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Traditionally, the only other Ridgeback dog beside the well known Rhodesian Ridgeback has been the Phu Quoc Dog. Pho Quoc Island, now a part of Vietnam, is the major isle in the Gulf of Siam, about 200 km south of Bangkok.
The ancestry of the Phu Quoc dog is undoubtedly the Thai Ridgeback which has existed in eastern Siam (near the Cambodian border) for at least four hundred years. Ridgeback dogs in cave paintings dating back 1000 years have been found in Cambodia and Thailand.
Characteristics and Temperament
These Thai Ridgebacks were used for hunting (they are keen sighthounds) deer, tapirs, and birds in dense jungle, as guardians for family homesteads and as companions for carts, the traditional mode of transportation in these areas.
As a result of the isolation of the area, Thai Ridgebacks have retained their unique type and traditional usage until recently. However, today “civilization” has come even to these isolated areas. Roads have been built and autos have replaced carts as the major mode of transportation.
Intense deforestation throughout Thailand has destroyed most hunting habitat. Thai Ridgebacks today are primarily kept as companions or guards for the family homestead and have been adopted by many Thai dog fanciers.
Thai Ridgebacks are medium-large sized short-haired dogs of high intelligence and great jumping ability. Males measure 22 to 24 ˝ inches at the withers and weigh from 42 to 60 pounds: female measure 21 to 23 ˝ inches and weigh from 37 to 50 pounds.
The short coat, ranging from brush to horse coat comes in four colors, black, red (ranging from deep mahogany to light chestnut), blue (or silver) and fawn. The ridge pattern on the back comes in eight different patterns.
Thai Ridgebacks bred by Thai fanciers are often kennel raised. Further few Thai’s keep house pets as do Americans. Accordingly, few Thai imports are well socialized. This is especially true since pups must be at least four months old (and have their rabies shots) to be imported into the United States.
However, litters bred by American breeders and hand raised in households according to our traditional American socialization methods are very good people dogs, bonding closely to their families.
They are usually gentle with their families and with people, their families introduce them to but are excellent watchdogs if people they do not know appear or sounds they don’t understand occur around the house.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does AKC recognize this breed?
No. However the breed is shown in ARBA (American Rare Breed Association) shows in the US and FCI shows throughout most of the world.
So this means I can’t show this dog in conformation or obedience in the AKC?
This is correct. However, ARBA has obedience as well as confirmation and there are efforts underway to get the breed recognized by AKC and UKC.
Are they easy to train?
In Thailand, there are frequent obedience shows run by the DAT, the Dog Association of Thailand, whose current standard abbreviation is AT. The agility and obedience requirements are extensive, equivalent to the Master Agility Excellent and Obedience Trial Champion titles in the US.
Would they make good watchdogs? Guard dogs?
The Ridgeback is an excellent natural watchdog and family protector, requiring only that the owner has control over it.
Are they noisy? Do they have any bad habits?
Ridgebacks tend to bark only when there is something unusual about (unless one has fallen into bad habits out of boredom). They are very athletic, easily able to clear high fences unless the owner has taken proper precautions to see this does not occur.
The Ridgebacks love to run. This can be a good or bad habit depending on the owner.
Is the Ridgeback a good house-dog?
The Ridgeback is an extremely clean dog with no odor due to its short tropical coat. As tropical dogs, they do not tolerate cold weather well, unless they are adapted to it. They do not drool, except occasionally in anticipation of food.
They are generally easy to housebreak. They will take over the furniture unless their owners discourage this habit from puppyhood. They are well sized, not so small as to be underfoot, yet not so big that they are constantly in the way; yet big enough to intimidate a prowler.
Their upright tails wag in a short radius, not knocking over your houseplants or coffee table glasses.
Are there any special feeding problems?
Ridgebacks are true omnivores. In Thailand, an ancient text says they are able to feed themselves digging the earth in search of small prey. Along the beaches, they actively forage for small crabs.
They will inhale their food enthusiastically. Consequently, Ridgeback owners need to monitor their dog’s weight and cut back to prevent obesity.
How much exercise does a Ridgeback need?
Like any medium-large dog, Ridgebacks need exercise – a daily romp in the backyard or park and a couple of long trips should be sufficient.
Again, Ridgebacks love to run. More exercise would be better but Ridgebacks do adapt to their people.
Are they a rare breed?
Yes, there are less than 100 Thai Ridgebacks registered with the United States parent specialty club, the Thai Ridgeback Club of the United States. However, more than 50 thousand are registered worldwide, the vast bulk with the DAT in Thailand.
Does this mean I will have trouble finding a puppy?
Yes. You may have to wait some time for a litter and you will likely have to have it shipped across the country to you. Litters in the United States are few (there are currently only four breeders) and demand for the puppies is high.
