Can the Lion’s Cousin Take Down the King? Rhodesian Ridgebacks vs Lions


The topic of this article is whether a Rhodesian Ridgeback dog could defeat a lion in a fight. The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a large, muscular dog originally bred in southern Africa to hunt big game like lions. This has led some people to wonder if a properly trained Ridgeback could take on a lion and win. We will examine the size, strength, and temperament of both animals to determine which would have the advantage in a hypothetical battle. The main questions we will aim to answer are:

– How do the physical traits of the Rhodesian Ridgeback compare to those of a lion?

– Based on the natural behaviors and temperament of each animal, which one is more likely to prevail in a fight?

– Is there any evidence from history or expert opinion to suggest a Rhodesian Ridgeback could defeat a lion?

By thoroughly researching and analyzing the relevant facts around these questions, we will draw an informed conclusion about whether a Rhodesian Ridgeback dog could beat a lion.

Rhodesian Ridgeback History

The Rhodesian Ridgeback originated in Southern Africa, where it was bred to hunt lions and serve as a homestead guardian. According to the Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of the United States, the breed’s ancestors can be traced to the Khoikhoi tribe of South Africa, who crossed their hunting dogs with European breeds brought by early settlers in the 1500s-1600s. This produced a dog capable of withstanding Africa’s extreme climate while also possessing the stamina and courage to take on large, dangerous game (History of Rhodesian Ridgeback).

Rhodesian Ridgebacks were valued for their ability to distract a lion during a hunt, allowing the owner time to make the kill. They could divert the lion’s attention and were light and agile enough to avoid its deadly swipes. Their bravery and protective instinct became legendary across South Africa. Later, the breed was standardized in the late 19th century in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), hence the name Rhodesian Ridgeback. Throughout their history, the dogs were prized for not only lion hunting, but guarding homesteads and cattle, and tracking wounded game. Their devotion to their owners and families made them excellent protectors (History of Rhodesian Ridgeback).

Rhodesian Ridgeback Size/Strength

The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a large, muscular dog breed originally bred in southern Africa to guard property and hunt large game such as lions. An average male Rhodesian Ridgeback stands 24-27 inches tall at the shoulder and weighs 85-90 pounds, while females stand 22-25 inches and weigh 70-80 pounds.

rhodesian ridgeback dog size and strength compared to lion

Compared to a lion, the Rhodesian Ridgeback is much smaller. Male African lions average 420 pounds and stand 4 feet tall at the shoulder. Their powerful jaws can deliver over 650 pounds per square inch of bite force, enabling them to take down very large prey.

While quite strong and athletic for a dog, the Rhodesian Ridgeback does not compare favorably in either size or strength to a lion. Their muscular frame allows them to run up to 34 mph and produce an impressive 224 pounds per square inch bite force, but they still weigh less than a quarter of a lion’s mass.

In a direct physical confrontation, a lion’s brute strength, razor sharp claws, and crushing bite would overwhelm even the strongest Rhodesian Ridgeback. The major advantage a Rhodesian Ridgeback would have is agility, but their relatively small size is a decided disadvantage against a lion.

Rhodesian Ridgeback Temperament

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are known for their loyalty, intelligence, independence, and fierceness when protecting their family (1). They have strong protective instincts and are extremely devoted to their owners and families. Ridgebacks will often put themselves between their family and any perceived threat. Despite their fierce protectiveness, they are typically calm and dignified dogs (2).

Ridgebacks are highly intelligent and can be independent thinkers. They need extensive socialization from an early age to curb any antisocial tendencies. With proper training and boundaries, Ridgebacks make wonderful companions. They thrive when included in family activities.

rhodesian ridgeback loyal and protective temperament

Overall, the Rhodesian Ridgeback temperament reflects their history as lion hunters. They are courageous, loyal, and protective. But they are not inherently aggressive dogs. With training and socialization, Ridgebacks develop a steady, dignified temperament and a strong devotion to their family.



Lion Size/Strength

Lions are some of the largest predatory cats on the planet. The size and physical strength of lions allow them to dominate most of the animal kingdom in the regions they inhabit. Here are some key details about the size and strength of lions:

On average, male African lions are larger and heavier than females. Males weigh between 330 to 550 pounds, while females weigh 265 to 395 pounds on average. In terms of length, males measure 7 to 8.5 feet from head to tail, while females are 6.5 to 7.5 feet long.

Lions have muscular bodies with powerful limbs. Their teeth and jaws are designed for pulling down and killing large prey. The bite force of lions is also very high – measured up to 691 pounds of force. This allows them to crush the windpipes of prey and swiftly kill them.

male african lion size, strength and bite force

Lions have sharp claws that can grow up to 1.5 inches long. These claws help them take down prey and defend themselves in fights. Their paws and legs contain strong muscles and tendons ideal for running, pouncing, swiping, and wrestling.

Overall, the combination of immense size, muscular build, sharp teeth and claws make lions formidable predators capable of taking down very large herbivores such as cape buffalo, hippos, giraffes and even young elephants.

