Thai Ridgeback vs Rhodesian Ridgeback: What Are The Differences?

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Written by Kathryn Dueck

Published: September 13, 2022

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Have you ever seen a dog with a ridge of hair growing the wrong way? If not, you’re about to! Two breeds with this distinguishing trait are the Thai and Rhodesian Ridgebacks, primitive dogs with minds of their own and fiercely courageous instincts. Read on to find out all about the Thai Ridgeback vs Rhodesian Ridgeback.

Comparing the Thai Ridgeback and the Rhodesian Ridgeback

Two Thai Ridgeback dogs lying outside in the garden.

Thai Ridgeback heads are broad and wedge-shaped with a tapering snout and erect triangular ears.

©Sbolotova/Shutterstock.com

Thai RidgebackRhodesian Ridgeback
Breed OriginThailandRhodesia/Zimbabwe
AppearanceBroad, wedge-shaped heads; erect triangular ears; pigmented tongue; long, lean bodies; muscular build; ridge of hair along the backBroad, wedge-shaped heads; floppy ears; pigmented tongue; long, lean bodies; muscular build; ridge of hair along the back
SizeMales: 22-24 inches, 50-75 pounds
Females: 20-22 inches, 35-55 pounds
Males: 25-27 inches, 79-90 pounds Females: 24-26 inches, 64-75 pounds
Hair Type and ColourShort, smooth coats colored black, blue, red, or fawn (yellow)Short, smooth coats colored various shades of wheaten (including light wheaten and red wheaten)
TemperamentIntelligent, loyal, independent, protectiveIntelligent, loyal, independent, protective

The Key Differences Between a Thai Ridgeback and a Rhodesian Ridgeback

The key differences between the Thai Ridgeback and the Rhodesian Ridgeback are breed origin, appearance, size, hair type and color, and temperament.

Thai Ridgeback vs Rhodesian Ridgeback: Breed Origin

Rhodesian Ridgeback

Rhodesian Ridgebacks originated in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).

©Osetrik/Shutterstock.com

The Thai Ridgeback originated in Thailand as a hunting and guard dog. One can find references to the breed dating back to the 1600s. It probably descended from the Funan Ridgeback Dog, which has existed for at least 1,000 years in Southeast Asia. Thai Ridgebacks are a primitive breed, also called pariah dogs. Humans used them for hunting various animals, including rats, cobras, and wild boars. The dogs also occasionally pulled carts.

The breed came to the United States in 1994. The bloodlines have remained fairly pure, as interbreeding is not common. Most Thai Ridgebacks still live in Thailand.

Rhodesian Ridgebacks hail from Zimbabwe, once Rhodesia, in southern Africa. In the mid-1600s, Dutch settlers discovered a tough primitive breed of dog owned by the native Khoikhoi peoples. The breed had a distinctive ridge on its back. The settlers brought some of these dogs to South Africa and crossbred them with Boer Dogs.

Around 1875, Reverend Charles Helm brought two ridge-backed dogs from the Cape to Rhodesia, where a hunter crossbred them with his own dogs, including Greyhounds and Irish and Airedale Terriers. The Rhodesian Ridgeback breed emerged from his efforts; a dog bred to help hunt lions by harrying them (though never attacking them outright). An alternate name for this breed used to be the African Lion Hound.

Thai Ridgeback vs Rhodesian Ridgeback: Appearance

Thai Ridgeback close-up, outdoors.

Thai Ridgebacks are sturdy, medium-sized dogs with erect ears.

©Svetography/Shutterstock.com

In appearance, Thai Ridgebacks are a classic example of a pariah dog. They are medium-sized, athletic dogs with long, lean, muscular bodies made for running and fighting. Their heads are broad and wedge-shaped with a tapering snout and erect triangular ears. The tongues may be pigmented. Forehead wrinkling is also common, especially when the dog is alert or concentrating.

Most individuals possess the distinctive ridge of hair running in the opposite direction of the rest of their coats. Some individuals are born without this, which is less desirable. The 8 different ridge patterns are:

  • Needle
  • Feather
  • Lute
  • Arrow
  • Violin
  • Bowling pin
  • Leaf
  • Saddleback

Though larger, Rhodesian Ridgebacks also have the classic wedge-shaped head, wrinkled brow, and pigmented tongue. Their back ridges are also similar in shape and size. However, their ears flop down rather than stand erect.

Thai Ridgeback vs Rhodesian Ridgeback: Size

Thai Ridgeback dog standing on the grass in the woods.

Thai Ridgebacks are slightly smaller than their Rhodesian counterparts.