While many dogs exist in Thailand, they are kennel raised and no puppy can be imported into the United States until it is at least 4 months old and has it’s rabies vaccination.
Some material in this section is excerpted from Laurie Corbett: The Dingo: in Australia and Asia, Copyright Laurie Corbett 1995.
An ancient manuscript of the period of King Songthan of Ayuttaya (1611 to 1628) describes the Ridgeback as follows:
The dogs are big. They are more than two sacks tall (one sack is a traditional measurement which equals the length from an adult’s elbow to his fingertips). They appear in a variety of colors. And each dog has a ridge on the back.
They are fierce. They are loyal to their masters. They are able to feed themselves, digging the earth in search of small prey. They like to follow their owner, to hunt in the wood.
When they catch an animal they will bring it to their master. They are loyal to the entire household. They love their companionship. They go everywhere with their masters, even as far as the big yang tree.
They are powerful and fearless… Their ears are pointed erect and their tails stand like the swords of tribesmen…
However, the earliest development of the breed is lost in the times before recorded history. But the works of archeologists, anthropologists, paleontologists and zoologists provide irrefutable evidence that the origins of the pariah type dog extend back to the origins of the dog itself as it evolved from wolf to dingo to our domestic dog.
Dingoes began and evolved in Asia. The earliest known dingo-like fossils are from Ban Chiang in north-east Thailand (dated at 5,500 years BP) and from North Vietnam (5,000 years BP).
According to skull morphology, these fossils occupy a place between Asian wolves (prime candidates were the pale footed (or Indian) wolf Canis lupis pallipes and the Arabian wolf Canis lupis araba) and modern dingoes in Australia and Thailand.
The Thai site at Ban Chiang is one of the earliest known sites that indicates that people changed their nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyle to a sedentary and agricultural subsistence. This sedentary life allowed communal relationships between wild animals and people.
The start of domestication of wolves into dingoes and other dogs began, fossils show, between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago.
Dingo evolution in western Asia diverged sharply from dingo evolution in eastern Asia. The earliest records of the domestication of wolves from Israel to domestic dogs (e.g. Canis Familiaris poutiani, Canisfamiliaris, matrisoptimae) suggests that these early primitive canines were subjected to intense artificial selection by mankind from the very beginning.
Cave paintings, etchings, and frescoes in tombs, pyramids, and middens suggest that the major reasons for selective breeding were to improve the characteristics of “dogs” for hunting, herding, hauling, guarding, scavenging and fighting.
The ultimate outcome of the many mechanisms of domestication is the immense range of sizes, shapes, colors, and temperaments found in modern breeds of dogs.
What is often forgotten is that this doggie plethora of about 600 true breeding types were derived from a single uniformly structured canine, the dingo, via founder effects, selective breeding, and genetic drift.
The evolution of early canines in eastern Asia contrasts starkly with the events in western Asia. Although human societies in East Asia acquired the early canines for food, hunting, alerting and perhaps other cultural reasons, it seems they were never subjected to selective breeding or other artificial selection pressures.
Morphological comparisons between the skulls of the early canines (dated 5,500 years BP) modern dingoes from Thailand and Australia and modern dingo-like domestic dogs show a great similarity between the dingoes and early canines but a clear cut difference between them and domestic dogs.
The dogs, although closely resembling dingoes in size and conformation, are distinct. It is to this group of pariah dogs that the Thai Ridgeback belongs.
The evolution of the Thai Ridgeback from the pariah dog cannot be precisely determined. The place of origin cannot be precisely located since the breed habitat is not only Thailand but also Vietnam, Kamphuchea (Cambodia) and Indonesia.
The breed is only found on the islands of Vietnam (including Phu Quoc), Kampuchea and Indonesia, however, while it is found on both the islands and the mainland of Thailand.
Phu Quoc, an island in the Gulf of Siam, was where the western dog fanciers first encountered the breed and obtained the dog in the 19th century when the island was colonized.
A study was undertaken, according to Dr. S. Wannakrairoj to locate the place where the breed first appeared. To determine the place of origin without any historical record the genetic analysis of the Ridgeback was performed using reported survey data.
The width of the ridge and the number of crowns on the body which are controlled by the number of additive alleles were used since the dog with the higher number of mutant alleles has the longer history.
According to the genetic theory, the dog with the broader ridge or more crowns results from the accumulation of more (recessive) ridge genes. The Thai Ridgeback in Thailand has a ridge much wider than its back, sometimes down its flank, with a maximum of 14 crowns.
The closest competitor from Vietnam, including Phu Quoc Island, has a ridge only on its back, not down the flank and a maximum of 10 crowns. Thus the Thai dog must have evolved for the longest period.
