Vietnam’s Rare Phu Quoc Ridgeback

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Phu Quoc island, the idyllic paradise in Southern Vietnam is home to epic sandy white beaches, lush tropical flora and fauna, and many native species of sea and land animals. (Check out our curated travel guide to the amazing Phu Quoc island.) It is also home to the rare and unusual breed of dog – the Vietnamese Phu Quoc Ridgeback.

The Phu Quoc Ridgeback is the only breed that originates from Vietnam, specifically from Phu Quoc Island of Kien Giang province. It is one of only three Ridgeback breeds in the world, the other two being the Rhodesian Ridgeback and Thai Ridgeback. The name ‘ridgeback’ comes from the hair ridge that pokes out of their back.

With tufts of hair running down its spine, webbed feet, and pigmented tongues, Phu Quoc Ridgebacks have a distinctive and aristocratic look. A hunting dog, it is known for its muscular and slender body and a hook-shaped tapered tail. 

Phu Quoc Ridgeback
Phu Quoc Ridgeback // Photo on 

Read on to find out more about this exquisite breed, and if you adopt or foster a dog in Vietnam, chances are that it could be a Phu Quoc Ridgeback mixed breed, so read on to learn how to take care of it!

Where to See the Phu Quoc Ridgeback?

Phu Quoc Island is only a short plane ride away from Ho Chi Minh City, and while you are there, find the time to visit the Phu Quoc Dog Sanctuary. This conservation centre is home to purebred Phu Quoc Ridgebacks. Come here to see the breed in action! The centre includes a breeding area, a training area, and a wilderness zone – giving the dogs plenty of opportunities to hone their natural talents.

Otherwise, while you are out and about enjoying everything that Phu Quoc has to offer – including their amazing beaches, keep an eye out for the dogs kept by the Vietnamese people. Often times you will see the distinctive ridge poking out of their backs. While likely not purebred Phu Quoc Ridgebacks, these are usually friendly mixed breed dogs. 

Related article: The best beaches in Phu Quoc

Very much still a part of the Vietnamese island life, the Phu Quoc Ridgebacks mixed breeds are kept to guard farms and houses, to hunt vermin, and also simply as pets. Feel free to ask if you can pet them!

Phu Quoc Ridgeback at Bai Sao Beach, Phu Quoc
Phu Quoc Ridgeback at Bai Sao Beach, Phu Quoc // Photo on demen_phuquoc

A rare and fascinating dog

The Phu Quoc Ridgeback is amongst the rarest dog breeds of the world, with only less than a thousand purebred dogs recognised by the Vietnam Kennel Association. The breed made the global front pages in 2015 when Briton Catherine Lane brought two jet black Phu Quoc Ridgebacks home. The pair of dogs produced a litter of four puppies, each sold at £10,000.

Interestingly, given their scarcity, the Phu Quoc ridgeback still lacks a breed standard and is not accepted at many international dog shows. Although this is slowly changing, with Loc winning the Vietnam Champion Dog Show in 2017, despite only two months of training, beating out other dog breeds.

History of the Phu Quoc dog

History of the Phu Quoc dog
Phu Quoc Ridgeback is a kind of dog in Phu Quoc island, Vietnam only // Photo on demen_phuquoc

The history of the Phu Quoc Ridgeback is murky. It is believed that the dog has lived on the island for centuries and even thousands of years. The dogs roamed the wild island, and natural selection kept the wild dogs breed pure.

The Vietnamese islanders have also kept the Phu Quoc Ridgeback, a natural hunter, to catch fish and hunt small animals. With its webbed feet, the Phu Quoc Ridgeback excels at swimming, running, and many can even climb trees. The French colonial was the first to officially classify the Phu Quoc Ridgeback as a specific breed in the 19th century.

The Phu Quoc Ridgeback is often compared to its neighbour the Thai Ridgeback, with the conjecture that they might be closely related breeds. However, they have distinctive features, and the Phu Quoc Island dog is considered more intelligent, trainable, and protective of their territory, than their Thai counterparts.

Interesting features of the Phu Quoc Island Canine

features of the Phu Quoc Island Canine
“First brindle, second gold, third black, fourth dotted” reserved for Phu Quoc dogs // Photo on

Vietnamese folks have the phrase ‘first brindle, second gold, a third black, fourth dotted’ to describe Vietnamese dogs. This refers to the coat colours that the beautiful island Ridgeback comes in – tiger-striped with dark reddish-brown marks, golden brown, inky black, and spotted hair. Their coat is short and coarse and their ridges should be darker regardless of hair colour. The Phu Quoc Ridgeback has a small head with a squarely-built body, their attractive forehead wrinkles when they concentrate.

A medium-sized dog, the Phu Quoc Ridgeback males weigh 18 kg – 24 kg usually, while females weigh 12 kg – 18 kg. The average life expectancy of the breed is around 14-18 years.

Ridgeback Breeds Temperament

The Phu Quoc Ridgeback has a similar temperament to the Rhodesian Ridgeback, and the Thai Ridgeback, all are considered to be highly intelligent and very trainable dog breeds.

