Other names: African Bush Dog, African Barkless Dog, Ango Angari, Congo Dog, Zande Dog, Congo Terrier
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The Basenji is a medium-sized hunting dog. It was bred from other hunting and pariah dog in central Africa and remains quite rare in the west. The Basenji is a compact little dog with a playful and curious nature. Their most distinguishing characteristic is its unusual bark, which has been described as more of a yodelling sound. One theory is that the early African tribes selected against loud or persistent barkers, as the noise could give away their position to rival groups, especially at night. Despite not gaining much popularity in the UK, Basenjis make excellent family pets, although they can be a little difficult to train.
Key facts about the Basenji
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Origins and history
George Schweinfurth was first westerner to come into contact with the Basenji. He was researching the Niam Niam tribe in central Congo, who used packs of Basenjis as hunting companions. Not only was he surprised by the breeds superior tracking abilities, but he also made a note of their unusual bark, which the locals described as a “baroo” noise. The Basenji shares many of the same characteristics as Pariah dogs, half-feral pack dogs that survive on the outskirts of human settlements in developing countries. Basenjis are nowhere near as domesticated as most other breeds. In fact, these dogs are a real link between our modern household pets and their wild ancestors. Several attempts were made to introduce the breed into Britain and the Western world. However, given the long distances in transporting them and their unfamiliarity with the British climate, the first batches of Basenjis suffered several health problems and failed to develop. It wasn't until the 1930s that a foundation stock was established in the UK, from which their numbers and popularity began to grow. This culminated in 2001 when a Basenji named Jethard was named best in show at crufts.
FCI breed nomenclature
Group 5 - Spitz and primitive types
Section 6 : Primitive type
Physical characteristics of the Basenji
Female : Between 15 and 17 in
Male : Between 16 and 18 in
Female : Between 20 and 22 lb
Male : Between 22 and 26 lb
Light brown with white patches on the chest, legs, and hind quarters. Black/brown/white tricoloured. Some Basenjis have a reddish tint to their coats.
Type of coat
The Basenji's hair is short and very easy to maintain.
Their eyes are dark.
The Basenji is a unique looking dog. It’s medium-sized canine with a combination of big and small dog characteristics. Their heads are quite small in relation to the rest of their body, which is sturdy, athletic, and well balanced. They have long necks, a high head carriage, and pointy ears, which gives them an alert posture and quizzical posture.
Good to know
Although they’re very social animals, Basenjis tend to form an exceptionally strong bond with one member of their human family.
Like many intelligent dogs, the Basenji has a low tolerance for bored, which can soon turn into frustration.
It can be quite hard to find a well bred Basenji, especially in the UK. Take extra care and do as much research as possible before purchasing one of these dogs. A poorly bred Basenji is likely to develop serious health complications. These will be expensive to treat and extremely distressing for both dog and owner.
Females only go into season once a year. This is normally around the beginning of autumn.
The Basenji is known by many other names in its native Congo, including dog of the villagers, the wild dog, dog of the bush, and M'bwa M'kube M'bwawamwitu, which literally translates as the jumping up and down dog.
The Basenji is a very affectionate dog that loves spending time with their favourite humans. But they can be a little independent and will sometimes need a bit of alone time. So try not to overwhelm them with affection. They’ll come and ask for some when they’re ready.
Hunting dogs have active minds as well as active bodies; regular playtime is vital for their overall wellbeing. These active, intelligent dogs love stimulating games and activities.
These working dogs are always on the alert. Unless they’ve been well-trained, their high-energy natures can soon become hyperactive, especially around strangers and other dogs.
These dogs are very smart. They need the right kind of training and stimulation to be mentally satisfied. Walks and games need to be interesting and challenging. If not, the dog will soon become bored and frustrated, which may manifest as "bad " behaviour.
