13 Rhodesian Ridgeback Colors & Markings (With Pictures)

Different Rhodesian Ridgeback colors

The different Rhodesian Ridgeback colors contribute to the popularity of the breed as much as the backward-growing hair on its back, after which it is named. 

Understandably, trying to select a Rhodesian Ridgeback from the wide array of color variants is a daunting task, but with the right knowledge of these colors, you can make a better decision based on your preferences.

This article shall guide you through everything you need to know about the Rhodesian Ridgeback’s colors and markings, both standard and non-standard. If you want to be more familiar with these colors, read on!

How Many Rhodesian Ridgeback Colors Are There?

Rhodesian Ridgeback puppies running on an open field

There are a total of 13 Rhodesian Ridgeback colors, nine of which are recognized as standard colors by the American Kennel Club (AKC). Rhodesian Ridgebacks that come in these colors may join AKC shows.

These standard colors are all varieties of the Rhodesian Ridgeback’s wheaten coat, with some in reference to its nose color as well.

On the other hand, the other four colors that are not recognized by the AKC are produced by breeders to create more color varieties for the breed. This is done through the introduction of genes that results in other patterns.

Here is a table summarizing the 13 colors of the Rhodesian Ridgeback:

DescriptionTypeAKC Code
Light WheatenStandard120
Red WheatenStandard156
Light Wheaten Black Nose (Lt Whtn Blk Nose)Standard467
Light Wheaten Brown Nose (Lt Whtn Brn Nose)Standard468
Red Wheaten Black Nose (Rd Whtn Blk Nose)Standard469
Red Wheaten Brown Nose (Rd Whtn Brn Nose)Standard470
Wheaten Black Nose (Wheaten Blk Nose)Standard471
Wheaten Brown Nose (Wheaten Brn Nose)Standard472
Black WheatenNon-StandardNot Recognized
BrindleNon-StandardNot Recognized
Black and TanNon-StandardNot Recognized
Silver or GrayNon-StandardNot Recognized

Additionally, there are also two non-standard or alternate markings recognized by the AKC. This means that Rhodesian Ridgebacks carrying these markings may be registered but may not join conformation shows.

These two markings are summarized in the table below:

DescriptionTypeAKC Code
White MarkingsAlternate014
Black MaskAlternate004

This wide color variety, along with its markings, makes the Rhodesian Ridgeback an even more interesting breed to have. The details of each of these colors and markings will be discussed in the succeeding sections.

What Does the “Wheaten” Color Mean?

As a color, wheaten refers to a pale yellow-beige shade similar to that of wheat. In dogs, this also refers to a pattern of reddish, banded, or variegated hair with a lighter root and a darker tip. 

The gene that causes this difference in shade is called the agouti. It is also responsible for a dog’s paler colors on the underside, and darker colors on its back, which is a primary characteristic of a Rhodesian Ridgeback as well.

This type of color may also vary from very light to dark red in the Rhodesian Ridgeback and is one of the determinants of its purity as a breed. Hence, you can observe this in all the standard colors of this breed.

13 Rhodesian Ridgeback Colors

Here’s a detailed list of all standard and non-standard AKC Rhodesian Ridgeback colors. We’ve thrown in some pictures, too, to help you visualize your next pet!

1. Light Wheaten Rhodesian Ridgeback

Light wheaten Rhodesian Ridgeback

One of the most basic colors of the Rhodesian Ridgeback, the light wheaten, is on the paler end of the wheaten spectrum. This color is comparable to yellow, beige, or cream.

Interestingly, the roots of this coat color are even lighter than the rest of the coat.

Overall, the color of a light wheaten is close to that of a yellow Labrador Retriever or the light golden shade of a Golden Retriever. The ridge at the back will also be light but may appear a bit darker than the rest of the coat.

Being a standard color, a light wheaten Rhodesian Ridgeback may compete in conformation shows as long as it follows all other standards for the breed,

2. Red Wheaten Rhodesian Ridgeback

Red wheaten Rhodesian Ridgeback

Contrary to the light wheaten, the red wheaten Rhodesian Ridgeback is on the darker end of the wheaten shade. Its color looks like the burnished red of a maturing crop. Further, it may also range from dark brown to deep red.

