Basenji: Characteristics, Personality, and History

basenji lying on carpet

Basenji is a dog breed that came to us from the very heart of the African continent. The breed was formed without any human intervention. All character traits, demeanor, the ability to think quickly, natural ingenuity and even love and affection for humans typical for other dogs are the result of natural selection, and not any selection experiments. This is the main value of the Basenji dog, and one must learn to accept, understand and love this creature the way nature created it. An amazing dog is still very rare in our area, but the popularity of the breed is constantly growing.

Brief information

Breed name:    Basenji

Country of origin:    Central Africa

Time of origin of the breed:    about 3000 BC e.

Weight:    males 11 kg, females 9.5 kg

Height (height at withers):    males 43 cm, females 40 cm

Life Expectancy:    12-16 Years

Highlights on Basenji dog

-One of the main distinguishing features of the Basenji is that it practically does not bark. Legend has it that once the leader of a pack of “creatures from the thickets” (as these dogs are also called in their homeland) accidentally found out an important secret that was kept by one of the native tribes. Realizing that he could let slip, he and his flock swore to the people to be silent forever. Since then, Congo Terriers communicate with each other and with people using rumbling, snorting, sighing, sounds reminiscent of choked laughter or grunting under the nose of a disgruntled person.

-Typical external signs include a wrinkled forehead, especially when the dog is interested or excited, and a tightly curled tail.

-Basenji are social animals, accustomed to herd life in natural conditions, so they get along with other dogs, although they highly value the good attitude of a person, sincerely attached to the owner.

a cute basenji

-Representatives of the breed are very active; they are distinguished by a lively mind, amazing wit and independence. It is impossible to take control of their hunting instinct – the bush dog (another of the many names of the Basenji), without hesitation, begins to chase everything that moves. The best control is a long, strong leash.

-Surprisingly, the ” Basenji ” not only does not bark, but also does not smell. But for all their cleanliness, these dogs do not like water. Perhaps their genetic memory holds stories of complex relationships with African crocodiles. You do not need to bathe Basenji, they cope with hygiene themselves, washing themselves like cats.

-The contrast in the behavior of the dog at home and outdoors is striking. They love to sleep and behave in the apartment “quieter than water, below the grass.” But on a walk – this is an irrepressible bundle of energy.

-African in origin, Basenji dogs do not like and do not tolerate cold. Therefore, you should purchase the necessary wardrobe items for walks in the winter. Also, choose a warm place in the apartment for the pet.

-With regard to training, only partnership relations are possible here. To force, to impose your will simply will not work. Therefore, experts do not recommend starting representatives of the breed for novice dog breeders. As the first dog, “a creature from the thicket” will not work.

-Basenji dogs in most countries are still a very rare and therefore expensive breed. The decision to acquire just such a pet should be made only after carefully weighing the pros and cons. Only in this case will you be able to build the right relationship, having received a surprisingly devoted and intelligent friend as a reward.

Characteristics of the breed

Aggressiveness:   Low

Activity:   Average

Training:   Average

Molting:   Low

Need for care:   Low

Friendliness:   Friendly

Health:   Below average

Maintenance cost:   Average

Attitude towards loneliness:   Moderate time

Intelligence:   Standard

Noise:   Almost inaudible

Security qualities:   Excellent

Basenji dog appearance


Ideal indicators of height and weight:

Males – 43 cm at the withers, weighing 11 kg;

Females – 40 cm and 9.5 kg, respectively.


The skull is fairly flat, of medium width, slightly longer in length than the muzzle. Beautifully carved head, cheekbones gradually and evenly taper towards the nose. The stop is moderately pronounced. A characteristic feature is the folds-wrinkles on the forehead, which are most pronounced if the Basenji is alert.


Basenji’s eyes are set obliquely, almond-shaped, dark in color. The look is smart and very expressive.


Basenji ears are small in size, graceful, with sharp ends. Set on high and sloping slightly forward. The tips are closer to the center of the head than the bases.


The lobe is medium in size, preferably black.


Long enough, strong, but not fat. Set high, it expands slightly towards the base. The graceful curve of the neck emphasizes the scruff well.

Back and torso

Harmoniously balanced. The back is straight and short. The ribcage is oval in shape with prominent ribs. The deep chest merges into a well-toned belly. The loin is short.


The Basenji’s tail is set high, twisted into a single or double ring and laid on the croup. The buttocks protrude noticeably beyond the base of the tail, which gives the impression of overdeveloped gluteal muscles.


Forearms: Slender bone with long forearms. The pasterns are straight and flexible. The shoulder blades are well muscled, but not heavy. The elbows are directed straight back.

Hind legs: strong and muscular, legs long. The hock joint is parallel, drooping low.


Basenji paws are oval, small in size, gathered into a ball. The pads are thick, the nails are short.


Basenji’s coat is short, well-fitting, and shiny. The hair is soft to the touch and fine.


Basenji color is pure black and white or red and white, black and white with tan, melon seeds, black and brown and white. Since 2000, brindle color has also been recognized, and the more pronounced the black stripes, the better. White must be present on the legs, tip of the tail and chest.


Any deviation from the standard is assessed as a defect and becomes a disqualifying sign. The most common Basenji disadvantages include:


-Long wool;

-Depigmented nose, eyelids, lips;

-Hanging or semi-erect ears;

-Tail hanging down.

See also: Dalmatian: characteristics, care, and history

Basenji character

Basenji is a hunting dog, therefore, the main features of its temperament are energy and constant readiness for action.

