- AKC recognized in 1943
- Lifespan: 12-16 years
- Size: Medium
- Energy: Medium
- Recommended Crate Size: 30” dog crate*
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Faster than the speed of light (well, almost) and famous for NOT barking, the Basenji is an athletic, affectionate, and adorable dog breed that hails from Africa where he was a hunting dog...and a darn good one!
He’s a sneak too. A sighthound, Basenjis specialize in silently attacking his prey. Oh, and by the way, it’s not really that he CAN’T bark, it’s just that he doesn’t, or rarely does. He’s certainly talented at yodeling, making high pitched screaming sounds, and whimpering and whining if the situation warrants such.
If you’d like to give this great dog a run, keep reading to find out if having a Basenji would be a marathon win or if you might sit this one out.
Basenjis are a medium energy sight-hound hunting dog from central Africa who is recognized for being “barkless”. His roots date back to some of the earliest dogs in the entire world.
The name “Basenji” means “villager dogs” in Lingala which is a language of the Congo.
Way back in the Twelfth Dynasty of Egypt Basenji-like dogs were featured in drawings and sculptures of sorts. They were thought to have been gifted to Egyptian Pharaohs. The first evidence found of such was in the tombs of the Great Pyramid of Khufu. Mummified Basenjis have been found as well. A bronze Babylonian statue of this curly-tailed canine and his owner can be found in the Metropolitan Museum of Arts.
The ancient dogs were used for small game hunting and tracking, finding stashes of eggs, freeing the area of rodents, and pointing. They often drove game into nets as well. Nowadays they are often seen lure coursing.
With their speed and keen hunting skills, they were bound to have been successful. They are classified as sight hounds, for the most part, but actually, use their sight and their smell when tracking and hunting. This guy is multi-skilled for sure.
Basenjis were used to lure lions out of their caves in Kenya, usually, four dogs at a time was the typical arrangement. The dogs would get the lion out of the safety of its den and then circle around it. It was all over for the lion.
Europeans had records about Basenji “in the Congo” beginning in 1895. The dogs were said to have been adored by the villagers for their intelligence, beauty, speed, courage, and perhaps most of all...for their silence.
The English longed to grace their land with the likes of this perky fellow but it seemed every attempt made ended in disaster. Lady Helen Nutting tried to bring six back with her from Sudan but they all died from complications of distemper immunizations. Time after time, the dogs just weren’t able to make the trip.
But in the 1930s, the country finally got a Basenji...and then another, and yet another. They became more and more popular in England and finally made their way to America where they were met with open arms.
It was Henry Trefflich, a well-known importer of animals, who brought the first Basenjis to the United States. It is likely that all Basenjis that have ever been in the Western world are direct descendants of those original few.
There were still some issues with keeping a good Basenji population going. The breeding pool had complications due to a genetic disorder, Fanconi’s Syndrome, which was a huge problem that resulted in a great number of Basenji deaths.
To help remedy the problem, dogs from the Congo and Sudan were brought in to diversify the bloodline as much as they could while still keeping the dog breed as authentic as possible. The disease is still seen in Basenjis in modern days but not nearly as often.
Basenjis were formally recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1943. They are also proud members of the United Kennel Club and various other organizations.
The overall popularity of the Basenji in American has dwindled over the past decade. It’s not known why, exactly. They aren’t for everyone because they certainly don’t make good couch potatoes. But those who do have them and who know how to let their talents shine are absolutely wild over them for tons of reasons.
Basenjis can run fast and they are simply gorgeous to watch in motion with an exceptionally fast trot and the smooth strides that resemble a racehorse. Their legs are long compared to the rest of their bodies and their bodies are lean and fit which fuels their run even more.
They’ve been clocked in at speeds of approximately 45 miles an hour which is simply incredible. They love to chase and when doing so, they are the fastest. Basenjis are amazingly agile too and can jump quite high.
Basenjis are lively and loveable. They are excellent for active people who want a dog that can keep up with them because whether it’s sprinting, jogging, running, or even swimming, this dog flies.
The intelligence of Basenjis is a controversial subject. While they are generally thought of as super smart, such was questioned by Stanley Coren, PH.D. in his article, “The Intelligence of Dogs”.
It’s all still up in the air but most pet parents say when it comes to intelligence, where Basenji puppy training is concerned, their furry friends are smart enough to do what benefits them rather than what pleases people.
That belief seems to hold true in many areas because while the Bas may be lacking in the obedience department, he more than makes up for it in agility and other trained activities he loves.
The endearing reputation of being the world’s favorite barkless dog is an interesting one. It’s believed by some that selective breeding is responsible for their not barking because the villagers feared barking would alert enemies of their whereabouts.