Given the wheaten trait, the hair of the red wheaten Rhodesian Ridgeback would also have relatively lighter roots than its tips. However, for this dog, the roots are still darker compared to other lighter-colored Ridgebacks.

Further, like the rest of the standard Ridgeback colors, the red wheaten Rhodesian Ridgeback sports a short, dense, sleek, and glossy coat. Its coat is neither wooly nor silky. 

3. Wheaten Rhodesian Ridgeback

Wheaten Rhodesian Ridgeback

The wheaten is the most basic of all the colors of the Rhodesian Ridgeback and is compared to the shade of an abundant wheat field. 

Further, this hue falls somewhere in between the light and the red wheaten Rhodesian Ridgebacks. Hence, this particular shade should neither be too light nor too dark.

The wheaten coat on this dog also causes it to have a lighter shade on its underside and a darker shade on its back.

4. Light Wheaten Black Nose Rhodesian Ridgeback

Light wheaten black nose Rhodesian Ridgeback

This particular color variant of the Rhodesian Ridgeback is a dog with a light wheaten coat paired with a black nose. Through and through, this dog is simply a wheaten Ridgeback with a dark-colored muzzle. 

Light wheaten black nose Rhodesian Ridgebacks also sport dark eyes. When it comes to conformation, a darker shade of brown in their eyes is preferred for this specific color.

Further, the coat of this variant needs to be similar to the light wheaten shade. In other words, it must be creamy or yellowish.

5. Light Wheaten Brown Nose Rhodesian Ridgeback

Light wheaten brown nose Rhodesian Ridgeback
Image credit: simba_the_red_nose_rr / Instagram

The light wheaten brown nose Rhodesian Ridgeback matches the light wheaten coat variant but sports a liver or brown nose. This brown nose is from a recessive gene, which makes this combo a rarer kind.

The brown muzzle has been a part of the breeding program by some Rhodesian Ridgeback breeders. They believe that this feature is critical to maintaining the vibrancy of the breed’s coat.

Further, these brown-nosed dogs must be paired with amber-colored eyes for them to be within the acceptable standards for the breed.

6. Red Wheaten Black Nose Rhodesian Ridgeback

Red wheaten black nose Rhodesian Ridgeback

The red wheaten shade of the Rhodesian Ridgeback has a rich deep red or dark brown color. This variant also usually sports black as its nose or muzzle color.

Black hair is also present in this color variant of the Rhodesian Ridgeback. These may be interspersed on its neck, head, or chest area. It may also include a widow’s peak or dark forehead fur. 

Further, the black nose of this coat color variant is often paired with dark eyes. The eye color must be as deep a shade of brown as possible.

Observe the deep red shade of the black-nosed red wheaten Rhodesian Ridgebacks by watching this video:

Meine Rhodesian Ridgebacks

7. Red Wheaten Brown Nose Rhodesian Ridgeback

Red wheaten brown nose Rhodesian Ridgeback
Image credit: soph_and_ridgeback_bonny / Instagram

The red wheaten brown nose variant of the Rhodesian Ridgeback displays the dark brown or red shades of the standard red wheaten. One difference is that this variant sports a liver-colored nose.

This brown or liver nose almost has the same shade as the Rhodesian Ridgeback’s red wheaten coat, giving this variant a unique look.

Further, its brown nose often comes with amber-colored eyes, which are also brought about by this dog’s recessive features. The darker the shade of the eye, the more desirable.

8. Wheaten Black Nose Rhodesian Ridgeback

Wheaten black nose Rhodesian Ridgeback

This is one of the most common combinations for the Rhodesian ridgeback breed — the classic wheaten paired with a black nose.

As described for the wheaten category, the coat color for this particular color variant must be in between the light wheaten and the dark wheaten. This may somewhere be along the shades of light red or plain brown.

Further, the black pigmentation on its muzzle must only be on the nose and lips but may not extend around the eyes. The eye color, just like for all black-nosed Rhodesian Ridgebacks, must be dark brown. 

9. Wheaten Brown Nose Rhodesian Ridgeback

Wheaten brown nose Rhodesian Ridgeback

As a standard coat color, this wheaten shade in the Rhodesian Ridgeback blends perfectly well with its brown or liver nose. This color variant creates a balanced wheaten shade from the nose down to the tail.

