Rhodesian Labrador

Ana Oliveira
Dr Ana Oliveira (DVM, University of Lisbon)
Photo of adult Rhodesian Labrador
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Crossbreeding a Rhodesian Ridgeback with a Labrador Retriever will result in the good-looking and affectionate Rhodesian Labrador. The Rhodesian Labrador is a gentle dog who is devoted to his family with a strong bond that includes children and makes him a great choice as a pet. Rhodesian Labradors are best suited for active families with previous dog experience and preferably have no other pets.

Rhodesian Labradors tend to be headstrong, which is related to the Rhodesian Ridgeback ancestry and makes training somewhat challenging. On the other hand, they also inherit the caring and loving nature of the Labrador Retriever, which make these dogs true companions who want to feel as they are part of the family.

About & History

The Rhodesian Labrador results from the mix between the brave Rhodesian Ridgeback and the loving Labrador Retriever. This is a recent crossbreed (at least intentionally), having probably originated in the last 15 or 20 years in the United States. His parent breeds, however, have a longer history and looking at it is the best way of getting to know this crossbreed.

The Rhodesian Ridgeback

The Rhodesian Ridgeback dog is a breed that was created and refined from the crossbreeding of several dog breeds in Rhodesia, or Zimbabwe, as the country is called today, around the 17th century. The crossing of dogs brought with European colonists (the Boer settlers) with the semi-wild and native Khoikhoi dog, from whom the dog’s famous ridge came from, resulted in the Rhodesian Ridgeback dog breed.

The dog was used as a working dog to hunt and guard the family and their property. He became famous as the African Lion Hound, as he was used to hunt lions, cornering them until his owner came and did the actual killing.

The Labrador Retriever

The Labrador Retriever has his origins in the cold region of Newfoundland, where he was used as a working dog, helping fishermen to pull nets and catch fish. He was taken to England in the beginning of the 19th century and crossed with spaniel and setter dogs to refine his skills as a hunter and retriever.

The Labrador has become a popular pet ever since, for his good nature and constant tail wagging, his trainability and companionship. Due to their personality and versatility, Labradors also excel as guide dogs for the blind, police, search and rescue dogs, as well as in dog sports, such as obedience or sledding.


The Rhodesian Labrador is a medium to large-sized dog, although sometimes a smaller dog can be born, depending on the genetic makeup of both parents. Typically, a male Rhodesian Labrador weighs between 34 and 36 kgs (75-80 lbs) and is 61 to 69 cm (24-27 inches) tall and the female is a bit smaller (weight: 32-34 kgs or 72-76 lbs and height: 58-61 cm or 23-24 inches).

Rhodesian Labradors are beautiful, athletic dogs, with long legs and a sturdy body. They have an elegant head, with a long muzzle and slightly erect ears that may fold a little bit towards the tips and are set wide apart. They may have brown or amber eyes. Their tail is long and coat color may vary from sable, black, chocolate, fawn or Isabella (a pale, greyish brown, best known in Weimaraners). Coat texture is usually straight, of normal to thick density and short to medium length, which can be waterproof, like the Labrador’s. They may have the famous ridge on the back, inherited from the Rhodesian Ridgeback parent, but it can also be absent.

Character & Temperament

Owing to both his parent breeds, the Rhodesian Labrador is a loyal, kind, and affectionate crossbreed that easily bonds with his family, children included. They are very close to their humans, with whom they love to spend time, assuring they are part of the pack. This is a very intelligent mix, which sometimes can reveal itself as domineering and headstrong, pushing towards the Rhodesian Ridgeback parent. For this reason, this crossbreed is not recommended for inexperienced, first-time dog owners.

Rhodesian Labradors are energetic, easy-going and playful. They are not noisy or aggressive, but they are wary of strangers which, together with their strong protective instinct, make them good guarding dogs. Nonetheless, they are truly a pet and they are not suited to being outdoor dogs. When indoors, Rhodesian Labradors are quiet and calm. They are generally friendly (like the Labrador Retriever), but they do have a prey instinct (like the Rhodesian Ridgeback), which may be difficult to wane, even with early socialisation.


Because the Rhodesian Labrador may have a somewhat stubborn temperament, he requires an experienced dog owner, or at best, a motivated one who will not be discouraged by this crossbreed’s tendency to be the pack leader.

Training and socialisation are required for the Rhodesian Labrador, due to his wariness of strangers and a tendency to chase what they consider small prey (which may include other pets and animals), especially when not taught otherwise.


All crossbreeds are generally healthier than either parent breeds, due to higher genetic variation that results from gene mixing from two distinct pools, as opposed to purebred selective breeding. As such, the Rhodesian Labrador tends to be a healthy dog, living up to 12 years. Nonetheless, they may still suffer from some of the same diseases that affect their purebred parents, the main two being:

Hip Dysplasia

A common disease among Labrador Retrievers, this is a condition that affects the dog’s normal locomotion, resulting from a congenital malformation of the hip joint that prevents the thighbone (ball) from properly fitting the acetabulum (socket). This incorrect fitting leads to a misalignment of the hip and a consequent wear-and-tear that creates inflammation and pain, followed by lameness and, eventually, arthritis.

While this is a genetic condition, there are also environmental factors that may contribute to its worsening, such as neutering before the dog reaches maturity, too much exercise at an early age, obesity, and injuries. There is no cure for hip dysplasia – only symptomatic treatment – so watching for early signs and keeping an eye on the dog’s weight are essential.

Gastric Dilation Volvulus or Bloat

Gastric Dilation Volvulus is a gastro-intestinal condition caused by stomach bloating and its twisting around itself, which suspends blood flow, leading to cardiac arrhythmias and tissue damage due to oxygen deprivation. Because Rhodesian Labradors are deep-chested, there is more space in the abdomen for the stomach to fill with gas and subsequently twist, which may happen when dogs eat too fast or exercise after eating (allowing the stomach to be filled with air in a short span of time).

This is a serious, life-threatening condition that requires emergency surgery. Signs of bloat to look for are panting and pacing, especially after eating and/or exercise, which reveal extreme discomfort and pain.

Other Issues

Other health issues include: hyperthyroidism, ear infections, and glaucoma (an eye condition that may lead to blindness).

Exercise and Activity Levels

Despite being calm and quiet indoors, the Rhodesian Labrador is an active dog when outdoors, requiring medium levels of exercise daily. While a yard is not a requirement, with them even suiting apartment dwelling, they do need to go out for active walks and playtime for about 2 hours a day, to let off steam and keep mentally challenged.

These are energetic dogs who love to spend time with their owners, so playtime also means a good opportunity for bonding. Beware of letting Rhodesian Labradors running off-leash, even if well socialised, since they have a prey drive and may start chasing other animals or wander off.


The Rhodesian Labrador’s hair may vary from short to medium length, depending from whom he inherits his coat characteristics, the Rhodesian Ridgeback parent (who sheds minimally) or the Labrador Retriever parent (who sheds heavily). The crossbreed may need more or less grooming according to his hair length and amount of shedding. Nonetheless, weekly brushing is generally the standard, along with checking and cleaning his ears.

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