Basenji Dog History, Health And Care

Introduction Of Basenji Dog Breed

The Basenji, also known as the African Barkless Dog, the Belgian Congo Dog, the African Bush Dog, the Congo Bush Dog, the Congo Hunting Terrier, the African Dingo, the Ango Angari, the Avuvi, the Congo Dog, the Congo Terrier, the Egyptian Dingo and the Zande dog, is one of the oldest of all dog breeds. “Basenji” in African means “Little Thing of the Bush.” Native names for the Basenji include M’bwa M’kubwa M’bwa Wanwitu, which means “the jumping-up-and-down Dog.” Basenjis were brought from the source of the Nile as gifts to the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt. This small, silky athletic dog, with its tightly twisted tail and up-pricked ears, has been an all-purpose hunting and companion dog for thousands of years. It is both a scenthound and a sighthound and has been trained both to point and to retrieve. It makes a wonderful urban companion, as long as it gets an enormous amount of regular exercise to satisfy its nearly limitless energy. The Basenji Club of America was formed in the mid-1940s, and the Basenji was accepted into the American Kennel Club for registration into the Hound Group in 1943.

The Basenji is one of the most unusual of all domestic dogs. Basenjis do not bark; instead, they yodel, chortle, howl, growl and/or crow. When on alert, the skin on their forehead wrinkles into an unusual shape that gives them a very worried look. They only have one breeding season a year, while most domestic dogs have at least two. They groom themselves fastidiously, like a cat will do, and are cat-like in other ways as well. They tend to favor green vegetables, which should be part of their regular diet.

Basenjis are small, compact dogs, with an average height of 16 to 17 inches at the shoulders and weighing on average between 22 and 24 pounds. Their coat is one of their most admirable features: it is short and fine, shines in the sun and never loses its brilliant luster. Acceptable coat colors are chestnut red, pure black, tricolor and brindle. All should have white feet, chest and tail tip, with white legs, blaze and collar being optional but acceptable as well. Minimal grooming is required for this breed.

Basenji Dog Breed Quick Facts

Affection Level 4/5
Apartment Friendly 3/5
Barking Tendencies 1/5
Cat Friendly 2/5
Child Friendly 2/5
Dog Friendly3/5
Exercise Need 4/5
Grooming Needs 1/5
Health Issues 2/5
Intelligence 5/5

Basenji – Apperance & Grooming


Basenjis have a distinctive appearance, which the AKC calls “smoothly muscular.” They are small dogs who pack a lot of power and are known for their gait which is marked by long, smooth, effortless strides. They should always be elegant and light on their feet. They have long legs and an elegant back, which leads out to a curled tail, which straightens when the dog runs. They carry their heads high and their long faces accented with almond-shaped, dark-rimmed brown eyes. Basenjis ears are small, erect, and slightly hooded. Their foreheads are wrinkled – a characteristic that is more exaggerated in puppyhood. Basenjis sport short, fine coats that come in several color variations: chestnut red, black, brindle (black stripes over chestnut base), or tricolor (black and chestnut), all with white feet, chests and tail tips. Some people compare the Basenji’s appearance to that of a miniature deer.

Size and Weight

Basenjis are typically 16 inches at the shoulder for females and 17 inches at the shoulder for males and weigh between 22 and 24 pounds. They are strong, athletic dogs who are more powerful than their size may indicate.

This breed is very light on its feet and are known for their distinctive, effortless gait. When they run, strides should be long, effortless and form straight lines. When they are moving normally, Basenjis always trot swiftly and proudly.

Coat and Color

Basenjis sport short, fine coats that come in several color variations: chestnut red, black, brindle (black stripes over chestnut base), or tricolor (black and chestnut). All should have white feet, chests, and tail tips. Some have white blazes at the center of the face and still others sport white collars – a ring of white around the neck. White, however, should never be the primary color of the dog.

Grooming Needs

Basenjis are very clean dogs who groom themselves with the vigilance of a cat. They do not emit a “dog odor” and should only require bathing once every few months. Their coats shed lightly year round, but the hair is short and the shedding is manageable for even the most picky housekeeper. Weekly brushing can help to eliminate stray hairs found about the house.