They are generally easier to train than other dog breeds and will be able to pick up instructions easily. Phu Quoc Ridgeback puppies can be house trained and taught basic commons in just a matter of days.

Phu Quoc Ridgebacks are friendly pets, and have a relaxed demeanour, making them easy to keep around children. They are sociable creatures and tend to do well with other breeds. They are also loyal and courageous and will defend territory belonging to their owners. Separation anxiety is not an issue when it comes to the Phu Quoc Ridgeback.

Considering Owning a Phu Quoc Ridgeback?

The Phu Quoc dogs are high energy and intelligent dogs
The Phu Quoc dogs are high energy and intelligent dogs // Photo on bluevelocityridgebacks

Vietnam is a dog-friendly place, with many Vietnamese and foreigners alike keeping dogs as pets. If you are considering adopting a Phu Quoc Ridgeback, or a Phu Quoc Ridgeback mixed breed, here’s what you need to consider!

The Phu Quoc dogs are high energy and intelligent dogs. If you live in a tiny apartment, consider getting other small pets instead. Phu Quoc Ridgebacks love digging and need plenty of space to roam about.

Make sure you have the time to train them, and take them for intensive exercise sessions and on regular walks.

A great thing about the Phu Quoc Ridgeback is its independence, your dog will not need constant companionship throughout the day. However, given this trait of independence, it is also good to introduce the dog to your home and family at a young age, so that it can socialise with your children, other dogs or animals you keep as pets.

Training Phu Quoc Ridgebacks

The Phu Quoc Ridgeback is a very trainable dog and can be easily taught many tricks and tasks. Be clear and consistent with your commands. As an intelligent hunting dog, do also expect the Phu Quoc dog to test boundaries and find loopholes in your training.

When house training the Phu Quoc Ridgeback, it is good to keep it on a clear routine. For example, take your Phu Quoc Ridgeback out for walks at the same time every day, also be clear on when meal times are and do not allow your pet to have food between meals.

Start training your Phu Quoc Ridgebacks at a young age, it’s good to start socialising them with other dogs, small pets, and children as a puppy. They respond well to positive reinforcements such as treats.

Exercising the Phu Quoc Ridgebacks

Exercising the Phu Quoc Ridgebacks
True to their island heritage, this breed loves to swim // Photo on

Phu Quoc Ridgebacks are agile hunting dogs by nature, they need to exercise regularly every day to keep mentally and physically strong.

True to their island heritage, this breed loves to swim. If you live in the city, apart from taking your Phu Quoc Ridgeback on regular walks, find them a spot where they can practice their digging skills and take them sometimes to a swimming pool or pond. This is the best way to give them a semblance of island life.

What to Feed your Phu Quoc Ridgeback

As a breed that has lived as wild dogs on the Vietnamese island of Phu Quoc not too long ago, it is unsurprising that the Phu Quoc Ridgeback is capable of finding food on its own. In the right conditions, the canine will hunt small animals and insects as food, and will also eat certain types of leaves and grass.

As a pet, of course, you will be able to feed your purebred Phu Quoc Ridgeback or Phu Quoc Ridgeback mixed breeds regular dog food. Make sure it gets sufficient proteins from animals, such as boiled chicken, beef, pork, and even seafood. Many owners in Vietnam also supplement their diets with cooked rice.

Health issues of Phu Quoc Ridgebacks

Health issues of Phu Quoc Ridgebacks
Given the Phu Quoc Ridgebacks’ love for running and climbing // Photo on

Phu Quoc Ridgebacks mixed breeds suffer often from ailments like hip dysplasia patella luxation bloat, arthritis, and parvovirus. Be sure to send your pet for regular check-ups as these illnesses may seriously impact their quality of life.

Given the Phu Quoc Ridgebacks’ love for running and climbing, special focus should be given to their bones, joints, and muscles.

Another issue to look out for is making sure the paws of your Phu Quoc Ridgeback are healthy, given their tendency to dig, it is easy to tear or injure their paws.

Phu Quoc Ridgebacks Grooming Requirements

The coat of the Phu Quoc Ridgebacks is short, tame, hair; they do not shed easily but do need to be kept clean.

You can bathe your Phu Quoc Ridgeback once or twice a week. The short and silk fur dries quickly. During bath time, be sure to inspect their paws and ears for any signs of infection, and take extra care to keep those parts clean.

Island Living

We understand why these dogs call Phu Quoc Island home – amazing coastlines, immaculate sunsets, an endless catch of the day… this is simply paradise. Traditional seafood villages line some of the most pristine beaches in Vietnam.

The Phu Quoc dogs are a valuable (and cute) part of the island’s history and culture. Be sure to get to know them while you are visiting.

 Read more on the fascinating culture of Vietnam.

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Huan Phu
Editor at Vietnam Is Awesome
Unearthing untold stories in the heart of Vietnam. Your eyes to the unseen, your voice to the unheard. Exploring the rich tapestry of this nation, one headline at a time. Join me on this journalistic journey!

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