Did you know there’s a dog that doesn’t bark and acts feline more than canine? Meet the Basenji, a highly active hunting dog and one of the oldest breeds in the world.
Originally from Africa, a Basenji makes for a great companion during hunting expeditions. Perhaps it’s their knack for adventure and wonderful scenting skills that allow them to be such great hunting dogs.
Some call the breed, “small wild thing from the bush,” while others refer to them as, “jumping up and down dog.”
What’s the story behind their nicknames and are they good family pets?
Here is what you need to know about the Basenji.
Are you a fan of archaic history and do you enjoy going back in time? Then the Basenji is the right breed for you, so to speak.
On the whole, Basenji historians have been able to link the breed at around 2700-3000 BC. In fact, engravings and paintings found inside pyramids describe a dog similar to Basenjis. Furthermore, around the area known today as Liberia, drawings were found portraying hunting dogs in 6000 BC.
We do know that this breed made it to Germany and other areas of Europe from the 17th century and on. There were plenty of pictures featuring a small dog with a short and sleek coat aside their masters.
Tribes in Congo, Liberia and Sudan would use their dogs to help flush out prey from tall grass, while their masters set up for the kill. The great Wild Thing couldn’t bark, so the tribal hunters set up pebbles around the dog’s neck, which would produce a rattling noise. In addition, not only were these dogs quiet, careful and alert, but they could leap straight in the air above the elephant grass to look around for the prey. Couple all of that with their intelligence, and you can now see why the Basenji was so popular.
Modern Era Basenji
Once the 20th century came around, things would prove to move quickly for the Basenji. Most of the excitement came from correspondence between the English explorers in North Africa and natives of the U.K.
An early batch of the breed to England didn’t survive the elements such as distemper and other unknown illnesses. In 1936, another import of Basenjis would settle and survive in England. Boko and Bongo the first litter. The following year, in 1937, the dogs would show up at dog shows.
Then the English Kennel Club decides to grant recognition to the breed in 1937. Two years later, the first club of the breed forms and is aptly called, The Basenji Club of Great Britain.
Conversely, the first imports of Basenjis to arrive in the U.S. was back in the late 1930’s, according to the Basenji Club of America, which would form in 1942. The following year, the American Kennel Club would recognize the breed. In 1945, a Basenji would become the first to win the Hound Group American Kennel Club Championship Show.
Interestingly, the breed nearly becomes extinct in Australia during the 1960’s. The first imports from New Zealand land in Australia to a female breeder, Beryl Hancock. Hancock is responsible for reviving the Basenji breed and bringing about interest in Australia.
Today, the Basenji belongs in the Herding Group and ranks 88th most popular breed, according to the American Kennel Club’s rankings.
Basenjis are a small breed with high energy. According to the American Kennel Club’s standards, a male can stand 17 inches to the withers. A female can stand 16 inches in height.
Males can weigh up to 24 pounds, while females can come in at 22 pounds.
A barkless dog that acts more like cat seems almost cartoon-ish. Yet, this is exactly the Basenji in a nutshell. You will find them cleaning themselves and playing like a feline. Although they may not bark, or as disruptive as a typical canine bark, this breed isn’t completely silent. They do produce a yodeling sound when they are anxious or upset.
In addition, the Basenji loves a good chase and don’t be surprise to find them chasing down smaller animals. This is a running breed and a rather fast dog at that. You may find this breed climbing up things like trees or leaping all over the place. Basenjis are a very playful breed.
However, they will protect their domain and family. This makes them a sort of different dangerous. You may not hear them barking but you will hear something when this breed feels its property and family are under threat.
One of the biggest traits about this breed is their curiosity. As a sighthound with great eyes, and a knack for using their noses, it’s not uncommon to see this breed investigating the property on a common basis. Being that they are curious, a Basenji may try to wander about. You’ll need to keep an eye out on this breed.
Intelligent and independent, training a Basenji can be a pain in the neck. A breed that does require a bit of patience and fairness.
If this is your first rodeo, then the Basenji is a good dog to have. They aren’t incredibly difficult to raise, care, and maintain. This breed is good with children, and they play well with others including dogs and cats. Since they don’t bark, this makes them more than ideal for apartment living, although the breed would much prefer open space to run and explore.
All in all, the Basenji is adventurous, charming and a very loving dog that enjoys affection from their family.
