The Phu Quoc Ridgeback is known by many names, including the Vietnamese Ridgeback, Chó Phú Quốc (translated from Vietnamese as Phu Quoc Dog), or chó xoáy (meaning ridged dog). Regarded as a rare, obscure, and sometimes wild breed in the majority of the world, the Phu Quoc Ridgeback (PQR) is actually quite numerous in its country of origin, and is considered the most popular and well-known native breed of Vietnam.
History and Origin of the Phu Quoc Ridgeback
Originating from the Phú Quốc Island off the Southwest coast of Vietnam, PQRs are an agile and athletic hunting hound with a large range of prey that includes mice, snakes, fish, deer, boar, and wild buffalo.
In addition to their hunting ability, these dogs are known for their intelligence, athleticism, and loyalty – traits that helped them develop and thrive alongside island natives.
It’s unknown how old this breed truly is, owing to the fact that many historical documents have been lost to war, but the unique cultural stories and dated records that remain speak to a breed that is, indeed, primitive.
All in all, PQRs are one of the easiest primitive breeds to live with. Anyone considering this breed, would do well to also consider their purpose and origin. Once a bond has been established with their owner, these dogs are extremely loyal and quite biddable, picking up on new tricks and commands without the need for much repetition.
Emphasis must be placed on the relationship between dog and owner, however, and a recognition that PQRs learn and train differently than modern breeds. Expect a self-serving, “what’s in it for me” attitude, and treat your PQR as a partner whose respect is to be earned, not demanded.
While not observed to be particularly “velcro”, or clingy, this trait is very much dog dependent. Attachment levels range from wanting to be in the same room, and unashamedly asking for snuggles.
During outings, PQRs have a tendency to check in regularly, and seem to have a manageable prey drive, though this is achieved through early and consistent training. Remember that instincts can be managed, but not eradicated.
Sports and Versatility
In the realm of sports, PQRs thrive. Words commonly used to describe these dogs are “versatile” and “adaptable”. It’s always a good idea to discuss with your breeder the plans you have for your dog, including a future in sports. This way, they can pair you with a litter/puppy with the appropriate drive and personality to do the activities you are interested in. For a list of recommended breeders, visit our Breeders page.
Several sports that PQRs can excel in include FastCAT/Coursing, nosework/scent work, agility, flyball, rally, and many others. Some dogs may be hesitant around water, but many individuals would be great candidates for dock diving.
Photo by MLBaer Photography
There are sports that aren’t recommended for this breed, such as bite work (IPG/PSA/PPD/etc). Despite what some may claim, PQRs lack the drives necessary to participate in these sports/types of training, as well as the correct bite/grip. They should not display aggression towards humans and should not be expected to do so. A Phu Quoc Ridgeback with a correct temperament and proper socialization will only ever see this type of sport as a game, and may shut down once pressure is applied (ie, the decoy shouting and “hitting” the dog with a noisy stick).
Due to the lack of drives, correct bite, and necessary aggression, should a club even accept a PQR as an “off” breed, the PQR/handler team will not make it far competitively.
Outside of this, Phu Quoc Ridgebacks are highly capable and will likely try anything at least once, as long as they are working alongside their person.
Characteristics and Appearance
As their name suggests, the Phu Quoc Ridgeback often sports a distinctive "ridge", where the fur along their spine grows the opposite direction to the fur on the rest of their body.
The Phu Quoc Ridgeback is one of three breeds to flaunt this fascinating mutation, the other two being the Thai Ridgeback, and the more globally recognized Rhodesian Ridgeback.
Starting directly behind the shoulders, the ridge should be clearly defined, covering at least two thirds of the length of the back. Ideally, two identical crowns should be present on either side where the ridge begins between the shoulders.
However, it should be noted, that being a primitive landrace, there is room for variation regarding the shape and overall character of each individual dog's ridge, as well as the lack thereof. Ridgeless dogs do exist within this breed and are important in our efforts of maintaining diversity, as well as reducing the incidence of Dermoid Sinus, a genetic neural tube defect similar to spina bifida, associated with the ridge gene.
