The Dog Breed That Once Hunted Lions

Dogs are awesome, and capable of many impressive things. However, there are limits to what our canine companions can do. You can throw a dog a frisbee and watch him leap to catch it in the air, but he can't fly after it. You can teach dogs to sit and speak, but good luck trying to get them to play the piano. Some dogs are even great hunting companions, but it's not like you can just take them to hunt lions. Anymore.

Before we continue, a disclaimer: Obviously, you should never hunt lions, and even if you for some reason had to, we realize that it would be technically possible to hunt them with any dog. That doesn't mean it would be a smart move to take your labrador retriever on a safari. It would probably end pretty badly for Buster, who just wanted to play with the big cat with the funny mane. However, there is one particular breed with a history of facing off with huge, muscular feline predators with some success. Behold! This is the dog breed that once hunted lions.

The Rhodesian Ridgeback specialized in annoying the lion

Look, lions are big. There is no mastiff or Great Dane or St. Bernard out there that wouldn't get their tail handed to them in a direct confrontation with one. However, there are all sorts of roles a dog can play in hunting. As the American Kennel Club tells us, the Rhodesian Ridgeback is a strong, athletic animal that can weigh over 85 pounds ... which, of course, still means that your average lion considers the dog to be in the "light snack" weight class. The breed developed from an assortment of European dogs and South African Khoi dogs over hundreds of years, with 19th Century Rhodesian hunter Cornelius van Rooyen putting in the finishing touches. The end result was a sturdy and tenacious big game hunting dog breed that excelled in "tracking and baying" — in other words, finding the lion and getting on its nerves. In fact, the Ridgeback was so good at this that it was known as the African Lion Hound before the advent of good long-distance rifles ended the need for big game hunting dogs. 

Eukanuba's Breedopedia describes the Ridgeback's lion-targeting method: Instead of engaging with the lion directly, the dogs would perform numerous feint attacks until the lion was left completely bewildered, and the hunter had ample time to land his shot. Yes, the Rhodesian Ridgeback's hunting style was essentially Confuse-a-Cat, well before Monty Python filmed their sketch of the same name.