Lion Temperament

Lions are apex predators and have an aggressive, predatory nature. As the “King of Beasts,” lions are dominant, territorial animals that do not back down from confrontation (Source 1). They hunt zebras, antelope, buffalo and other large prey for food. Lions will also aggressively defend their territory and pride from intruders, including potential threats like hyenas or wild dogs.

There are documented cases of lions attacking and killing domestic dogs that have entered their territory. This is likely due to the lion’s territorial nature and perception of the dog as prey or a threat. In the wild, lions do not typically fraternize with other apex predators like hyenas, rather they compete for resources and defend territories. Thus it is unlikely a wild lion would befriend a domestic dog that wandered into its habitat (Source 2).

However, there are rare cases of captive lions forming bonds with dogs, usually if they are raised together from a young age. But in general, a wild lion’s temperament and predatory instincts make dog-lion friendship unlikely and perilous for any dog encroaching on a lion’s territory.

Historic Lion vs. Dog Conflicts

There are several historic examples of Rhodesian Ridgebacks successfully fighting off lions to protect their owners and property. According to, Rhodesian Ridgebacks were originally bred in Southern Africa to guard property and hunt large game like lions. Their bravery and protective instincts made them ideal for confronting lions that strayed onto farms and homesteads.

historic examples of ridgebacks fighting lions

One specific example cited is a Rhodesian Ridgeback named Jack who fought off a lion that attacked his owner. Jack engaged the lion long enough for the owner to safely escape. Despite sustaining injuries, Jack survived the encounter. Stories like this attest to the tenacity and courage of properly trained Rhodesian Ridgebacks when facing lions to defend their territory and humans.

While direct conflicts between lions and Rhodesian Ridgebacks are understandably rare today, historic accounts provide evidence of Ridgebacks successfully driving lions away or fighting them off long enough for humans to get to safety. Their loyalty and protective nature lend credibility to the idea that a Rhodesian Ridgeback could defeat or even kill a lion under the right circumstances.

Likelihood of Victory

When analyzing the likelihood of victory between a Rhodesian Ridgeback and a lion, there are several physical and behavioral factors to consider. Lions have a clear size and strength advantage weighing over 400 pounds on average compared to a Ridgeback which typically weighs 70-85 pounds. Lions also have powerful jaws and sharp claws as weapons. However, Ridgebacks were historically bred to hunt lions and have great speed and agility on their side. They also have a strong protective instinct and courageous temperament.

Looking at historical accounts, there are a few isolated incidents of Rhodesian Ridgebacks defending livestock by diverting or distracting an attacking lion. However, experts agree it is highly unlikely even a pack of Ridgebacks could kill a lion without human intervention. Lions are simply too large, powerful, and predatory compared to even the strongest dog. In a one-on-one fight, a lion would almost certainly overpower and kill a Ridgeback. The Ridgeback’s best hope would be to avoid direct confrontation and use agility and speed to distract the lion until help arrived. But ultimately, the lion’s immense strength and killer instinct give it the clear advantage in a fight.

In conclusion, while the Rhodesian Ridgeback has courage and protective instincts, the lion’s significant size, strength, and predatory nature make it nearly impossible for a Ridgeback to defeat. Historical accounts show Ridgebacks deterring lions, but experts agree a lion would easily kill a dog in actual combat. The victor would without doubt be the lion.

Expert Opinions

Many experts have weighed in on the capabilities of Rhodesian Ridgebacks against lions. According to big game hunter P.J. Pretorius, “A ridgeback is no match for an African lion. The Rhodesian ridgeback was bred not to attack lions, but to track them, corner them, and hold them at bay while awaiting their human companions.” Pretorius explains that while the ridgeback is tenacious, it does not have the size or strength to overcome a full grown lion.

Animal behavior researcher Dr. Sarah Boehm concurs: “Ridgebacks were used by lion hunters in Africa to track and corner lions before the hunters arrived. But they would not be expected to kill a lion themselves – that requires the firepower of a human hunter.” Boehm notes that while ridgebacks can harass and distract a lion, they lack the size and lethal weaponry needed to actually take one down.

According to American Kennel Club breed expert Lisa Perhacs, “The Rhodesian Ridgeback is undoubtedly athletic, intelligent and courageous, but not a match for the King of Beasts in a direct one-on-one confrontation.” Perhacs states that the historic role of ridgebacks was finding and cornering lions, not fighting them head on. Their success came from human partnership.


In conclusion, while the Rhodesian Ridgeback was originally bred to hunt lions and has the size, strength, and aggression to pose a threat, it’s highly unlikely that even the strongest, most capable Ridgeback could consistently defeat an adult male lion in a direct fight. Lions have a substantial weight and strength advantage, deadly claws and teeth, and a killer instinct honed through evolution as apex predators. Historically, Rhodesian Ridgebacks were used to track and distract lions during hunts, not directly engage them. While there may be isolated stories of Ridgebacks injuring lions or winning unlikely battles, these would be exceptions. In a typical face-off, the lion’s sheer power, speed, and predatory nature give it the clear edge. So in answer to the initial question, the lion remains the dominant “king of beasts” and would most often overpower even a bred-for-battle Rhodesian Ridgeback. The Ridgeback has courage and ability exceeding most dogs, but cannot beat the lion at its own game.

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