Hence, the Ridgeback must be of Thailand origin. This justifies the name Thai Ridgeback. The areas with the highest population of the breed were the eastern areas of Thailand and particularly the eastern fishing ports.
Thus it was probably Thai fisherman that took the dogs to the islands of Thailand’s neighbors. Whether east Asian explorers took the dog to eastern Africa cannot be known.
However, it is clear that the Phu Quoc dog is simply the same breed as the Thai Ridgeback but named after the place it was first sighted by Western dog fanciers rather than its place of origin. Its current size, considerably smaller than the Thai Ridgeback is a commentary on its meager environment on Phu Quoc Island.
The present bloodlines were collected by Thai fanciers over the past few decades. The breed was first recognized by the Dog Association of Thailand, then the Japanese Kennel Club, and the Asian Kennel Union and finally, as breed number 338 by the FCI in 1993.
Thai Ridgeback Dog
Date of Publication of The Original Valid Standard
Group 5 Spitz and Primitive Types
Section 7 Primitive Type-Hunting Dogs Without Working Trial
Brief History Summary
The Thai Ridgeback Dog is an old breed which can be seen in archeological writing in Thailand which was written about 350 years ago. Mainly in the eastern part of Thailand, it was used for hunting.
People also used it to escort their carts and as a watchdog. The reason why it has kept its own original type for years is poor transportation systems in the eastern part of Thailand; it had fewer chances to crossbreed with other breeds.
A medium-sized dog with short hair forming a ridge along the back. The body is slightly longer than its height at the withers. Muscles are well developed, and its anatomical structure is suitable for activities.
Length of body: size (height at the withers) 11:10
The height of chest: size (height at the withers) 5:10
Length of the muzzle: length of the head 2: 3
Tough and active with excellent jumping abilities.
The crown is flat and has a gentle slope toward the stop. Stop: Clearly defined, but moderate. The inclination is not abrupt.
Nose: Color is black.
Nasal bridge: Straight and long.
Muzzle: Wedge-shape. Dogs with fawn coat have a black mask.
Mouth: Black marking on the tongue.
Jaw: Upper jaw is thick enough, and the lower jaw is strong.
Teeth: White and strong with a scissors bite.
Eyes: Middle size and almond shaped. The eye color is dark brown. In blue and silver, amber-colored eyes are permitted.
Ears: Set on either side of the crown, which is slightly broad between the two ears. Rather large triangular, inclining forward and firmly picked. Not cropped.
Neck: Strong, muscular, holding head high.
Loin: Strong and broad
Croup: Moderately round
Chest: Deep enough to reach the elbows. The ribs are well built, but not barrel-shaped.
Lower line: The belly is tucked up.
Tail: It has a thick base with gradual tapering toward the tip. The tip reaches hock joints. It holds up vertically or curves like a sickle tail.
Front legs: The forearm straight
Hind legs: Well developed thighs and slightly bent stifles. Hocks are tough. The nails are black or light through brown.
Stride with no pitching nor rolling of the body. The track in two parallel straight lines. When viewed from the front, the forelegs move up and down in straight lines so that the shoulder, elbow and pastern joints are approximately in line with each other.
When viewed from the rear, the stifle and hip joints are approximately in line. Move in a straight pattern forward without throwing the feet in or out; thus enabling the stride to be long and drive power. The overall appearance of the moving dog is one of the smooth flowing and well-balanced rhythms.
Soft, tender and tight skin.
Hair: Strong and smooth. The ridge is formed by the hair growing in the opposite direction to the rest of the coat, starting from slightly behind the withers and extending to the point of prominence at the hips.
It should be clearly defined from other parts of the back, tapering and symmetrical.
Color: Solid color, light chestnut red (the deeper the better), pure black, blue (silver), and fawn.
Height at the withers:
Dogs 22-25 inches (56-63.5cm)
Bitches 20-23 inches (51-58.5cm)
- Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree.
- Any bite other than scissors bite
- Unbalanced ridge
- Dogs without ridge
- Long hair
N.B.: Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum
Dog Association of Thailand
Asian Kennel Union
American Rare Breed Association (ARBA)
Special Medical Problems
This condition occurs when the skin is not completely closed along the dog’s spine. While hard to detect at puppyhood it can be done by those experienced in the breed by palpating along the spine. If dormant this condition causes no problems and the dog and lead a normal life.
Unfortunately, these sinuses or cysts don’t often remain dormant. They become inflamed and infected. The surgery to correct this sinus is expensive, painful and frequently not successful.
Another genetic fault, some Thai Ridgebacks are born without ridges. Many breeders euthanize these puppies but more enlightened breeders do not. The puppies are designated pet quality and require a spay/neuter contract.