Early history of the breed was contributed by Margaret Lowthian Cook and updated by Natalie D. Carlton (1984).
The Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of the United States was formed on July 10, 1957, at the home of Col. M.B. DePass in Pass Christian, Mississippi. The first meeting held on that date resulted in the adoption of the Constitution and By-Laws and the election of the first Board of Directors which consisted of: President: Col. M.P. DePass; Vice President: Mrs. Julia F. Minotto; Treasurer: Mr. Julius Szodomka; Secretary: Miss Margaret C. Lowthian; Directors Mrs. Leigh Bishop, Mr. L. L. Gordon and Mr. Charles W. Allen.
The By-Laws provided for an annual meeting to be held each year in New York City at the time of the Westminster Kennel Club dog show. By the time of the first annual meeting, which was held on Feb. 9, 1958, there were 61 members.
At the time that Ridgebacks were recognized by the American Kennel Club (1955), there was in existence a club known as the Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of America which had been organized several years before by a small group of Ridgeback owners in Massachusetts. The purpose of this organization was to promote the breed and to take steps necessary for the recognition of the breed by the American Kennel Club.
The Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of America had solicited membership, a large number of Ridgeback owners throughout the country became members anticipating that this club would be the breed club for the promotion of the Rhodesian Ridgeback. However, after the breed's recognition by the AKC, it developed that the AKC would not give approval for a sanctioned match to The Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of America as it was constituted at that time. As a result, a new club, The Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of the United States was formed. Spearheading the formation of this new club were Julia and James Minotto, Margaret Lowthian, Col. M. B. DePass, and E. L. Freeland. All were members of the Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of America.
Subsequently, through negotiations between William B. O'Brian, President of the Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of America and members of the Board of Directors of the Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of the United States, these two organizations consolidated into one club in March of 1959 with the resulting club continuing under the name of the Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of the United States.
The American Kennel Club regulations require that any new breed club localize its activities in one community for the purpose of holding its qualifying shows. Therefore, the new Board of Directors of the Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of the United States decided to centralize its activities in San Diego, California, since there were a large number of registered Ridgebacks in that area.
Immediately after the formation of the Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of the United States, application was made to the American Kennel Club to hold its first sanction match on December 15, 1957. The approval was granted and the match was held in San Diego with an entry of 21 Rhodesian Ridgebacks.
American Kennel Club regulations further stated that before a Specialty Show with Championship points could be held, a new club was required to hold at least two successful sanctioned matches at least six months apart. The Directors therefore made application for a second sanctioned match to be held in San Diego on June 23, 1958. There were 33 Ridgebacks entered in this match.
The Board of Directors, hoping that the two sanctioned matches had been successful, made application for the first Specialty Show to be held in San Diego on October 12, 1958. The application was approved and the show was held with an entry of 47.
The Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of the United States, however, was still under the American Kennel Club requirement that its activities be localized, but upon request to the AKC, permission was granted to hold Specialty Shows outside of San Diego, but within the State of California. This resulted in the second Specialty Show being held in Richmond (Northern California) on June 14, 1959; the third Specialty Show in Pasadena (Southern California] on October 4,1959; and the fourth Specialty Show in Long Beach, California, at the Harbor Cities Kennel Club Show on June 25-26, 1960.
The Board of Directors, feeling that all of these Specialty Shows had been successful and held in accordance with AKC requirements, then made application for the holding of Specialty Shows nationally. This resulted in the fifth Specialty Show, held in New York City on February 11, 1961, at the time of the Annual Meeting and immediately before the Westminster Kennel Club dog show.
The Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of the United States was now underway nationally. A Specialty Show had been held each year starting in 1961 on the East Coast in New York City at the time of the Annual Meeting and on the West Coast in conjunction with the Santa Barbara Kennel Club in July. Beginning in 1976, a Midwest Specialty was added in conjunction with the Chicago International Kennel Club dog show in October.
With the fiftieth Specialty, which was held on February 8, 1981, in East Orange, New Jersey (the Club had moved out of New York City a few years before due to problems obtaining adequate facilities), a new era was ushered in. Instead of the three Specialties each year, the Board had decided to have only one floating Specialty a year. The 51st Specialty was held as an independent Specialty on the Santa Barbara weekend at the end of July, 1982; the 52nd Specialty was held in Cleveland, Ohio, on August 25-26, 1983, in conjunction with the Ravenna-Western Reserve dog show weekend; and the 53rd was held in Santa Rosa, in Northern California on August 6-7, 1984. Scheduled for 1985 is the 54th to be held in Houston, Texas; the 55th in New England in 1986; and the 56th in the Northwest in 1987.