©photosounds/Shutterstock.com

Like most pariah dogs, Thai Ridgebacks are medium-sized dogs. Males typically grow to a height of 22-24 inches; females grow up to 20-22 inches. Males weigh 50-75 pounds, while females are significantly lighter at 35-55 pounds. This breed can tolerate smaller spaces like those found in apartment living, but it requires long walks and abundant exercise to burn off energy. Frequent playtime is a must. It may become aggressive or destructive if it doesn’t get the exercise and diversion it needs.

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are medium-large dogs slightly bigger than their Thai cousins. Males grow to a height of 25-27 inches and weigh 79-90 pounds. Females usually reach 24-26 inches in height with an average weight of 64-75 pounds. Dogs of this breed are full of energy and must be exercised frequently. Long walks in off-leash areas, jogs, and interactive playtime are all part of keeping a Rhodesian Ridgeback healthy.

Thai Ridgeback vs Rhodesian Ridgeback: Hair Type and Colour

how many nipples do dogs have

Rhodesian Ridgebacks come in a range of wheaten shades.

©olgagorovenko/Shutterstock.com

Thai Ridgebacks have short, smooth hair resulting in low-maintenance coats. Coats come in solid colors, including black, blue, red, or fawn (yellow). Bridle and white coats may occur, but these do not conform to the breed standard. A black face mask with a red or fawn coat is acceptable. Shedding occurs year-round but is light and manageable. Though the dog is not technically hypoallergenic, it may be a good choice for those with allergies as it lacks an undercoat.

Similarly, Rhodesian Ridgebacks have short, smooth coats requiring little maintenance. However, they only have one possible coat color, wheaten, which comes in many shades. Anything between light wheaten (gold) and red wheaten (a rich reddish color) is acceptable. This breed also sheds, though it too lacks an undercoat.

Thai Ridgeback vs Rhodesian Ridgeback: Temperament

Thai Ridgeback playing with a toy.

Thai Ridgebacks are intelligent, independent, and protective dogs.

©iStock.com/keattikorn

Thai Ridgebacks are highly intelligent dogs with a reputation for independent thinking. This quality can be attractive to some, but it can make them difficult dogs to master. Only experienced and capable dog owners should attempt to own this breed. However, if trained properly, dogs of this breed make excellent watchdogs and loyal companions. They may appear reserved, especially with strangers, so early socialization is vital to get them used to other dogs and people. They retain a protective instinct that should be tempered before it becomes aggression.

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are even more willful than their Thai counterparts and require firm, competent handling. They are highly intelligent with a strong need for stimulation. They may become aggressive toward other people and animals if not trained properly due to their origins as fierce hunting dogs. With people they know and love, they can be very affectionate, highly protective, and loyal.

Thai Ridgeback vs Rhodesian Ridgeback: Life Expectancy

Rhodesian Ridgebacks live slightly shorter lives on average at 10-12 years.

©nik174/Shutterstock.com

Thai Ridgebacks typically live 12-13 years. They have a reputation for being generally healthy, robust dogs. However, individuals may suffer from dermoid sinus, a condition that causes tubular indentations in the skin reaching down into the tissue, and these indentations may become infected. Dogs of this breed also commonly suffer from hip dysplasia, which loosens the hip joint. As a result, they may experience pain and trouble walking.

Rhodesian Ridgebacks live slightly shorter lives on average at 10-12 years. Like their Thai cousins, they are generally healthy and sturdy dogs. They may suffer from dermoid sinus or hip dysplasia and other fairly common conditions like elbow dysplasia and hypothyroidism.

Thai Ridgeback vs Rhodesian Ridgeback: Grooming Needs

Thai Ridgebacks are an excellent choice for experienced and energetic dog owners.

©Oksamutnaya/Shutterstock.com

Due to their short coats, Thai Ridgebacks do not need to be groomed often. Weekly brushing is recommended, preferably with a rubber curry comb. This will remove loose hairs and give their coats a shine. They need only be bathed when dirty. Their nails grow quickly and should be clipped regularly. The grooming needs of Rhodesian Ridgebacks are similar. With both breeds, early exposure to grooming is important to lessen potential anxiety about the procedure.

With strong wills, courageous temperaments, and fierce loyalty, each breed is an excellent choice for experienced and energetic dog owners.

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About the Author

Kathryn Dueck is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on wildlife, dogs, and geography. Kathryn holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Biblical and Theological Studies, which she earned in 2023. In addition to volunteering at an animal shelter, Kathryn has worked for several months as a trainee dog groomer. A resident of Manitoba, Canada, Kathryn loves playing with her dog, writing fiction, and hiking.

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