Phu Quoc Ridgeback

The Phu Quoc Ridgeback is the only breed of dogs that is actually native to Vietnam. Let us find out more about them!

Phu Quoc RidgebackPhu Quoc Ridgeback | photo: Frank Fox (cc-by-sa)

The smartest dog in Vietnam

On my tours to Phu Quoc Island in Vietnam's southernmost province Kien Giang, I met the only breed of dogs that is native to Vietnam and I fell in love with the smart and friendly Phu Quoc dogs.

About the Phu Quoc Ridgeback

Phu Quoc Ridgeback DogPhu Quoc Ridgeback | photo: foxtravels.net (cc-by-sa)

As the name already says, the Phu Quoc dog has a ridge on it's back, where the hair grows along the spine in the opposite direction. If the dog gets into an aggressive position, the ridge rises and the animal looks much more impressive, courageous and stronger.

the famous spotted tongueSpotted tongue | photo: foxtravels.net (cc-by-sa)

There are three ridgeback dogs worldwide: The Thai Ridgeback from Thailand, the Rhodesian Ridgeback (Rhodesian Lion Dog) from South Africa and Zimbabwe, and our own best friend, the Phu Quoc Ridgeback. The dog is with its 15-20 kilograms the smallest of the three ridgebacks.

playful dogsPhu Quoc Ridgebacks playing at a farmstead | photo: foxtravels.net (cc-by-sa)

Other typical traits of the dogs are the long, straight legs, the conical belly, a black or blue spotted tongue and webbed feet that enable the animals to swim and run exceptionally well. The Phu Quoc Ridgebacks are also able to climb trees up to a certain extent (I have seen none so far, maybe in the future) and they are also said to jump higher than many other dogs.

beautiful dogI have no idea what breed got mixed with the Phu Quoc Ridgeback here, but she is a beautiful girl | photo: foxtravels.net (cc-by-sa)

By the way, Phu Quoc Island is a beautiful travel destination. 40 kilometres of sandy beaches, friendly people, lots of nature and of course the friendliest dogs of Vietnam. The nature however gets slowly eaten away by resorts and amusement parks, since the goal of the Vietnamese tourism industry is to develop Phu Quoc as the best tourist destination.

the ridgeThe ridge that gives the dog it's name | photo: foxtravels.net (cc-by-sa)

Phu Quoc Ridgebacks are everywhere and they have absolutely no regards for the traffic. If one decides to take a nap on the street, warmed by the strong, tropical sun, then he will do that. If one decides to play catch me with his buddy between cars and motorbikes, it is okay as well...

Phu Quoc Ridgeback DogPhu Quoc Ridgeback | photo: foxtravels.net (cc-by-sa)

However, even if Phu Quoc is home to countless dogs, pure bred Phu Quoc Ridgebacks are rare. The Vietnam Kennel Association discloses that there are just around 700 pure bred, registered dogs in all of Vietnam. The breeders are still not a hundred percent sure what standards to set for the dogs, so at the moment they are not allowed to take part in international dog shows.

mixed dogsTwo mixed dogs, but both with Phu Quoc influence | photo: foxtravels.net (cc-by-sa)

At the Hanoi dog show of 2013, the winner was a Phu Quoc Ridgeback named Ven. His owner enlisted Ven just for fun, but in the end the dog won the first prize.

Most dogs on Phu Quoc Island however are mixed breeds. One often can distinguish the cross-bred foreign breed clearly, but many dogs feature at least one characteristic of the ridgeback.

DogsPhu Quoc puppy | photo: foxtravels.net (cc-by-sa)

Elderly islanders remember past times and tell that there originally were four colours of the breed:
Yellow, black, spotted and striped. The most valued ridgebacks are coloured black or yellow with black toes, nose and eyes. They also need the spotted tongue.

Phu Quoc Ridgebacks are originally bred as hunting dogs, but also for guarding people and property. Some people say they pulled carts as well, but I am a bit unsure about this. Compared to the other two ridgebacks, our Phu Quoc friend is quite small.

Since Vietnam tries to register the Phu Quoc Ridgeback at the international kennel associations, the dogs got quite expensive and more and more breeding kennels popped up. The international awareness is continuously increasing.

The dogs are exceptionally friendly. They are excellent guard dogs. As soon as you enter a plot of land on a farm or so on Phu Quoc Island, the omnipresent pack of dogs starts making a hell of a noise until their owner appears. Then they turn silent.

Phu Quoc puppyMy little friend | photo: foxtravels.net (cc-by-sa)

I never witnessed active aggression by dogs on the island and only once a female ridgeback showed signs of aggressive body language.

The animals are quite curious and intelligent. It is well known in Vietnam that if the owner creates a friendly relationship with his dog, that is based on mutual trust and respect, the dog is willing to learn every trick and has a lot of fun doing so. Ridgebacks are famous for being very loyal, but they need a lot of space and exercise.

Basically the Phu Quoc Ridgeback is a healthy and robust dog. They can reach an age of up to 16 years, which is quite a lot once you consider the nearly undeveloped veterinary medicine in Vietnam. There are just a few health issues, among them minor problems with the joints. Thanks to missing or faked vaccinations, the animals can get infected with the deadly parvovirus when transported from the island to Vietnam's mainlands. You should get a reliable vaccine for your dog if you plan to get one.

Dogs at the showroom of the pearl farmDogs at the showroom of the pearl farm | photo: foxtravels.net (cc-by-sa)

As a child I had a Spaniel, but usually I don't get warm with dogs easily since I am more of a cat person. I grew up with cats and speak fluent Cat. But I fear the friendly openness and playfulness of the Phu Quoc Ridgebacks managed to steal my heart.

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