Others think they were trained or bred not to bark so as not to scare their prey away. All the same, the dog isn’t exactly silent. They are notorious for they baroo, or yodeling, which is accomplished through their oddly shaped larynx.
There is a popular opinion that Basenjis have an uncanny amount of similarities to pariah dog types which roamed the African landscape and also to dingoes and New Guinea singing dogs. While he does share traits with all, there is no direct proof that he is related to any of them but...it is likely.
Basenjis are shrouded in mystery from their barklessness to their amazing athletic abilities. Somewhere along the line, through the years, they found their way in the hearts and homes of humans. They are loyal and loving companions to those who are fortunate enough to have one.
This dog is something else! He’s got a look that’s all his own, complete with a wrinkled forehead and cute curly tail.
Making him even more handsome, he has small, straight, slightly hooded, erect ears that stand erect and are high atop his head, slightly slanted forward to enhance his ability to hear. He often tilts his head as if he’s trying to figure things out and knowing this dog, he probably is.
This fine specimen carries his head high and proud. It is small and chiseled.
The eyes of Basenjis are expressive and curious and may be hazel, dark brown or any shade in between. They are set obliquely and are shaped like almonds with dark rims. His eyes have great, farseeing vision.
His black nose is on the small side as is his mouth. He has a scissor bite.
The Basenji is a small dog in size only. He’s a giant when it comes to personality, courage, and skill. He generally tips the scale at around 22 to 24 pounds and stands about 16 to 17 inches tall. Sixteen inches is preferred for females and 17 for males (chest to point of buttocks).
His legs are long, lean, and muscular compared to the dimensions of the rest of his body which aids him in his marathons. He sports a very athletic build and is generally slimmer than the average dog.
The shape of Basenjis have often been said to look like a miniature deer which goes right along with his smooth and graceful gait. His height to weight ratio is light, in keeping with his fit, trim look.
This catlike dog is known for his impeccably clean short and sleek coat. It can be seen in a number of colors and color combinations like tan, brindle, tri-color, blue Belton, and black.
Black and brown are the most popular colors with his legs and stomach where his base colors are often combined with other colors as well. He should never be predominantly white according to the AKC standards. His markings are rich and well defined. They have white feet.
The expression on this dog’s face is priceless. From smiling to giving you the “what to” look, you’ll never have to wonder what he’s thinking.
It is recommended to provide food for your Basenji formulated to medium-sized dog breeds. It is highly recommended to talk to your dog’s veterinarian and/or breeder about his individual needs in nutrition.
He will definitely need high-quality dog food and plenty of protein to fuel his energy level. His vet or breeder will be able to consult with you for recommendations on meal frequencies and amounts so that he can live a long, happy, and healthy life.
As with all pets, it is also important to ensure that clean, fresh water is always available.
Basenjis don’t require a lot in the way of grooming. He is a clean dog who actually tidies himself like cats do. But, there are some efforts you’ll need to make to keep him looking sharp.
He does shed some but very little so he’s a decent choice for those who suffer from allergies because he has minimal dander. Regular brushing once or twice a week will help cut down on it and will make his coat shiny and his skin healthy.
An occasional bath is in order too. One every few months is usually enough to keep him smelling fresh and to keep his coat clean. If he gets dirty or stinky, like having a close encounter with a skunk or rolling in a mud puddle (don’t laugh...this breed is very likely to do either if given the chance), then an additional bath will be necessary.
His cute little ears stand erect and are targets for dirt, debris, and bacteria. Keep them clean and dry. If he begins to paw at them, have him checked for an ear infection. Ear infections that are left untreated can result in the need for surgery or can result in deafness.
The Bas may wear his nails down quite a bit naturally if he’s outdoors as much as he’d like to be. Still, you’ll need to cut them if they get long and keep them free of chips, splits, and cracks.
Brushing his teeth with a doggie toothbrush and tempting doggie toothpaste will help prevent tooth decay and gum disease.
Basenjis definitely need his fair share of exercise. Although he is considered a medium energy dog, sometimes he is overflowing with it. After all, how else could he run as far and as fast as he does?
You’ll need to commit to walking your Bas at least 30-40 minutes a day. Two 30-40 minute walks are even better. The exact amount of time is best figured by your dog’s age and health. When in their prime, Basenjis are quite active and need plenty of formal exercise to keep them healthy and happy.
In between his walks, a good bit of playtime is wise. He loves Fetch and other interactive games and it’s a great way to bond with him as well.
The Bas adores running. Speaking of his running skills, you’ll be fascinated to learn that he uses a double suspension gallop when he runs, just like Whippets and Greyhounds do.
