Phu Quoc Ridgeback

Linda Simon
Dr Linda Simon (MVB MRCVS, University College Dublin)
 
Photo of adult Phu Quoc Ridgeback

An unusual breed of dog originating from the Phu Quoc island of Vietnam, the Phu Quoc Ridgeback is known for its webbed feet, pigmented tongues and characteristic ‘ridgeback’ (prominent fur that grows backwards along the spine). They have a regal demeanor and are respected for their hunting and sporting abilities in their homeland. Excelling in sprinting, swimming and tree climbing, they truly are canine athletes.

Incredibly rare, there are thought to be less than a thousand worldwide. However, their popularity is slowly increasing, and more and more international exports are being made each year. Recently, this breed has been referred to in the media as ‘The world’s most expensive dog’, and indeed, puppies can sell for up to £10,000.

About & History

There are three ridgeback breeds in existence; the Rhodesian Ridgeback, Thai Ridgeback and Phu Quoc Ridgeback. The primitive Phu Quoc Ridgeback, as its name suggests, originated in Phu Quoc, which is a southern Vietnamese island.

It is thought that this powerful breed was used by local people as a hunter and a guard dog. It was not until the 19th century that French colonials made written records of the breed when they discovered them. Not long after, the breed was brought to France, where two breed members (Xoai and Chuoi) were said to have won a dog show in Lille.

Widely believed to be a landrace breed that has survived for many years without any human intervention, even many of today’s Phu Quoc Ridgebacks roam the streets of Vietnam, fending for themselves. A breed that has developed through natural selection, they tend to enjoy good health and longevity.

While better known internationally today than ever, they have still not been officially recognised by any international bodies. Due to their low numbers, they are not allowed to be shown in international competitions, as a breed standard has yet to be decided. It is hoped that as their population continues to grow, they will soon be granted show privileges. In a nod towards their growing popularity, the Phu Quoc Ridgeback was recently declared the mascot of the 2018 Ho Chi Minh Flower Show.

Appearance

Phu Quoc Ridgeback Large Photo

A well-muscled dog of medium build, the Phu Quoc Ridgeback is a true athlete. Their squarely built body should be strong with clean lines, and the characteristic ‘ridge’ of fur on the back. Their head is narrow and not overly long, and their endearing forehead will wrinkle when concentrating. Their ears are large and triangular, opening to the front of their face and set well apart. Their eyes are a brown colour (the darker the better) and almond-shaped. Their nose and lips are black, and they have striking black pigmented spots on their tongues. Their chest should be deep but not wide with well-sprung ribs. Their feet should be webbed and adapted to swimming (a necessity for any island dog). Their tail is of a medium length and will taper to the end.

Females will stand at 48 to 52cm, while the male dog reaches between 50 and 55cm. Females will weigh between 12 and 18kg, while the taller male will weigh from 18 to 20kg. Their coat is short and coarse, and regardless of colour, the ridged fur should be slightly darker than the overall coat. The ridge must cover more than 60% of the length of the spine. Accepted coat colours include:

  • Black
  • Yellow
  • Red
  • Brindle

Character & Temperament

Intelligent and inquisitive, the Phu Quoc Ridgeback will learn quickly and will keep any owner on their toes. Courageous and dedicated to their family, they will not hesitate to defend their territory when appropriate. Indeed, their loyalty is one of their essential qualities. They are known to bark loudly when a new person enters their territory, though will rarely show true aggression.

Naturally sociable, they tend to get on well with other dogs and children. Due to their independence, separation anxiety is not thought to be an issue in this breed. Agile and sporty, Phu Quoc Ridgebacks will gladly tag along with you on steep hikes, perhaps stopping along the way to climb a tree and survey the route ahead. They won’t hesitate to have a quick dip if there are any bodies of water along the trail; an island dog by heart, they love to be in the water.

Trainability

Due to their naturally curious nature and high level of intelligence, the Phu Quoc Ridgeback is a very trainable dog. Generally passive, they are happy for the trainer to set the pace and will gladly follow instruction. Many tourists travelling to Phu Quoc island have reported seeing unowned Phu Quoc Ridgebacks performing tricks in the hopes of getting some food.

Health

A breed that has developed naturally over time, the Phu Quoc Ridgeback has escaped many of the issues suffered by purebred dogs around the world. Unfortunately, due to the small population size, medical studies are completely lacking. It is known, however, that the Phu Quoc Ridgeback can live well into their teens, and, anecdotally, they are known to suffer from a handful of medical conditions, including:

  • Hip Dysplasia – Like many dogs worldwide, the Phu Quoc Ridgeback may develop this progressively debilitating orthopaedic condition. The hip bone does not sit as it should in the socket, resulting in a joint that rubs together. The inflammation that ensues leads to pain and lameness of the hind limbs. Dogs affected with this condition will often begin to ‘slow down’, have trouble rising and show signs of stiffness. Weight management, lifestyle changes, medication and surgery may all be options for affected patients.
  • GDV – Colloquially known as bloat, GDV (or gastric dilatation volvulus) is a true medical emergency that tends to occur most often in deep-chested dogs. While the exact cause is unknown, it has been theorised that feeding a dog a large meal and then exercising it can increase the likelihood of the stomach twisting on itself. The diagnosis is usually easy to reach, as an affected dog will quickly ‘bloat up’, their abdomen filling with air. Animals will retch and salivate profusely with their symptoms worsening with time. The condition is treatable, though any surgery must be carried out promptly to ensure its success.
  • Parvo Virus – While not necessarily a disease that the Phu Quoc Ridgeback is more prone to than other dogs, this is, unfortunately, a virus that many breed members will contract during their lifetime. Easily avoidable in most cases, Parvo virus can be prevented with routine vaccinations. An affected animal will develop intense vomiting and diarrhea, and without receiving supportive care in a veterinary clinic has a high risk of death. Extremely contagious to other dogs, animals suffering from Parvo Virus should be nursed in isolation.

Exercise and Activity Levels

A truly outdoor dog, the Phu Quoc Ridgeback just loves to be active. They do best in rural settings and enjoy the freedom to run and jump to their hearts content. As they are known to jump incredibly high, any fence must be tall enough to keep them inside.

They make the perfect running or hiking partner and will likely out-perform even the fittest of owners. While they are known to adapt well to living within a house, they should not be denied the freedom to roam outside and have daily exercise.

Grooming

Very easy when it comes to their upkeep, the Phu Quoc Ridgeback needs infrequent brushing to remove dead fur and help to spread their natural oils. They rarely require a bath and should not be over-bathed, as to do so could damage their skin. Puppies should be introduced to claw clipping and tooth brushing early, which will benefit them as they age.

Famous Phu Quoc Ridgebacks

Sirius and Moon are thought to be the first two Phu Quoc Ridgebacks brought to the UK from Vietnam by their owner, Catherine Lane. They have been successfully bred, producing three females and one male in their first litter.

A Phu Quoc Ridgeback called Ven was the winner of the 2013 Hanoi Dog Show. His owner was quoted as saying at the time that he had just enlisted Ven for fun and never expected to win the contest.

Cross-Breeds

While Phu Quoc Ridgebacks will reproduce with other native breeds on the island of Phu Quoc, there are no documented cross-breeds.

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