Since the gene responsible for its liver nose is recessive, this color combination is much rarer than its black-nosed counterpart.

However, its liver markings must only be found on the nose, lips, and around the eyes. Further, the Ridgeback’s eyes must also be of dark amber color to comply with breed standards. 

10. Black Wheaten Rhodesian Ridgeback

Black wheaten Rhodesian Ridgeback
Image credit: charl0tte_br0wn / Instagram

The black wheaten, or simply black Rhodesian Ridgeback, is the rarest among all non-AKC recognized colors. Its hair may appear as solid black, but with closer inspection, you would notice its lighter base and darker tips.

These lighter roots are more visible in certain parts of the Rhodesian Ridgeback’s body, such as its shoulders, the sides of its neck, and near its britches. 

The black Rhodesian Ridgeback’s lighter shade may also peek more on its underside, while its back reflects a darker color. Further, it will most likely sport a black nose and dark brown eyes.

11. Brindle Rhodesian Ridgeback

Brindle Rhodesian Ridgeback

Brindle is a type of striped pattern that a Rhodesian Ridgeback may have. This coat variant may be a combination of fawn and black, red and black, or isabella and gray. 

This color pattern is also commonly found in Great Danes, Greyhounds, and Boxers. The brindle pattern is believed to be caused by a recessive gene. That said, you can expect brindle Ridgebacks not to be as common.

Since brindle is not a standard color for Rhodesian Ridgebacks, these dogs are most likely mixed breeds. However, many fanciers still consider brindle as a color variant of the Rhodesian Ridgeback.

I recall an old neighbor who used to have what he claimed as a pure brindle Rhodesian Ridgeback whom he named Brin. This dog, although having a pleasant and active temperament, became a topic of discussion because of its claimed purity.

It was not until Brin’s true lineage was traced that it was found that her grandfather from her mother’s side was a brindle-patterned Boxer, and there were also traces of mixing from her father’s side that gave her this color.

Regardless, Brin continued to be a well-received member and a responsible guardian of the family.

12. Black and Tan Rhodesian Ridgeback

Black and tan Rhodesian Ridgeback
Image credit: liljohnrhodesians /Instagram

The black and tan variant is a non-standard color combination in Rhodesian Ridgebacks. This variant is predominantly a solid black coat with tan points or markings that look like highlights on its body.

The agouti gene is primarily responsible for creating this type of color pattern in Rhodesian Ridgebacks. 

Since this is a recessive trait, both parents must carry this gene to have a 25% chance of producing black and tan puppies.

13. Silver or Gray Rhodesian Ridgeback

Silver or gray Rhodesian Ridgeback
Image credit: michelevankooijk / Instagram

In Rhodesian Ridgebacks, silver or gray color, also occasionally known as blue, is caused by the dilution gene acting on its color. This type of color is more pronounced in puppies, giving them a striking silver appearance.

These silver puppies would also have blue eyes. As they grow into taller adults, their colors start to become paler or less gray, closer to the color of a brown paper bag. 

Further, their eyes may stay blue or become amber as they mature. Expect their muzzles to be gray in color as well, which is outside of the standard colors of black and brown.

Rhodesian Ridgeback Markings

Ideally, a Rhodesian Ridgeback must have a solid wheaten color that may be of varying shades. However, the AKC permits two alternate markings for the Rhodesian Ridgeback — white markings and black masks.

These two have their own rules for desirability as well, which are found below.

1. White Markings

Rhodesian Ridgeback with white markings

A Rhodesian Ridgeback may have small white markings on its chest and toes. These markings may exist on any of the standard colors of the Rhodesian Ridgeback.

On the other hand, excessive white markings on the chest or belly areas and white markings above the toes are not desirable. Further, white markings must not exist on any other parts of its body, no matter how minimal. 

2. Black Mask

Rhodesian Ridgeback with black mask

A black mask on the face of a Rhodesian Ridgeback is permissible on any of its standard colors, from light wheaten to dark wheaten.

However, this feature must not continue with a solid mask over the eyes. Further, this dark mask must also be accompanied by dark-colored ears.

In addition, any solid black marking found anywhere else on the Rhodesian Ridgeback’s body is also not preferable.

