Basenji is a dog with an independent and alert character. It comes from Central Africa, and in fact, it is also called a Congo dog.
Its most unusual characteristic is that it does not bark, but instead emits a sound similar to Tyrolean singing. In addition, it is one of the dog breeds that smells the least.
- Size and Weight: The Basenji breed typically weighs around 24.25 Lbs for males and 20.94 Lbs for females. Males stand at approximately 16.9 Inches tall, while females are around 15.7 Inches. It’s a small to medium-sized dog, similar in size to French Bulldogs or Cocker Spaniels, making it well-suited for apartment living. Additionally, Basenjis are known for not shedding much fur.
- Coat: The Basenji has a fine, short, and dense coat that doesn’t shed much, which contributes to its reputation as a hypoallergenic breed. This coat helps with heat dissipation, as it hails from hot climates.
- Color: According to the breed standard, Basenjis can have various coat colors, including:
- Black and white.
- Red and white.
- White with “melon seeds” over the eyes and fire markings on cheeks and muzzle.
- Black and fire.
- Red and white.
- Brindle (black stripes on a red background). It’s important to note that white on a Basenji should be on the paws, chest, and the tip of the tail.
- General Build: The Basenji’s overall build can be described as follows:
- It has a square, compact, and muscular body.
- Long legs, erect hooded ears, pointed tail, dark, penetrating eyes, and a furrowed forehead.
- Its gait is agile with long strides.
As a puppy, Basenjis are very playful and active. While they calm down as they grow older, they retain a playful attitude. They are alert, independent, intelligent, and lively dogs. In many ways, they resemble cats in their grooming habits, climbing skills, and lack of typical doggy odor. Basenjis are known for being odorless and not barking much. They are affectionate with their families but tend to be reserved around strangers. They often form a strong bond with one person and show loyalty and obedience to them. They are well-balanced dogs that require attention and affection but not excessive hugging.
Guard Dog: Basenjis are known for their low tolerance of strangers, which makes them good guard dogs. However, it’s essential to train them not to become aggressive.
Non-Barking: One of the most unique characteristics of this breed is that they don’t bark. Instead, they make sounds similar to yodeling or a muted laugh when excited or alert. This is due to their narrower and flatter vocal cords and the position of their larynx.
Training and Education: Socializing Basenjis from a young age is essential since they tend to be wary of strangers and may not get along with other dogs. They also have a tendency to chase after prey, so it’s crucial to train them to respond to your calls.
Stubbornness: Basenjis are known to be somewhat stubborn. While they are intelligent and can learn commands, they may require patience and consistent, positive reinforcement training methods. Consulting a professional trainer may be beneficial.
Living with Children: Basenjis can get along with children as long as they are treated with respect and kindness. They may not be suitable for very young children and are better suited to families with older kids.
Hunter and Predator: Due to their primitive nature, Basenjis still retain hunting and predatory instincts. They may chase after other animals they perceive as prey, so they might not be the best choice if you have other pets.
Tolerance for Solitude: Basenjis should be exercised and tired out before being left alone. They may develop destructive behaviors if they get bored. Teach them to be alone gradually.
Heat Cycle: Basenji females only have one heat cycle per year, unlike many other breeds that have two.
Daily Walks and Activities: Basenjis are highly active dogs with excellent endurance. They require at least one hour of daily exercise. They enjoy activities like hiking, running, and participating in dog sports like agility and tracking. While it’s best to keep them on a leash to prevent escapes, in a secure environment, you can allow them to run freely.
Exercise: Regular exercise is crucial for their physical and mental health, as they may become stressed or engage in destructive behavior without it.
Adaptation to Apartment Living: Basenjis can adapt to apartment living as long as they receive the exercise they need and are not left alone for extended periods. However, it’s preferable for them to live in a house with a well-fenced yard, especially since they are sensitive to cold weather.
Grooming: Basenjis have unique grooming habits, as they clean themselves by licking their fur. This means they require minimal grooming. Occasional brushing to remove loose hair is sufficient, and baths should be given only when necessary, but not more than once a month.
Feeding: Due to their fast metabolism, Basenjis benefit from smaller, more frequent meals. Make sure to provide high-quality dog food suitable for their age and breed, with kibble sizes appropriate for their scissor bite.
Pros and Cons
Advantages of Basenji:
- They are loyal and obedient to their owners.
- They do not have a strong odor, rarely bark, and exhibit cat-like grooming habits.
- Ideal for active owners who can provide the exercise they need.
Disadvantages of Basenji:
- They can be stubborn and high-strung, requiring patience and early socialization.
- They demand a significant amount of daily exercise.
- Not ideal for households with other pets.
- Best suited to warm climates.
- May not be the best choice for families with very young children.
- They are not overly demonstrative in their affection.
While Basenjis are generally sturdy dogs, they are susceptible to several hereditary diseases, including:
- Fanconi Syndrome: A kidney disease.
- Hemolytic Anemia.
- Eye diseases such as progressive retinal atrophy.
- Inguinal Hernia.
- It’s important to consult a veterinarian for regular check-ups to detect and address potential health issues.
History and Origin
Dogs resembling the Basenji have been found in Egyptian tombs dating back over four thousand years. The modern Basenji descended from dogs brought from Zaire, Africa, in the 1930s and was once known as the “Congo Dog”. They were used as hunting and guide dogs due to their keen vision and excellent sense of smell. Adapted to hot climates, they have short fur and a lightweight build to handle the heat. Genetically, they share ancestry with wolves and exhibit similarities in behavior, including a calm demeanor and vocalizations akin to howling and yodeling. Female Basenjis have only one heat cycle per year.
The breed was first registered with the American Kennel Club in 1944 and the United Kennel Club in 1948. The FCI (Fédération Cynologique Internationale) classified it in Group 5: Spitz and Primitive Types, Section 6: Primitive Type. The FCI recognized the breed in March 1964 and published its latest standard in November 1999.
Today, Basenjis are primarily kept as companion animals, although they are still used for hunting in Africa. They go by various names, including Congo Dog, Avuvi, African Barkless Dog, and Belgian Congo Dog.