Weekly cleaning of teeth and ears can help keep bad breath and ear infections at bay. Active Basenjis will wear their nails down naturally, but if necessary, clip nails once per month.

Basenji – History and Health


The Basenji originated in Central Africa and is said to be “as old as the pyramids.” It originated from Zaire, now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo. When the Egyptian civilization fell, this breed almost lapsed into obscurity, but thankfully it was preserved by its African admirers. Hundreds of years later, a European explorer discovered the Basenji and brought a breeding pair to England in 1895. The breed was exhibited at the Crufts dog show as African Bush Dogs, but the pair shown there died of distemper shortly after the show. Additional Basenjis were brought to England, and also to America. In 1936, Olivia Burn visited the Belgian Congo with her husband and found remarkably true-breeding Basenjis there. She brought excellent specimens back to England, which became the foundation stock of the modern breed. She exhibited her Basenjis at Crufts in 1937, having already been registered with and recognized by the Kennel Club (England). Her Basenjis caused such attention that police were called to control the crowds.

The Basenji Club of Great Britain was formed in 1939. In 1941, an African-bred female was imported to Boston and ultimately was bred with a Basenji male who had been imported earlier. The result of that breeding was the first litter of Basenji puppies to be raised to maturity in the United States. Eventually, dog lovers from all parts of America became interested in this unique breed. The Basenji Club of America was established in the mid-1940s, and the breed was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1943, as a member of the Hound Group. The breed reached its peak of popularity in 2001, when a Basenji won Best in Show at the Crufts World Dog Show. Today’s Basenji is not widely popular but has fanatical support from those who fancy it.


Basenjis have an average lifespan of 10 to 14 years. Health concerns of particular risk for this breed may include cataracts, coloboma, corneal dystrophy, Fanconi syndrome, hemolytic anemia, hip dysplasia, immunoproliferative small intestinal disease, persistent pupillary membrane, progressive retinal atrophy, thyroid problems and hernias.

Basenji – Temperament & Personality


The Basenji is a unique breed of hound dog in that they do not bark. That is not to say they don’t make noise, because they are capable of growling, whining and even screaming. Light in the voice, and light on their feet,the Basenji is an agile, energetic and curious breed with a constant yen for adventure.

Activity Requirements

A Basenji needs lots of exercise. They love to run and jump, and if they do not burn off enough excess energy throughout the day, are prone to destructive chewing. Basenjis have been known to chew through walls when left alone and bored. They need to be walked several times a day and are best served by families with a large, fenced in yard for running. Basenjis can be wary of strangers and small children.

Originally bred to be hunting dogs, basenjis are stimulated by sight. If this breed spots a fast-moving object in the distance, such as a rabbit, or bird, he will take off after it. For this reason Basenjis should not be left off-leash in open areas.

In fenced-in areas, Basenjis should still be watched closely. They can scale fences in a single leap, but if that doesn’t work, a curious Basenji will dig under the fence in search of new activities.


Like most other breeds of hound dogs, the Basenji is intelligent and independent and takes time to decide if he will follow a command. Patience and confidence are needed when working with a Basenji. Breeders recommend training and socialization as early as possible to introduce the dog to new people, animals and stimuli. They can grow up to be wary and untrusting of new people and situations if not properly trained.

Highly intelligent, Basenjis enjoy problem-solving activities. If not stimulated enough in this way, this breed will find ways to stimulate themselves, including opening (or even chewing through) cabinets to find food or toys. They excel in agility training as well as lure courses, where dogs chase a mechanical lure around an enclosed track or field.

Behavioral Traits

Basenjis are not for the timid owner. They can be willful and dominant, so confidence is a must. Though they do not bark, Basenjis can howl and even scream, so this is by no means a silent breed.

Destructive behavior can often be a problem with this breed, so when leaving a Basenji alone, problem-solving toys and plenty of bones should be left behind for entertainment.

They can be territorial, thus making them wary of strangers. They can also be aggressive towards other animals, and because they enjoy chasing and hunting so much, families with cats or other small animals should probably not consider adopting a Basenji.

Photo Library of Basenji Dog

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