While most pooches run with at least one paw touching the ground at any given time, galloping breeds have two separate times in the motion where all fours are off the ground. The Basenji’s gait assists in gaining and maintaining his impressive speeds.
If you’re going on an outing, like to the beach or out for a hike, might as well take your Bas along. He loves to go and is pro at most any activity. Keep a really good eye on him or keep him on a leash. He has hunting instincts that can quickly take him over and he’s off...and, he’s quick!
Pet Crates Direct recommends 30” dog crates for most adult Basenjis.
* Links for crate sizes will bring you to the most appropriate Amazon page.
This pooch is oozing with personality. In fact, it is said he has so much of it, he’s almost human. Owners swear that the communication skills of this dog are astounding and that he’s quite emotional too. He even smiles!
Sometimes aloof but always affectionate, the Bas are clever but they do have their quirks. They can lean to the stubborn side, a quality long ago which made them excellent, determined hunters in the rugged African terrains who wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. Some Basenjis don’t play too well with others, dogs in particular, mainly other Basenjis.
They are pack animals though so when the hierarchy of the pack is firmly established, all is well. It is imperative that owners set themselves as the pack leader with this breed.
Bases do love humans. They love young and old alike but may be best with active individuals with no extremely young or old people in the household. If he grows up with other pets and a pack order is in place, he is likely to do fine. He isn’t very sociable with strangers but if socialized properly, has the potential to warm up to them.
Basenjis are a bit cat-like in that they are soft-pawed, able to walk very quietly. They can also climb to extreme heights which was most likely, in the days of old, for the purpose of surveying for prey.
Licking to clean themselves is another cattish habit they tend to do a lot. They are likely to bond tightly with only one or two humans, much like felines. Last, but certainly not least, their independent “I-can-do-it-myself” tendency is a bit on the catty side too.
You’ll definitely want to make sure your Basenji gets plenty of good exercise lest he become bored and over-energized. He is given to dig, chew, climb, and take part in other such destructive activities. They have been known to climb very high fences in order to escape so pet parents will need to be aware of that.
In fact, Bases tend to be Houdinis, craftily getting out of their crates and any other place of confinement. They can be sly. Extra security measures when crating are recommended that this breed.
This dog is loyal beyond measure. If you are fortunate enough to be his human, he’ll defend you to his death. He’s not aggressive by nature but he won’t hesitate to be if the situation warrants such behavior.
Being by himself is definitely not on the Basenji’s list of favorite things. He’s adamantly against being left out and if you leave him, he’s very apt to get back at you. This breed suffers from separation anxiety and may manifest it in being very naughty. If you are not able to devote a good bit of time to him, it’s best not to bring him into your life. Let him find someone else who can and will.
Basenjis have an incredible personality. He is truly one of a kind. While there are negative traits that can’t be overlooked, there are outstanding positive ones that more than make up for the bad.
Not many, if any, have ever claimed that training a Basenji is an easy task. In fact, many say just the opposite. This breed has a willful, downright stubbornly independent side that must be yielded by establishing your authority as his pack leader.
Then, training is possible and what an amazing student he can be! It’s really in your hands. A few treats in your hands never hurts either. He’ll need heaping loads of praise too.
Keeping the training sessions short is a good rule of thumb. He is apt to lose focus after a short time, especially when he’s a young pup. And, short sessions help ensure you won’t lose your patience because that is the last thing you want to do with this breed.
Housebreaking the Basenji isn’t all that difficult once you let him know that you won’t give in. He’s one that naturally prefers to “go” outside anyway. But, don’t be surprised if he gets back at you for leaving him alone by “going” inside - usually on your best sneakers or on your side of the couch. His revenge mentally greatly resembles a feline’s.
Socialization is a must with this breed. He is naturally suspicious of strangers. No, he won’t likely bark at them...but, he’ll growl, howl, and make a lot of commotion in other ways if he’s not comfortable.
Early exposure to various humans of all ages and personalities, different animals will help him be a more socially acceptable pooch. Taking him to a wide variety of places is good too like loud and busy environments as well as quiet ones.
It is helpful to take your Bas out for a walk prior to training class time. That helps him get rid of excess energy that distracts his focus. Also, when you walk him properly, with you leading and not him, it reinforces your leadership role and gets his mind prepared to learn from you.
Obedience training is where you’ll need lots of patience. You’ll have to be very persistent too. You may even find you require the help of a professional trainer. No matter what it takes, for his safety and for the safety of other humans and pets, he has to master obedience.
Trick training your Bas can be challenging but rewarding at the same time. He’s likely to cooperate in tricks that get his attention like giving high fives, especially when it entails a tasty treat.
