About The Basenji

The following information is to be used as a general guide and is based on my experience with the breed. Not all Basenjis are climbers, or diggers, or particularly independent (read: stubborn).

I have found that if you are not going to show or breed from your male Basenji, then get him neutered by about 6-8 months of age. This should prevent any possible male-male aggression he may otherwise develop towards other dogs. They generally get on with bitches no problems, but the males can take an exception to other male dogs, especially bigger dogs.

Socialisation is extremely important for your basenji not just as a young puppy, but all through their life. They need to get out and meet different people and dogs, go to different places, be exposed to different situations. This will give you a well-adjusted basenji who should cope with anything life may throw at it.

Although not generally considered lap-dogs, Basenjis are famous for snuggling up as close as possible to the human body. A typical night on the couch in our house involves at least one person being surrounded by Basenjis and unable to move. Be careful if you do have to move though, any space you leave when you get up is guaranteed to be taken. Basenjis love warm spots so a recently vacated seat is just what they like. I also have several photos of the dogs lying around the log burner. Keesha would sleep on the hearth just so she can be closer to the heat. She has even singed a patch of hair on her side because she got too close. And it can be a battle to get through the dogs to put more wood on the fire.

When it comes to exercising your basenji, most text will say they need a lot of exercise. I don't take mine out for walks as much as I could do, but I find they get a lot of exercise just around the yard. They regularly perform the Basenji-500 which is a mad dash round and round the house and yard. It is recommended that when this starts you get out of the way 2 or 3 charging basenjis can quite easily knock you over!

For a single basenji I suggest regular walks, especially during summer. See if you can find a safe place for your basenji to run free. If not, a retractable lead can give him some freedom to run around the park. During winter I have found the basenjis to be quite content to laze around the fire and not need so much exercise. However, when given the opportunity, they are always willing to go out.

If you walk your dog the same route on a regular basis, it can work to your advantage if the dog gets out, as he will more than likely stick to the route he already knows. I have found this on the rare occasion that any of mine have got out. I have also been lucky in that I've always lived in cul-de-sacs this is a good thing if the dog heads for the dead-end part of the street.

Basenjis like company, and if you are working full time and considering getting a puppy, please think carefully about it. Are you able to go home at lunchtime and spend time with your puppy? If he is young, he will still need 3 feeds a day, so lunch will be important. Depending on where you keep your puppy when you are out, he may need to be let out to go to the toilet. They are very clean dogs and can get quite distressed if forced to stay in a soiled area for a long period of time.

If you already have a dog and would like to add the basenji as a play mate, it is best to have mixed sexes. When adding a third dog, consider the personalities of the current two and decide which would fit in best. I do not recommend having two dominant bitches you are only asking for trouble!

Train your basenji to come when called from the day you get it. Hopefully your breeder will have started doing this with the puppies already. Getting them used to the command come is quite important. I've found saying pup pup pup and showing them food is a good start. Once they get the idea, it becomes puppy come and showing the food again. Basenjis are quite intelligent and will learn what words mean. In my house if I say dinner, the dogs all look at me as if to say are you going to feed us? They also know the words walk, out, park, breakfast, outside, in your pen and several others.

Cats and basenjis can live in harmony. I've found it best to have the basenji used to cats from a young age, but it is possible to introduce an adult basenji to cats. I wouldn't recommend introducing a young kitten to an adult basenji that has never been around cats before. I think the natural hunt instinct would be too strong for it. When I got my first basenji I already had 3 cats, all of which were bigger than my 7 week old puppy. He soon learnt to respect the felines and to keep out of the way of their claws. My next dog was 4 months old when I got her and she had never lived with cats. Once the rules were established that she was not to chase the cats, she was fine. I think it also helped that she got whacked by them a couple of times so decided it wasn't wise to mess with them.

There was a time of about 3 years where I was without cats, so when I decided to get another two it was important that they were older cats (12+ months) that had attitude and would stand up for themselves. Lucky for us, I found 2 cats like this and was able to introduce them to the 2 dogs that had grown up with cats, and a 2yr old basenji that hadn't. As we have added to the pack, each dog has learnt the rules regarding the cats.

