breeding with ridgeless Ridgebacks......

Breeding with ridgeless RR – not breeding a ridgeless variety! 

Hot discussion in the RR community because of the suggestion of the FCI to create a new variety for our breed – the ridgeless Rhodesian Ridgeback.

 First of all – we do not want to breed ridgeless Ridgebacks – no serious Rhodesian Ridgeback breeder wants to do this!

Sometimes it happens to almost all of us breeders that we have ridgeless puppies in our litters, and if these puppies are (in the opinion of the breeder) the best for breeding further, it should be possible to keep them for that reason.


Nobody wants to have a new, separate variety of our breed! This would narrow our gene pool even more and this is not what we want – we want to expand our gene pool. The other point is that we in Club ELSA try to figure out if it is possible to reduce the risk for Dermoid Sinus, if we include ridgeless in our breeding.

It is said again and again that the Club ELSA wants to breed its own variety, but that does not correspond to the truth! This untruth is spread by some people who have been fighting against our Club and our breeding program from the beginning. It is sad that these people use such means to discredit the Club and twist the truth. 

We don’t want to breed an own variety – we are including ridgeless in a breeding program, approved by our Kennel Club VDH and confirmed by the scientific advisory board under the direction of Dr. Helga Eichelberg. 

 Who has put the rumor into the RR world that some breeders want to breed ridgeless Ridgebacks and create a new variety of the breed? I assume the people who claim that just do not want something to change. That's why they spread false information to cause unrest in the Ridgeback world – I cannot explain that otherwise.

Breeders who keep ridgeless dogs for breeding are not interested in showing their dogs at big international shows in a separate competition beside the ridged dogs to get any CAC – shows do not have priority for us breeders who breed with ridgeless dogs.

If we really want to show these dogs, it is possible in the noncompetitive classes at the specialty shows, and of course some of us do this. But again: shows do not have priority – not for us, but obviously for the FCI because the first sentence we could read when the paper was going around in Facebook was “There was a lot of positivity in the audience for our proposal to recognize the Rhodesian Ridgeless (who has created this name?) as a variety of Rhodesian Ridgebacks; the two variants could be crossed, but would not have to compete with each other in the show ring.”

So should we also make an own competition for the livernose Ridgebacks which really are a variety of our breed according to the RR standard? In a lot of shows they do not have any chance to be placed (and I have seen judges who kicked them out because of a “faulty color”) and of course a lot of judges prefer the black nose and will never place a livernose, just because of its color.

It would be the same nonsense to make own classes and an own variety for the livernose Ridgebacks and to say, they can be crossed! Apart from the fact that we do not know if it is actually healthy to directly mate this color over several generations – this would also narrow our gene pool extremely and all extremes are unhealthy.

The RRWC 2016

At the Rhodesian Ridgeback World Congress 2016 in 2016, Astrid Indrebø was invited to speak and one of the issues that were discussed was recognition of the ridgeless dogs. I was at the congress and of course there was a lot of positivity in the audience, but I cannot remember that we wanted to have an own variety for ridgeless Ridgebacks or separate show classes for them.

We have spoken about the possibility to include ridgeless Rhodesian Ridgebacks in our breeding, but unfortunately Astrid Indrebø has left the congress after her presentation, so she was not able to follow the complete discussion we had, especially at the end of the congress.

The summary of the RRWC 2016 in Lund was the following:

"The 2016 Rhodesian Ridgeback World Congress recognizes that breeders are autonomous and are the best arbiters of what should happen in their whelping boxes. To that end, the 2016 RRWC strongly encourages breed clubs to avoid punitive language in their codes of ethics or other official documents regarding the breeding of healthy Rhodesian Ridgebacks with only cosmetic faults, and strongly encourages openness and honesty between breeders."

You cannot say it better!

Of course the Ridge is name giving for our breed and we still want to breed ridged dogs, but…… it is not the only thing which makes our dogs to our beloved breed and it is not important for the dog himself!

Ridged dogs do not move better than ridgeless and they do not have a better temperament or a more pronounced hunting instinct (as the legend says). They also do not have a better physique or psyche – not because of the Ridge! The Ridge does not make all these things – it is merely a mutation which gives our breed a special look, but nothing more!

The breeders are autonomous and are the best arbiters of what should happen in their whelping boxes – it should be their choice if they use dogs with cosmetic faults in their breeding program! It must be possible for us to choose structure before cosmetics!

The perfect Ridgeback with the absolutely perfect Ridge seems to be like a religion and it looks like a religious war between the breeders.

On the one side are the breeders who still only want to have and breed with perfect ridged dogs (they also get ridgeless and of course other cosmetic faults in their litters!). And on the other side there are the breeders whose priority is to breed a physically and psychologically great dog without having to pay attention to the characteristic of the perfect ridge.

Why can’t we just coexist and accept the opinion of all sides? Nobody needs to breed with ridgeless Ridgebacks or dogs with other cosmetic faults if they don’t want to, but why do especially some “old breeders” fight against the “new breeders” who open their mind for new things and think in genetic diversity? What are they afraid of? Losing the Ridge?

We will not lose the Ridge if we use ridgeless dogs in our breeding. The result of a mating between a ridged Ridgeback (R/R) and a rigeless Ridgeback (r/r) is always a ridged puppy which is R/r – the same as about 75% of all Ridgebacks in our breeding population.

And again the big question – what is the problem if we use ridgeless or dogs with other cosmetic faults in our breeding? Nobody should be condemned if he does it, because in the end we all have the same goal – we want to breed healthy Rhodesian Ridgebacks.

It is counterproductive if letters are send out or postings are made on FB in which people claim that there are some people (or Clubs) who want to have this variety. It is sad enough that a lot of people just believe what they read without questioning it, but it is especially bad for cooperation.