On April 10, 1968, following the hard work of three RRCUS members: Sam P. Douglass, Marylyn B. Douglass and Robert L. Waltrip, the Club was issued a Certificate of Incorporation, Charter No. 245798, in the State of Texas. On March 9, 1971 the AKC formally admitted the Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of the United States, Inc. as a member club.
In 1964 Challenge trophies were initiated to be presented at the Specialty Shows. These had to be won three times by the same owner, not necessarily with the same dog, in order to be retired.
The Bulawayo Challenge Trophy offered by the Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of Bulawayo, Southern Rhodesia, was retired in February 1971 by owners Bee Elliott and Thomas Meredith, with Ch. Blanbeeridge Karro, who won all three legs of the challenge for Best of Breed. The Glenaholm Challenge Trophy for Best of Opposite Sex was offered by Mrs. Philip McCarthy. It was retired in 1975 at the West Coast Specialty by Diane Jacobsen. The Best of Winners Challenge Trophy and the Blanbeeridge Challenge Trophy, offered by the late Blanche K. Brophy and Mrs. Beatrice Elliott, had not yet been retired. The Ch. Jeff Davis Challenge Trophy (Ch.Swahili Jeff Davis was the first Champion Rhodesian Ridgeback recognized by the AKC), was offered by the late Col. M.P DePass and Mrs. DePass for Winners Dog. This was retired in Santa Rose in 1981 by Natalie D. Carlton and three generations of Pumamere, Reg. Ridgebacks. The Gazeley Challenge Trophy for Winners Bitch offered by Mr. and Mrs. Jack Bocock, was retired by Diane Jacobsen and her Calico Ridge dogs in Santa Barbara in 1976.
Great strides have been made by the breed as it moved into its 30th year since recognition by the AKC. The first Rhodesian Ridgeback to win the Best in Show award was Ch. Bimbo Ponjola of Kaybar, CD, who did so shortly after the breed was recognized. Although a few had won this coveted award in early years a Best in Show Ridgeback was the exception to the rule. However, as 1984 drew to a close, a young dog not yet two years old, Ch. Mine Creek's Pay Dirt, had achieved a breed record of four Best in Shows winning his first at the tender, and record age of just under 10 months old! Since 1978 (the first Best in Show awarded since 1956) the others who have won this coveted place in history have been: Ch. Bimbo's Ginger of Kali, Ch. Amberidge's A Touch of Class, Ch. Rutan Mpenzi Rafiki of Gera, Ch. Bimbo's Rufus of Kali, Ch. Freland's Brick of Hillcrest, Ch. JB's Christiana, Ch. Calico Ridge California Blues, and Ch. Kwetu Oakhurst's Bronco. See the current listing going back to 1977.
Although the breed was recognized by the AKC in November of 1955, points were not available toward Championships until January 1, 1956. The first Ridgeback to earn AKC Championship title was Ch. Swahili's Jeff Davis. Following rapid suit that first year was Ch. Little John of Gazeley, Ch. Molo of Tawny Ridge, Am. Can. Mex. Ch. Swahili's Simba of Columbia, and Ch. Kitula of Redhouse. The youngest Ridgeback ever to finish his Championship was Ch. Lamarde Perro lsiga-A, who did so at 6 months and 7 days of age! The first Ridgeback to finish his Championship in 3 times shown, making him the recipient of the Dog World Award of Distinction, was Ch. Taswira Gari of Pumamere. He also was the youngest ever to receive a Best of Winners award (and for a full 5 points), which was accomplished at a Supported Show on his 6-month birthday, the first day he was eligible to be shown. His other two wins were at a Specialty and the AKC Centennial Show.
Ch. Bimbo's Ginger of Kali
In 1982, Ch. Rutan Mpenzi Rafiki of Gera was Canine Chronicle Magazine's Top Sire of ALL BREEDS, calculated on the number of Champions produced. In 1983 he missed repeating that prestigious honor by just one Champion offspring. Ch. Riveroad's Noko Rittah was the breed leader for the number of Champion get out of a brood bitch. Ch. Bimbo's Ginger of Kali became the winningest bitch in the history of the breed, when she won four separate Specialty Bests of Breed, a feat not equaled even by her male counterparts. Worth mentioning are those dogs who, over the years, have won at least two Specialty Bests of Breed: Ch. Rockridge's Temba (3); Ch.Kenbry's Timbuktu; Ch Blanbeeridqe lringa-J; Ch. Blanbeeridge Karro (3); Ch.Batoka's Rooibaadjie (3); Ch. Kutari's Etwas Von Rechts; Ch Rutan Mpenzi Rafiki of Gera; and Ch. Bimbo's Ginger of Kali (4).
All of the dogs mentioned in the above paragraphs are but a few of the many great dogs who have contributed, and will continue to contribute, to the history of the Rhodesian Ridgeback.