He might break out in a nice song too. It’s certainly worth a try. There’s not much that’s cuter than a Basenji in full form, doing his tricks and seizing the show.
The clicker method has been proven to work wonders in this breed. Why? We aren’t sure. Ask him!
This pup excels in athletics so agility training and other exercise-based trainings are great for him and he will probably participate without the need for much coaxing. Keep within his element and he’ll shine for sure. This dog’s a star!
Basenjis generally enjoy a long and healthy lifespan of about 12 to 16 years. While they are not a sickly breed whatsoever, there are some medical woes you will want to watch out for so you can seek treatment early on should they occur.
In addition, if you go through a breeder, be sure it’s a reputable, responsible one. There are some problems the Basenji is genetically prone to. Careful breeding helps ensure your precious perky pup will have the best chance possible for a healthy, happy, very long life.
Fanconi Syndrome is a rare disorder that is, unfortunately, one that Basenjis are pre-programmed to possibly get. It involves excessive amounts of potassium, uric acid, phosphates, bicarbonate, glucose, and certain amino acids being excreted in the urine.
Excessive drinking, frequent urination, and glucose in the urine are things to watch for. If your Bas is growing slow, not thriving, has eye problems, or thyroid issues, be sure to let his veterinarian know so he can be checked.
The signs may point to Diabetes but should be carefully screened to avoid a misdiagnosis. It is recommended that Basenji pet parents have their dogs checked at the age of three and once per month thereafter.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is a degenerative disease that causes progressive loss of vision. It is seen in a number of breeds including the Basenji. If your dog seems to not be seeing well, such as bumping into things that he used to walk around, you’ll want to have an eye test run.
Hip Dysplasia is another problem seen in the breed. It is caused by a deformity which prevents the hip fitting into the socket properly and interferes with walking. It can be painful and can lead to limping, favoring a leg, or lameness.
The root reason for the issue can be a birth deformity or for reasons related to the environment like jumping from excessive heights too often or running on rough and rugged terrain frequently. Being such an athletic dog, pet parents should monitor their dogs’ activities to try to prevent this condition.
Hypothyroidism is an issue that is hormonal and has to do with metabolism or the rate at which your dog’s body functions. Hypothyroidism causes the rate to slow and is marked with lethargy and weight gain. He may lose hair or have black patches on his skin. Seizures and heart problems can result if left untreated.
Immunoproliferative Systemic Intestinal Disease is caused by an abnormal reactive immunity within a dog’s body. Vomiting and chronic diarrhea are symptoms of the condition. It affects the liver, endocrine system, the kidneys, the large or small intestine, and the skin.
Hemolytic Anemia entails red blood cells being destroyed faster than they are produced. The condition is called hemolysis and the fact that the red blood cells have a low count is called anemia.
This is an autoimmune issue that is characterized by lethargy and frequent infections and illnesses. It warrants immediate attention from your dog’s vet.
Liver issues are not uncommon in the Basenji world. They can be quite sensitive to acquiring liver problems due to environmental agents like chemical cleaners used around the house. It’s a good idea to use cleaning products that lean to the natural/organic side if possible as a precautionary measure.
Allergies to foods are not uncommon either. If your dog exhibits signs of itching, irritations, respiratory distress, or other issues following the introduction of new food, discontinue the food and consult his vet.
Incontinence and bladder infection plague this breed. If your pup is having trouble holding his urine until he gets outside to relieve himself, he may have a bladder infection. Treatment is simple and effective as long as it is caught early. Generally, once the bladder infection is treated, the incontinence will disappear as well.
The fact that the health problems above are ones that Basenjis can be prone to certainly doesn’t mean yours will get any of them. By keeping a close eye out for any of the symptoms, though, you’ll be able to seek help quickly and have the best chance for a full, successful recovery for him.
Is a Basenji Right for Me?
Not everyone is right for a Basenji for many unique reasons. He’s a character that is either an excellent fit...or not.
If you are not a patient person, scratch the idea. If you are not an active individual, he is probably not a good match for you either for he is a free spirit who loves to run and do fun things.
Are you gone a lot? This dog can’t stand to be alone and he’ll make your life miserable if you leave him much.
What’s your household like? If you have other dogs, he might be alright with them as long as there’s not another Basenji in the pack. If he’s raised with them though, he’ll do fine with most all pets.
Do you have small children? This breed loves people and adores kids. He might be a little much for them though so proceed with caution.
He might be a little too much for you too unless you are ready, willing, and able to step up to the plate and be an assertive, yet calm, pack leader.
If you still think you could be a good pet parent to this loveable, athletic, somewhat stubborn, smart, inquisitive dog, you’ll be on the fast track to a dog-gone great life with a dog-gone great dog.