There are people in the Ridgeback community who only want to deepen the trench that exists between the parties rather than trying to mediate. These people are not working for the breed – they only work for their personal concerns. All this will not bring the breed forward and will not help us to work together.

The Club ELSA breeding program

The Club ELSA breeding program is based on the fact that the Rhodesian Ridgeback is listed in the German “Agony breeding report” (Report about the prevention of breeding causing pain, suffering or harm) because of the Dermoid Sinus, and this is a fact. For our country, breeding Rhodesian Ridgebacks could be a problem in the future, if the government decides that breeding the breeds that are on this list will no longer be allowed.

We want to avoid the Dermoid Sinus and chose the way of test matings between homozygote ridged (R/R) and ridgeless (r/r) Ridgebacks because we assume that there will be no DS in these litters as all puppies will have the genetic status R/r. Of course it is only a supposition, but what is the harm in trying?

The Ridge and the Dermoid Sinus – a hot topic

Fact 1
The Dermoid Sinus was already described in the early reports and books about our breed - for example in Major T.C.Hawley’s book.

Fact 2
There has been and still is a (too high) number of ridged Ridgebacks with Dermoid Sinus all over the world (even if the percentage of DS dogs is not very high) – only the Thai Ridgebacks have more problems with this disease because they still breed with dogs with DS.

Fact 3 
We only ever hear rumors about ridgeless Ridgebacks with Dermoid Sinus. We never saw a paper that medically confirmed the removal of a DS in a ridgeless dog, and if indeed there would be a handful all over the world – how many ridged Ridgebacks with DS are there against it? Why do we refuse to accept that the DS probably is connected to the Ridge - although there may occasionally be exceptions (as always, if the nature determines).

Fact 4
We know that sometimes mixed breeds (some between RR and other breeds) have a neural tube defect – but do we know if they had a Ridge or not? Did we ever see a medical confirmation that it really was the same kind of disease as the Dermoid Sinus in our Ridgebacks? What do we really know about it? 

Fact 5 
For so many years we could hear “… we are very close to identifying the gene for the Dermoid Sinus”. I am not a scientist, but if only one simple gene would be responsible for the Dermoid Sinus, then I am sure it would be easy to find. But we all know it is not that easy, and I am sure we are not really “close” to identifying the gene!

Fact 6
Ridgeless Ridgebacks are still culled in some countries! Of course not all breeders in these countries do it, but it is still done! To ignore this fact will not solve this problem.

Some Facts from the Club ELSA breeding program

So far, we had 3 litters between ridged males (R/R) and ridgeless females (r/r) (more litters are planned) in our Club. In these 3 litters we had 27 puppies – all with Ridge and without Dermoid Sinus.

The first litter was born in 2008, so some of this progeny are already in breeding – 2 females and 1 male. In this generation it was not necessary to pay attention if the breeding partner is homozygote (R/R) or heterozygote (R/r) for the Ridge – it was a mating between two ridged Ridgebacks, like matings are done every day all over the world. The only thing we knew for sure when we did these matings was that one part is definitely carrying the ridgeless gene.

In this generation we already have 10 litters with 95 puppies – no Dermoid Sinus.

A lot of people think if we include ridgeless in our breeding, we will get more ridgeless puppies. That is utter nonsense and everyone who understands a bit of genetics knows that!

The statistical probability to get ridgeless, if you make a combination between R/r and R/r, is 25%. This is a statistical value that applies to all heterozygote Ridgebacks (R/r), whether or not they come from a mating between a ridged and a ridgeless dog.

All breeders from our 10 litters have used R/r partners and from the 95 puppies in these 10 litters 19 dogs were ridgeless, which is 20%. If we include our 3 litters from the breeding program (and we have to include them to see the context) we have 122 puppies, so it is a percentage of 15%.

This confirms that we will not get more ridgeless puppies if we include ridgeless in our breeding and use ridgeless carriers in the breeding (like we do in the most of our pairings).

I know – this small number of litters is not yet meaningful, but it is a first step.
We go on further with our breeding program, but this takes time. We didn’t have a litter between a heterozygote and a ridgeless Ridgeback yet, but it would also be interesting to see how many ridgeless there would be in fact. The statistic possibility would be high, but as we can see - it is only statistic.

What I absolutely don’t understand is why some people are so extremely against our breeding program! It doesn’t hurt anybody – it is a chance for ridgeless Ridgebacks and of course also a possibility to expand our gene pool.

The breeders in our Club, who are breeding with ridgeless females, never had problems to get the permission to use a male abroad – on the contrary. Some clubs in other countries also think about the opportunity to use ridgeless in their breeding program.


It is a shame that the other two clubs in Germany didn’t give their permission to use their stud dogs for our females in our breeding program. One club does not even allow us to use their stud dogs for the bitches with Ridge. The board of the other club wanted to give us the approval, but the majority of the members opposed it.


It is sad enough that it is not even possible for acceptance to prevail within a country; however, this should not prevent anyone from working together in the interest of the breed!

It is no longer the question whether ridgeless Ridgeback are used in breeding to reduce the risk of the Dermoid Sinus – it has become a question of principle whether dogs, that do not have a perfect Ridge or are ridgeless, have any right to exist in our breeding.

The answer is very simple – THEY SHOULD HAVE IT!

Even if some people do not want to see the truth, we all have the same intention – to breed healthy Rhodesian Ridgebacks. And it is not important for the health of our dogs if they don’t have a Ridge, if the Ridge is not perfect or if they have too much white on paws or chest!

The problem – as usual – are we humans. 
We want to design the perfect creature – a disaster for all purebred dogs!

Monika Pehr
March 2018