Loyalty is also characteristic of these animals: although it is not easy to gain the trust of the ” Basenji “, if the dog has recognized you, then it is difficult to imagine a more reliable friend. But the pet will always be wary of strangers, although it will never show aggressiveness first.

Basenjis are classified as primitive dogs – humans have never made any adjustments to the breed. The ability to adapt to any conditions, quick wit, natural ingenuity, independence and even some self-confidence are all the results of natural selection.

Experts, characterizing the Basenji, say that almost every representative of the breed is a bright individuality, which, to a certain extent, can complicate the process of education and training. But this same individuality finds its manifestation in the surprisingly high development of the intellect. Thanks to it, it becomes possible to establish a close emotional connection between a dog and a person, which remains forever. In this sense, it is very important that a person does not abuse the trust of the animal and treat his pet with love and understanding.

It is not necessary to count on the Basenji to get along peacefully with a cat, hamster or parrot. But with other dogs “Basya” will get along without problems.

Representatives of the breed do a good job with the function of a protector, but none of them are nannies. They, of course, love children very much, but they do not have enough patience to stoically endure pranks.

One of the not very best features of Basenji is their natural habit of “jackal”. It is not easy to disaccustom a dog to pick up and eat whatever it wants, and it is impossible to guarantee the harmlessness of something uncontrollably eaten, therefore, when walking with your pet in the city, always keep it on a leash.

The Basenji is also called the “African barking dog”. This feature has nothing to do with any pathology of the vocal apparatus, it is just that the “basya” really does not know how to bark. It conveys its feelings with a kind of rumbling. For life in a city high-rise building – the quality is very valuable.

With all its features, Basenji remains a dog – a creature that will be devoted to you all its life. All you need in return is your love and patience.

Basenji health and disease

The average life span of dogs of this breed is 12-16 years. Basenjis are distinguished by good health, but this does not mean at all that control over the well-being of your pet can be left to chance.

There are a number of diseases that are most common in these dogs. These include:

1-Fanconi syndrome. This is a kidney disease, which manifests itself in a violation of the filtration function of the organ. Vital compounds (amino acids, salts, vitamins), instead of being passed from the kidneys to the body, are excreted in the urine. The result is weight loss, muscle wasting and dehydration. If untreated, death is inevitable. If you notice your dog has an irrepressible thirst, frequent, profuse urination, see a doctor immediately.

The detection of the disease in the early stages is facilitated by conducting special studies (for the level of sugar in the urine, the degree of excess of the blood acidity index). Remember, the sooner you start treatment, the more chances your dog will survive. The disease is transmitted at the genetic level. Most often manifests itself in animals aged 5 to 7 years;

2-Hypothyroidism. This is a disease of the thyroid gland, which is expressed in the low content of thyroid hormone in the blood. Symptoms: excess weight, low body temperature, poor condition of the coat and skin, swelling of the paws and head, nd a sharp decrease in reproductive function;

3-Progressive retinal atrophy. The disease is hereditary and can be transmitted to puppies even from healthy parents. The disease manifests itself mainly in adult Basenji;

4-Digestive disorders. To prevent undesirable consequences, pay special attention to the development of the dog’s diet.

Given the basenji’s predisposition to picking up and eating various kinds of garbage, the risks of animal poisoning are very high. Experienced breeders recommend having a set of necessary antidotes in your home veterinary first-aid kit (potassium permanganate, Glauber’s salt, alomorphine for injection, magnesia solution) and know when, what and how to use.

You should also strictly adhere to the vaccination schedule and carry out deworming.

Basenji breed history

basenji looking down

The history of the breed is at least 6 thousand years old. Evidence of such an ancient origin can be considered numerous images, figurines, jewelry boxes in the shape of dogs, very similar to modern Basenji, which scientists have identified during the study of ancient Egyptian burials. And even embalmed, richly decorated mummies of such animals were found in the tomb of Tutankhamun.

Researchers believe that the “African barking dog” is home to the lands of Central Africa. The indigenous tribes of Congo, Liberia, and Sudan widely used these dogs for hunting purposes. Although to this day there is debate as to whether the inability of the Basenji to bark is the root cause or a consequence of such an application.

It was from these lands that the first “galloping up and down” (and this is what the natives call these dogs) were brought as gifts to Egypt, where they were treated with great respect. It was believed that such a dog protected the owner from evil forces and black witchcraft. The Basenji occupied such an honorable place for a long time, until the beginning of the decline of the ancient Egyptian civilization.

In the homeland of the breed, it still remained very popular and highly valued for its intelligence, courage, dedication and excellent hunting abilities, unique among which was its ability to remain silent.

The acquaintance of the rest of the world with these amazing animals began in 1895. Unfortunately, the first meeting turned out to be sad. Exhausted by the long journey, the little dogs soon died. However, the stories of travelers about the Congolese Terrier, the Zanda dog, the Nyam-Nyam-Nyama, the African forest dog (and this is not all of the Basenji names) could not leave indifferent, and in 1937 these animals were officially presented to the English public at the Kraft exhibition, in this same year America saw them.

The wide distribution of the breed began after the Second World War. The exhibition success of the Basenji exceeded all expectations. Almost no finals of the most prestigious exhibitions in the Best in Show nomination were complete without a charming African alien. The popularity of the breed was added by James Street’s book Farewell, My Lady, published in 1942, and the Hollywood film of the same name, fourteen years later.

The mighty of this world did not bypass the “silent” with their attention. King Farouk of Egypt, Queen Juliana of the Netherlands, representatives of the royal house of Romania, princess of the Principality of Monaco – this is not a complete list of monarchs who treated this breed with special love.