Thai Ridgeback

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

A medium-sized, muscular dog, the handsome Thai Ridgeback is a real head-turner. They are devoted to their owner and will be fiercely protective of their family and territory. Intensive training is required to avoid unwanted aggression and to ensure this breed does not develop hostile behaviours when older.

Originally from Thailand, they have been used for many purposes over the years, including hunting and cart pulling, but are now more likely to be seen as family pets that act as watch dogs. Getting hold of a Thai Ridgeback outside of Asia can be notoriously difficult, with a year or longer waiting lists for the breed being quite typical.

About & History

The Thai Ridgeback, also known as Mah Thai Lang Ahn, is thought to have existed for many hundreds of years within eastern Thailand, though initial written records only date back around 350 years. A landrace breed that developed naturally over time without human intervention, it is thought that the Thai Ridgeback is either a descendant of the now extinct Hottentot dog or the Funan Ridgeback Dog. Given the physical resemblance, it is also likely that the Thai Ridgeback is a close cousin of the neighbouring Phu Quoc Ridgeback, a Vietnamese breed.

As the Thai Ridgeback existed in a relatively isolated part of Thailand, it is thought that there was little cross-breeding through the years and many people describe them as a truly ‘pure’ breed. Considering the Thai Ridgeback is a breed that developed long before written records were kept, it is likely we will never know for sure exactly how they came to be.

A multi-purpose dog, the Thai Ridgeback has filled many roles in its time, including that of vermin exterminator, cart puller, boar hunter and watchdog. Interestingly, it is also claimed that they will detect and fight off cobras and other snakes, protecting their owners from potentially dangerous bites.

The first recorded export to the USA was in 1994, by an American called John Sterling who discovered the breed when in Thailand. He bought several young dogs, some of which he then showed in America in the American Rare Breed Association Dog Show.

In 1996, the AKC officially recognised the Thai Ridgeback and it is now in their Foundation Stock Service. Outside of Thailand, they are a remarkably rare breed, and can be both difficult and expensive to acquire. Within Thailand, however, they are not uncommon and are now the official National Breed of Thailand.


Thai Ridgeback Large Photo

A physically impressive dog, the Thai Ridgeback has a noble and elegant physique. Medium-sized they should have a well-muscled and well-proportioned body. Males measure 56-61cm, while females stand at 51-56cm. Males weigh around 21-34kg, while females will normally weigh between 16-25kg.

They have a strong and wedge-shaped head with distinctive wrinkling of the skin in the forehead region. Their large ears stand erect and are set widely apart on top of the head. Their almond-shaped eyes are amber or brown and should exhibit an attentive expression. Unusually, their tongue will often have black, pigmented spots. Their powerful body is loosely covered in skin, and they should have a straight back, well-sprung ribs and long, athletic limbs. Their slim tail should be carried upwards in a sickle shape.

The distinctive characteristic of the Thai Ridgeback is the ridge that runs along the back, a trait they share with two other breeds: The Rhodesian Ridgeback and the Phu Quoc Ridgeback. Along the ridge, their fur grows in opposite directions forming whorls or swirls. Their short fur is dense and comes in a variety of colours, including black, silver, blue, red and chestnut. While some puppies may be born without the ridgeback, these dogs will not do well in the show ring and should be rehomed as family pets.

Character & Temperament

An independent and confident breed of dog, the Thai Ridgeback tends to have a mind of its own and can be a real handful at times. Fiercely loyal to their families, they are affectionate with those they care for, but tend to be extremely wary of anyone outside their immediate circle. These two traits make for a protective dog, which will defend their family and territory at all costs. For this reason, the Thai Ridgeback is known to make a fantastic guard dog; a role which it is often expected to carry out by its owners in Thailand.

This dog is a hunter by instinct and so should only be allowed off lead in monitored situations and must not be trusted with smaller pets. While playful with the children in its own family, an adult should always be monitoring the play due to the potential strength of the Thai Ridgeback. This breed is not recommended for families with younger children.


Photo of Thai Ridgeback puppy

Training is key when it comes to the Thai Ridgeback, and will often be the make or break between having a well-adapted, sociable dog and a ‘nightmare dog’ that is feared by everyone except those within their inner circle. From day one, the Thai Ridgeback needs to be exposed to firm and responsible training, and all family members need to be on board, with consistent household rules. An intelligent dog, they are prone to questioning instructions and testing boundaries, so must not be allowed to get away with bad behaviour.

As soon as the Thai Ridgeback puppy has been cleared by their vet to socialise, owners should expose them to a large variety of people, pets and situations, in order to increase their tolerance. An inexperienced owner will find it difficult to handle this demanding breed and may be best off considering a different dog breed.


Generally accepted to be a healthy breed that has reproduced for centuries without human intervention, the Thai Ridgeback is not prone to many health issues and enjoys a lifespan of up to 12 years. Despite this, there are a number of conditions worth mentioning:

Dermoid Sinus

Also called a Pilonodal sinus, this is a skin defect that occurs as the embryo develops within the uterus. The depth of the defect and severity of the condition differ from case to case, but any affected animal should not be bred from. The sinuses are prone to becoming infected, and in large sinuses, these infections can affect the central nervous system and become life threatening.

Hip Dysplasia

While Hip Dysplasia can be an inherited condition, it can also be caused by environmental factors. Affected animals will often initially be stiff, slow to rise and lame on their hind limbs. The condition can be diagnosed via a veterinary orthopaedic exam and imaging.

While there are many treatments available to manage the condition, prevention is always better than cure. The incidence within the population can be reduced by hip scoring potential parents and not breeding from those animals with poor hip scores.

Exercise and Activity Levels

The Thai Ridgeback is known to be an impressive hurdler and is able to clear high fences with ease. Any garden area that they have access to must have a tall and secure fence around the entire perimeter. They love to roam, particularly males who are not neutered, and will anecdotally wander away from home for several hours at a time. To avoid unwanted pregnancies, those animals that are not intended for breeding, or are not kept confined, should be neutered.

It is possible to keep the Thai Ridgeback in a small home as long as they are provided with the exercise they require each day, though they would prefer a rural home with outdoor access. If not provided with the energy outlet that they need, they are likely to become destructive within the house due to their boredom and frustration. Some dogs will also develop repetitive barking and digging behaviours.


The Thai Ridgeback does not need much in the line of grooming, though weekly brushing is advised. They are moderate shedders and do not require frequent bathing. As they are used to tropical conditions and have a short coat, they do not tolerate cold weather particularly well, and may benefit from a doggy jumper in the winter.

Famous Thai Ridgebacks

A breed that is relatively unheard of outside of their native Thailand, there are no well-known Thai Ridgebacks just yet. There are, however, plenty of pups famous within their own families on Instagram, which may be worth a gander for anyone considering the breed themselves.


No popular cross-breed examples of the Thai Ridgeback exist at the moment.

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