Basenjis can be rather destructive around the house (more so as youngsters). If you are not able to supervise them, then they need to go in a safe place, or you may end up with a lounge suite like ours with the corners chewed off. They can be kleptomaniacs, so anything lying around is fair game. They will not necessarily chew it, but they may well run off with it. Do you really want to find your underwear on the front/back lawn? If all is quiet, then you may want to go and find the dog to see what it is up to. It could be quite innocently lying in the sun, or he could be busy de-stuffing something.

They do eventually settle down and I can leave mine unattended in the house without coming home to a mass of destruction. Of course each dog is different and you may be lucky enough to get a puppy that is well behaved from day one.


Perhaps the best-known of the Basenji's characteristics is the inability to bark. But don't think that a Basenji is quiet, because he's not. A Basenji larynx has a laryngeal ventricle that is shallower in comparison with those of other breeds of domestic dogs. This prohibits movement of his vocal cords and thus, he is unable to produce a barking sound. However, in their native Africa they are known as the talking dogs because they can snarl, growl, yodel, crow, scream and whine. Among a Basenji's repertoire of sounds is a unique howl known as a yodel, which is peculiar to the breed. When happy, a Basenji often will give forth a very distinctive and joyous yodel. Several happy little hounds are capable of singing quite a chorus. However, if he is lonely or fed up he is capable of producing an eerie howl. Although barkless, the Basenji will still alert you to any visitors - expected or not.

Another unique characteristic about this breed is that they do not have a typical 'doggy' smell. Unless of course they have been rolling in something rotten. This lack of smell is great if you have several dogs that spend a lot of time indoors.

Their short, silky smooth coat is a wonder, only needing a light grooming with a hound glove, and very seldom needing a bath. For this reason they are an easy dog to show. With a bath a day before the show, all that is needed on show day is to give their white points a clean, the rest of the body a quick rub over, and they're ready for the ring.

They are an ideal size for indoor living, and with their tail curled over their back, there is no worry of wagging tails knocking anything over. The only thing you may need to watch is that you don't trip over them. Although they aren't lap dogs, they love the company of humans, canines and even felines, and will quite often follow you around the house. One must also be careful when the Basenji-500 starts. This is a full-speed mad dash around the house.

Basenjis can have a real talent for climbing, as well as being able to squeeze through gaps you think only a cat would fit through. For this reason, it is recommended that fences are at least 5ft high and escape-proof. For dogs that are prone to digging, netting may need to be buried to prevent an escape tunnel to the outside world. If you look at where the breed has come from, and what it's original (and present day) use is, you will understand that it is a hunting hound, thus requiring regular exercise. If he becomes bored his curiosity about life outside his yard may give rise to his talent for climbing. The ideal situation is if you have a large piece of land (basenji proofed of course!), you can let the dog go, preferably with others, to race around like lunatics. This is a real sight to see!

Basenjis also have several feline characteristics, the most notable of which is extreme independence. A Basenji will go ahead with his own plans, irregardless of whether or not they suit yours. This can make even basic obedience training a challenge in itself. You must be strict but fair. The recall (or 'come') seems to be the biggest drawback with this breed. Once they get on a scent, no amount of calling and enticing will get the dog back. For this reason you must be very careful if and where you let your Basenji(s) to run off-lead. Once away, a Basenji is very hard to catch. Unfortunately, he seems to have absolutely no fear of large, moving vehicles, and consequently his career as an escape artist may be short lived. His independence can also make him somewhat aloof. He may not greet strangers with much enthusiasm, but once they become known, he will be happy to greet them. Any well adjusted, socialized Basenji will treat anyone as a friend and completely ignore the fact that the breed standard describes him as an aloof dog.

Meticulous self-grooming is another feline trait. A Basenji will wash his face with his paws after eating. He also has an insatiable curiosity and catlike responses in play. Anyone who lives with these little hounds will assure you they are experts at finding the warmest spot in the house and claiming it as their own.

Basenji bitches generally only come into season once a year, with the season lasting anything from 3 to 5 weeks. The time of year is usually March/April (Southern Hemisphere), with first time bitches being around 8 to 10 months old. The average litter size for a Basenji is 4-5 puppies.


The Basenji would be best described as a lightly built, finely boned aristocratic looking animal of gazelle-like grace. A male Basenji's ideal weight would be about 11 kg and ideal height and length should each measure 17 inches. While slightly smaller, ideally a female should weigh approximately 9.5 kg and measure 16 inches in both height and length.