In addition to their characteristic ridge, Phu Quoc Ridgebacks boast another unique feature, which is fairly common among a few other Asian landrace breeds (such as the Chow Chow and Sharpei) - a black or purple pigmented tongue. This can present as a tongue that is spotted or fully colored, with the latter being preferred.
PQRs also have extremely dexterous paws, which allow them to climb trees (and in suburban areas – fences).
This breed naturally comes in an array of colors and patterns. PQRs can be black, a variety of fawn shades, and black and tan. While merle is not naturally occurring (any incidence of the merle pattern is a sign of mixed breeding), common patterns include brindle, countershading (also known as urajiro), black masking, and tan points.
The striking “White Tiger” color/pattern is actually just a very light fawn with brindling. While it looks very impressive, it is not particularly rare nor “special”.
The coat/fur of the PQR should be short and fine, laying close to the body. Shedding is minimal-moderate, and the texture ranges from coarse (but still quite soft) to plush. These dogs are softer than they might appear, and this often surprises those who touch them for the first time.
Their body is slightly reminiscent of a sighthound, being well-muscled, but quite lanky, with their belly well tucked up behind a moderately deep chest. Being a multi-purpose hound, their physicality should denote an animal that is quick and agile, moving and hunting easily through both flat plains and rough jungle environments, as is expected in their country of origin.
In all aspects, this breed should be balanced. Their movement is harmonious and free flowing, with a smooth gait that suggests a tireless endurance.
The smallest of the ridged breeds, the standard calls for a height of 45 centimeters to 60 centimeters in males, and 40 centimeters to 55 centimeters in females (at the withers). And weight wise, about 30 to 45 lbs in males and about 25 to 40 lbs in females.
They are small, but tall - not ‘toy’ sized, or petite to the point of being fragile, nor are they particularly large, thick, or bulky, resembling a bully breed or the Thai Ridgeback. Their skin should be tight-fitting, not loose or wrinkly.
Any deviation from breed type is likely evidence of potential cross-breeding.
As a primitive breed that has largely relied on natural selection, the Phu Quoc Ridgeback is typically quite healthy. That being said, health testing on the breed is still pretty new, with only a few individuals having undergone specialized tests to prove physical soundness.
As mentioned earlier, Dermoid Sinus (DS) is a known issue present in the breed. It can be detected through genetic testing (Embark, Wisdom Panel, etc), and usually presents itself early on in the dog’s life. DS develops along the spine, more specifically, along the ridge. It will feel like a bump or a pimple, and in most cases is found around the crown of the ridge (between the shoulders), though it is not, by any means, limited to that area.
Dermoid Sinus can be removed by a knowledgeable veterinarian. It does require surgery, but this treatment is absolutely necessary since DS is considered a potentially fatal condition. The earlier it is resolved, the better - for both the health of the dog, and for the owner’s peace of mind.
Beyond this, we’re still uncovering the full picture in regards to the health of this breed. The most efficient way to do this is through the aforementioned health testing. Genetic testing is only the first step, and the PQRA urges potential puppy buyers to find a breeder who completes the recommended testing through OFA and/or PennHip.
Cost and Pricing
The Phu Quoc Ridgeback has a reputation for being one of “the most expensive dogs in the world”. A common question is - “do these dogs really cost $10,000?”.
Fortunately, the answer is no. Again, this breed is numerous in Vietnam, and is often sold for surprisingly cheap, sometimes even on auction.
In the US, expect prices ranging from $2,500-$3,500. These prices may vary depending on the price of shipping.
Phu Quoc Ridgebacks in Vietnam
For those interested in visiting this unique breed in their country of origin, please do so respectfully. There are many breeders in Vietnam, and plenty of PQRs on both the mainland, and on Phú Quốc island. Seeing this breed thriving in their original country is an exciting experience, and is a great way to get an accurate idea of how these dogs behave towards strangers, and with their owners.
There are many incredible and respected breeders in Vietnam, many of whom have allowed members of the PQRA to visit, sample, and import their dogs. We are incredibly grateful to these breeders for helping us in our efforts to preserve the Phu Quoc Ridgeback by breeding dogs with bloodlines unrelated to dogs currently in the US.