This article is from the Rhodesian Ridgebacks Breed FAQ, by firstname.lastname@example.org (Richard Gordon) with numerous contributions by others.
The Dutch, German, and Hugenout people who emigrated to South Africa
in the 16th and 17th centuries brought with them Danes, Mastiffs,
Greyhounds, Bloodhounds, Terriers, and other breeds. Then, in 1707,
European immigration to South Africa was closed for a hundred years.
The native Hottentots had a hunting dog that was half wild with a
ridge on the back formed by the hair growing forward. The only other
known dog which has such a ridge is found on the island of Phu Quoc in
the Gulf of Siam. It is unclear whether ridged dogs appeared
spontaneously in two parts of the world or if they first appeared in
Africa and then, through commerce, moved with humans to Asia.
Interbreeding between these dogs and those of the settlers eventually
established the foundation stock for the present day Ridgeback.
The abilities the farmers were looking for in their dogs included:
flushing a few partridge, pulling down a wounded buck, and guarding
the farm from maurading animals and prowlers at night. They needed to
be shorthaired to withstand ticks, able to go 24 hours without water,
and hold up under the dramatic day-night temperatures on the veldt.
In 1877, Reverend Charles Helm introduced two Ridgebacks into Rhodesia
where the big game hunters found them outstanding in the sport of
hunting lions on horseback. They raised and bred these dogs with an
appreciation of their exceptional hunting qualities. In 1922, a group
of Rhodesian breeders set up a standard for the Ridgebacks that has
remained virtually unchanged since.
No one knows when the Ridgeback was first brought into the United
States. A few were imported prior to 1940, possibly as early as 1912.
However, after World War II, quite a large number were imported, not
only into the US, but also into England and Canada. The Ridgeback was
admitted into AKC registry in 1955.