The head and expression of the Basenji are his most appealing features. His prick ears give him a constant look of being alert and intelligent and he has an alluring way of cocking his head to the side. And of course there is his curly tail which should curl to one side of his back.

The Basenji's square, athletic body is covered with a short, silky coat which has no odour even when wet - another unique characteristic of the breed. Basenjis come in the following colours; chestnut red; black and white; tri-coloured; and brindle - all with white feet, tail-tip, chest and belly and, in many cases, a white collar. Many also have a white blaze on their face As a puppy grows older, he may develop black spots on his pink skin, which show through the white areas of his coat as muted black freckles.

Other physical characteristics are the dark eye rims which absorb the sun's harsh rays so they are not reflected back into the eyes. A modified cat-type foot suited for endurance in rough terrain, but also capable of great bursts of speed necessary for survival in the jungle.


All of the Basenjis outside of Africa are descended from only a dozen individuals. This very limited gene pool began to allow some physiological anomalies to appear. As with any pure bred dogs, a limited ancestry is bound to result in some undesirable characteristics or allow them to surface. Two safaris into Zaire in 1987 and 1988 resulted in the importation (to the US) and subsequent acceptance of fourteen Basenjis to enlarge the gene pool.

Although the Basenji is a reasonably healthy dog, they may still suffer from the following health problems. For more information, talk to your breeder, or take a look at this site: Health Concerns of the Basenji Dog

The following are health issues to watch for the in the Basenji:

PPM (Persistant Pupillary Membrane)

PRA (Progressive Retina Atrophy)


Fanconi Syndrome

Hip Dysplasia


One of the most ancient breeds, Basenji-type dogs are depicted on the tombs and stone sculptures of Egyptian Pharaohs where they are shown crouched alongside the master's feet. It is believed that these dogs were brought as precious gifts by travellers from the lower reaches of the Nile. The engravings date back as early as 4000 BC. Further evidence that these hounds became the palace dogs of the Pharaohs can be found in paintings, sculptures and mummified dogs. In 1906 this evidence was bolstered by the discovery of a small, standing, mummified dog with a short tail curled over its back. This dog was presumed to belong to Amenhotep II.

The Basenji almost disappeared from public view from Ancient Egyptian times until the mid-19th century, when it was discovered by explorers in the Congo and Southern Sudan. The foundation stock recognised today derived from the Belgian Congo, with further imports from Sudan and Liberia.

A pair were imported to Britain in 1936 and were exhibited at the famous Crufts Dog Show the following year, and caused a great sensation. Unfortunately, they succumbed to distemper before any breeding programme could be attempted. The breeding of Basenjis outside Africa proved difficult, with foundation stock regularly dying of such diseases as distemper. Then in 1941, two African bred pups imported into Massachusetts survived, and the Basenji Club of America was established in 1942. Later, Miss Veronica Tudor Williams pioneered the breed in the United Kingdom. Much credit for the sturdy Basenji of today goes to this lady, who travelled through the remotest parts of Africa in search of specimens to better the strain. One of those dogs, Fula, was a superb bitch that contributed much to the breed.

Today, Basenjis can be found in Central Africa, southern Sudan and in Zaire, where they live with the natives in remote forests and are used for hunting both fur and feather. Hunting in packs they will track small game, point, retrieve, drive game into hunting nets strung up the natives against trees and find wounded animals. They are so highly esteemed, they are regarded as having equal rights with their masters, and even the magic of native witch doctors has been measured by the number of Basenjis they own.

Their courage and hunting skill is unquestionable. Imagine a 22-pound hound hunting and killing a vicious, long-toothed, 20-pound water rat. This is typical for a Basenji living in Zaire.

To the natives they are known as the jumping-up-and-down dogs because they jump high in the air to see over the tall elephant grass. When hunting with Basenjis, the natives place bells around their necks made from the nut of the borasus palm with a clapper of monkey bones or sticks. The sound of these bells helps drive the game and allow the natives to locate their hounds. Native hunters often carry a prize hound around their own necks while going to and from a hunt. After the hunt both hounds and humans share in the bounty.

Basenji is a translation of a native word meaning 'bush thing' or 'wild thing' and has had a variety of names; Congo Bush Dog, Belgian Congo Dog, and Congo Terrier, Bongo Terrier , Zande Dog, and Nyam-Nyam Terrier.


Contact Details

Christine Small
Timaru, NZ
Phone : 027 2411 924
Email : [email protected]