Rhodesian Ridgeback vs. Lion: Who Would Win a Fight?

Written by Lev Baker
Published: April 9, 2023
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As humans, we have always been fascinated by the power and strength of wild animals. In a hypothetical fight between our domesticated companions and these apex predators, the question of who would win is a popular topic of debate.

One such potential battle that frequently piques people’s interest is that of the Rhodesian ridgeback (the lion hunter dog) against a lion (the king of the jungle).

The Rhodesian ridgeback is a large breed known for its strength and loyalty. And we’re all familiar with the ferocity of lions. With both animals being formidable in their own right, the question remains: who would win a fight between a Rhodesian ridgeback and a lion? 

Let’s explore this intriguing question and analyze the strengths and weaknesses of both animals to determine who would come out on top.

Key Differences Between the Rhodesian Ridgeback and Lion

Rhodesian Ridgeback

The athletic Rhodesian ridgeback is known for its loyalty and intelligence, and they make excellent guard dogs.


The Rhodesian ridgeback is a large dog originating in Southern Africa. This breed is a powerfully built and muscular dog known for its loyalty and tireless hunting abilities. Though they were initially used in South Africa to hunt lions, these large dogs were not able to take down the ferocious beasts. They actually lured the lion toward the hunter.

A male Rhodesian ridgeback typically stands around 24 to 26 inches tall and weighs between 75 to 90 lbs., whereas a female stands around 22 to 24 inches tall and weighs between 65 to 80 lbs. They have short, dense fur ranging from sandy yellow to coppery red. These giants are known for their loyalty and intelligence, and they make excellent guard dogs.

The lion, on the other hand, is the world’s second-largest living cat after the tiger. It is an apex predator and a symbol of strength and power across Africa’s savannas. It has a large head, a muscular body, and powerful jaws and claws. Lions live in prides and are social animals that hunt together for large prey.

The most significant differences between our two competitors lie primarily in their size, strength, behavior, and tactics. A lion is much bigger than a Rhodesian ridgeback, and its powerful jaws and claws enable it to bring down large prey. A Rhodesian ridgeback is much smaller and less powerful, but it is more agile and has a far greater ability to outmaneuver its opponent. Its strength lies in its speed, agility, and sharp canine teeth, making it a formidable opponent even against larger animals.

Male lion standing proudly

A lion is much bigger than a Rhodesian ridgeback, and its powerful jaws and claws enable it to bring down larger prey.

©2021 Photography/Shutterstock.com

Key Factors in a Fight Between Rhodesian Ridgeback and a Lion

Determining who would win a fight between a Rhodesian ridgeback and a lion depends on several key factors, including size, speed, defense, and tactics. Let’s go over these in more detail!

Size and Weight

The size difference between these two animals is considerable, with the lion weighing up to 500 lbs. and standing 4 feet taller than the Rhodesian ridgeback, a medium-sized dog breed weighing up to 90 lbs.

The lion’s muscular frame makes it an impressive predator with sharp claws, strong jaws, and powerful legs. On the other hand, the Rhodesian ridgeback is more lightly built, with a muscular body and short coat. Its primary weapon is its agility, making it capable of quickly evading threats and running away from danger.


The behavior differences between the two animals are extreme. Lions are apex predators, used to hunting and taking down their prey efficiently. They are also incredibly territorial and often defend their territories from other animals or intruders. 

On the other hand, Rhodesian ridgebacks, also named African lion hounds, are much less aggressive and usually make good family pets. They are loyal and devoted to their owners but do not have the same level of territorial aggression as lions. With that said, they can still be good guard dogs and largely protective of their home. They require mental and physical stimulation, and lack of it can result in undesirable behaviors. They are good runners and can chase lions and other animals quite successfully.

Ability to Adapt

Lions are incredibly intelligent animals with an excellent ability to adapt. They have highly developed social structures, with males leading the pride and defending their territory from intruders. Female lions are responsible for hunting and rearing cubs, teaching them essential skills from a young age.

Rhodesian ridgebacks are also highly intelligent and trainable, which makes them ideal family pets. They have impressive memory and can remember commands and tasks easily. These dogs also adapt well to different living conditions, making them suitable for various homes.


The lion is the faster of the two, with a top running speed of up to 50 mph. This speed and agility make it an incredibly effective hunter, capable of pursuing and taking down large prey. The Rhodesian ridgeback is no slouch, however, with a running speed of up to 35 mph. This speed is more than enough to outmaneuver its opponent and get away from danger.

The lion is faster than the Rhodesian ridgeback, but the ridgeback’s dexterity gives it an edge in a fight. The ridgeback can quickly dart around its opponent and dodge attacks, while the lion relies on its sheer power to conquer its prey.


The lion’s formidable size, sharp claws, and powerful jaws make it an intimidating opponent in any fight. With its thick skin and long mane, the lion is well-defended against most attacks. The lion’s defense tactic is mainly based on intimidation, with its size and strength often being enough to ward off potential attackers.

On the other hand, the Rhodesian ridgeback is not aggressive. However, this breed makes a good guard dog. It has a protective instinct to defend itself and its owner from potential threats.

The Rhodesian ridgeback’s small size compared to a lion’s size means it must rely on agility and speed to evade danger. If necessary, it can also use its strong jaws and sharp canine teeth in close-quarters combat.


The lion is a pack animal and usually hunts in groups. It has the ability to target a specific area of its opponent and overwhelm it with multiple attacks from different angles. Its strength and speed make it an effective hunter, capable of taking down large prey with relative ease.

On the other hand, the Rhodesian ridgeback is a solitary hunter and will usually avoid confrontation if possible. Its tactic is to keep its distance from the opponent and wait for it to tire. It relies on agility, strength, and sharp reflexes to outmaneuver its opponent and avoid direct contact.


These two animals are found in very different habitats. Lions inhabit the savannas and grasslands of Africa and Asia. On the other hand, the Rhodesian ridgeback is better suited for living in domesticated environments. It can live in both urban and rural settings.

The Rhodesian ridgeback’s habitat is much more diverse, and it has adapted to living in human-made environments.

Which Animal Would Win the Fight?

Male lion looks directly into camera

While impressive, the Rhodesian ridgeback’s small size and agility are no match for the mighty lion.

©The Len/Shutterstock.com

The Rhodesian ridgebacks’ agility and speed make them excellent guard dogs, capable of warding off threats and protecting their owners in the face of danger. But when it comes to a fight between a Rhodesian ridgeback and a lion, the winner is clear.

The lion’s size advantage, speed, and strength make it the clear winner in a fight between the Rhodesian ridgeback and the lion. 

While impressive, the Rhodesian ridgeback’s small size and agility are no match for the mighty lion. As such, the lion would most likely emerge victorious.

Contrary to the popular impression of these dogs as lion hunters, the reality is that the Rhodesian ridgeback could not take down a lion, even if it attacked with a group of other ridgebacks. The lion is simply too powerful and well-defended for the small, agile dog to take down.

The photo featured at the top of this post is ©

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About the Author

Lev is a writer at AZ Animals who primarily covers topics on animals, geography, and plants. He has been writing for more than 4 years and loves researching topics and learning new things. His three biggest loves in the world are music, travel, and animals. He has his diving license and loves sea creatures. His favorite animal in the world is the manta ray.

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