Rhodesian Ridgeback Breed Standards & Disqualifications

The AKC breed standard of the Rhodesian Ridgeback clearly recognizes wheaten and all its possible shades from light to red as permissible, along with its two official nose colors, which are black and brown or liver.

As a summary, below are the nine standard Rhodesian Ridgeback colors that are allowed to join official conformation shows:

  • Light wheaten
  • Red wheaten
  • Wheaten
  • Light wheaten black nose
  • Light wheaten brown nose
  • Red wheaten black nose
  • Red wheaten brown nose
  • Wheaten black nose
  • Wheaten brown nose

That said, black or black wheaten, brindle, black and tan, and silver or gray are considered impure and disqualified from joining shows.

However, for dark red wheaten colors, especially brown-nosed ones, interspersed black hair may occasionally appear on its neck, head, and chest area and may also form a widow’s peak.

This may be considered, but excessive black, including saddles or sabling, is not acceptable.

In terms of nose and eye color combinations, a black nose should always be paired with dark brown eyes, while a brown or liver nose must always come with amber eyes. 

In terms of markings, both clear-faced or black-masked Rhodesian Ridgebacks are equally acceptable, but a solid black mask must not continue over the eyes. Darker ears must also accompany darker masks.

When it comes to white markings, they must not be excessive and should only be found on the chest, belly, and toes of the Rhodesian Ridgeback. It should not be higher than the toes, or else it becomes undesirable.

It must not be found as well on any other parts of the body, which also holds true for any solid black markings.

Rhodesian Ridgeback Coat Color Genetics

Two adult Rhodesian Ridgebacks sitting on dirt

Understanding what causes the wheaten effect that is common to all the shades of the Rhodesian Ridgeback gives us a better understanding of this breed’s beautiful coat. 

The gene responsible for the difference in the shade within the same hair of the Rhodesian Ridgeback is called the A locus or the agouti gene. 

The wild type of this gene is the one present in the Rhodesian Ridgeback, which allows it to control the release of melanin, enabling it to produce both black and red pigmentation. 

As the hair of the dog grows, this agouti protein competes in binding with the melanocortin receptor, which also balances the production of the red pigment, pheomelanin. and the black pigment, eumelanin

This competition of the agouti protein with the melanocortin receptor results in differences in the hair’s shade along its length and creates the many standard hues of the Rhodesian Ridgeback, from light to red wheaten.

On the other hand, for the black and black and tan colors, it is the K locus that determines how solid the Ridgeback’s color should be. Combined with the agouti gene, it creates the black wheaten’s pattern as well.

Further, the K-locus may also be the one responsible for the possibility of the brindle pattern existing in the Rhodesian Ridgeback.

Finally, for the silver or gray Rhodesian Ridgeback, the fading of its color is primarily brought about by the D locus in dogs or the dilute gene. To drive this dilution, two dogs that carry this allele must be present.

Frequently Asked Questions

Two Rhodesian Ridgeback puppies sitting on the grass

Are There Black Rhodesian Ridgebacks?

Yes, black Rhodesian Ridgebacks do exist and are a rare variety. However, black is not one of the standard colors recognized by the AKC for this breed; hence, black Rhodesian Ridgebacks are usually not purebred dogs.

Further, black Rhodesian Ridgebacks may appear as solid black, but if observed closely, they are actually black wheaten in color. This means that their strands of hair may appear black but would have lighter-colored roots.

Can Rhodesian Ridgebacks Be Brindle?

Yes, Rhodesian Ridgebacks may have a brindle pattern, similar to those of Great Danes, Greyhounds, and Boxers. 

This type of pattern is also not recognized by the AKC and may only be produced by introducing the brindle gene through crossbreeding. That said, brindle Rhodesian Ridgebacks are likely to have impure lineages.

Final Thoughts

Studying the Rhodesian Ridgeback’s coat colors may be tricky due to its single color or base pattern of wheaten distributed into different shades.

However, all of these hues are equally appealing, along with their combination with the standard black and brown noses, as well as brown eyes and amber eyes.

As it boils down to the individual owner’s preference, just ensure to pay attention to the breed standards and disqualifications in case you are planning to join conformation shows in the future.

What particular wheaten shade and nose color of the Rhodesian Ridgeback interests you most? We would love to hear your thoughts about the Rhodesian Ridgeback colors in the comments section below!

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