Basenjis are a very healthy breed with few concerns and can live a life expectancy of 13 to 14 years on average.
You can reduce those odds even better when you buy from a reputable breed. Always make sure the breeder can present you with proper documentation and health clearances. Of course, bringing your dog to the veterinarian’s office regularly helps too.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy, which is a group of genetic diseases of the eye, that causes degeneration to the retina over time, can occur in the Basenji. When the photoreceptor cells deteriorate over time the chances of your dog going blind enhances.
Another issue that seems to be found with the Basenji on occasion is Fanconi Syndrome. This condition affects the kidney or the renal tubules. Fanconi Syndrome causes an excess of glucose, bicarbonates, phosphates, uric acid and potassium to excrete in the dog’s urine. Thankfully, the disease is rare. The results aren’t pretty and in most cases this syndrome will lead to muscle waste, acidosis and death.
A disease of the immune system known as Hemolytic Anemia, which is when the body attacks and destroys its own red blood cell count. This translates into jaundice and anemia.
Basenji Enteropathy, a disease that this breed is most likely to suffer from than any other breed, hence the name, is an inflammatory digestive condition. There is no cure for this condition, although you may control it through weight management. This malabsorption of the intestines can lead to chronic diarrhea, nausea and loss of protein.
Finally, this breed fares well when it comes to conditions like Hip Dysplasia and Hypothyroidism. In fact, the Basenji ranks 159th out of 175 breeds for Hip Dysplasia and only a small percentage of this breed will suffer from Hypothyroidism.
Early socialization and introducing this breed to other dogs, children and strangers at an early will help produce a friendlier dog in the future. Obedience and other training activities will require some patience and a positive, reaffirming hand. These dogs don’t respond well to anger and visible discontent.
If you have gardens, flowers or anything you value with mulch, dirt, and a root; keep an eye out on your Basenji, as they tend to enjoy plenty of digging. They are very playful and will require attention and regular exercise. Daily walks are necessary, and you should shoot for about 45 minutes a day outdoors with them. That, or keep them busy mentally. This isn’t a dog that tolerates boredom or being alone.
At best, you’ll need to bathe this breed three times per year. They don’t produce much of an odor. The Basenji is a fairly easy breed to care for. Trim their nails when you notice them clinking on the floor or overgrowing. Checking their ears for bacteria or infections once a month.
A highly active breed that only needs your affection, time, and plenty of exercise.
Most Basenji owners feed their puppies puppy food up until 6-9 months. The usual amount seems to be around four cups or three meals per day. Ultimately, the amount reduces as the dog becomes an adult.
3/4 to 1.5 cups of top quality dry kibble per day should suffice. Meat as the first ingredient is always best for the dog. This can be chicken, turkey, lamb or salmon. Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids will help produce a better coat and promote healthier skin.
Feeding your dog twice a day helps reduce the chances of bloating. A meal in the morning and then again in the evening seems to work well for most Basenji owners.
Of course, what and how much your dog eats will depend on their age, activity rate, and metabolism.
A typical Basenji ranging from 22-24 pounds will require about 709-756 calories per day.
Finally, you should always leave your dog plenty of fresh, drinking water.
One of the things that set this dog apart from others is its flashy, glistening, short coat. Their coats were bred this way years ago because of the muggy and hot conditions in North Africa.
According to the American Kennel Club, the Basenji’s coat comes in these colors: brindle and white, red and white, black tan and white, black and white. The acceptable marking for this breed is brindle.
Interesting Basenji Facts
- Many believe that the Israel and Ethiopian Wolf are ancestors of the Basenji.
- This breed is part of “Schensi” dog group, which is described as wild and not domesticated.
- In Spike Milligan’s war diaries, “Mussolini,” a reference is made pertaining to this breed. “If you want to help, Milligan, act like a Basenji.”
- Most Basenji puppies are born during the winter season. Females usually mate once a year.
- Their paws are different from other breed as their middle toes are partially grown together.
The Basenji may be one of the smallest breeds in the Hound Group, but they have just as big of hearts as any dog around.
For centuries, the breed’s unique hunting abilities along with their playful and compassionate personalities won them favor with people from all walks of life.
Today, the natural talent still exists in one of the oldest breeds around, but it’s the role of companion, in which the Basenji thrives at best.