The Basenji is a natural born hunting dog. Even by dog standards, they have an excellent sense of smell and are capable of covering huge distances in a short space of time. Such deep-rooted instincts are not suited to urban living. These dogs need to live near wide open areas in which they can roam and explore.
Fearful / wary of strangers
The Basenji can be wary of strangers and may seem a bit shy or reserved.
The Basenji is capable of looking after itself. Much like cats do, these dogs clean themselves on a regular basis. They’re also very skilled hunters, making them well-equipped to survive independently.
Behaviour of the Basenji
These dogs deal will solitude much better than most other canines. However, no dog should be left without company for long periods of time. Dogs are social animals; they need companionship from other dogs or humans.
Easy to train / obedience
This depends on the ability and knowledge of the trainer. An inexperienced handler will have a very tough time keeping this dog focused. According to the author of the Intelligence of Dogs, the Basenji is the second most difficult dog to train.
Basenjis are often referred to as barkless dogs or silent dogs. And even when they do “bark”, it sounds more like a low yodelling noise. In other words, the Basenji is a perfect choice for owners looking for a “quiet” dog.
Tendency to run away
These dogs won’t run away on purpose, but they do have a curious nature and an instinctual desire to explore. They can all also cover big distances very quickly; make sure all outside spaces are properly secured.
As long as their needs are being met, a Basenji is a well-behaved animal. However, if they're bored or lonely, they’ll may start expressing their frustrations through destructive behaviours.
Greedy / Gluttony
These dogs were bred on the African plains, where accessible food sources are at a premium. The Basenji learned to survive on only what it needs.
The Basenji will alert their owners when they see or smell something they don't like. They have an excellent sense of smell and vision. The only drawback is their quiet bark, which is not loud enough to wake you up or deter any intruders.
Although the Basenji is a gentle dog that loves being around people, they can be very difficult to train. An experienced dog handler would need to use all their skills in training a Basenji. These dogs aren't suitable for a first-time owner.
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Basenji in a flat
Despite their relatively small frames, these hunting dogs are not suited to living in a flat or a small house with no outdoor area. Ideally, they need regular access to rural areas or large parks.
Travelling / easy to transport
Basenjis are fairly easy to travel with and transport, although it’s best to prepare them for any long trips well in advance. Crate training is a really good option, and a necessity if travelling by plane.
Basenji and cats
Given their very high prey drive, Basenjis are not the best dogs for families with cats. Bringing an unfamiliar cat into the house may also trigger their deep-rooted instincts to chase anything small and furry.
Basenji and dogs
Pack dogs like the Basenji thrive off the company of other pooches. However, pack animals can be very competitive, especially when they come into contact with other dogs. All introductions to new dogs should be supervised.
Basenji and children
Basenjis love being around children of all ages. They high-energy, playful natures makes them perfect companions for younger children and adolescents.
Basenji and the elderly
Training and exercising a Basenji will take a lot of time, energy, commitment, and patience; they might not be the best dog for some elderly people.
The average cost of a purebred Great Basenji is somewhere between £790-£965.
You'll also need to budget around £60 a month for feeding costs; the average cost of a basic insurance policy is around £20.00 per month.
When it comes to grooming, the Basenji is a very low maintenance breed. Their short coats shed very little and require no more than a quick brush once every few weeks. Unlike most dogs, Basenjis clean themselves regularly, which helps keep their coat healthy and fresh looking.
This dog doesn't shed too much.
Nutrition of the Basenji
These medium sized dogs need 2-3 cups of high quality dog food split into two meals. They also need access to fresh drinking water.
Health of the Basenji
The average lifespan for these dogs is between 13-15 years.
Strong / robust
The Basenji is a tough dog with a sturdy frame and determined nature. Both physically and mentally strong, the Basenji is a formidable little character.
These dogs work in some of the hottest environments on the planet. There’s almost zero chance of them struggling with the average British summer time.
The Basenji has a short coat and wasn’t designed for the cold weather. In fact, these guys are made for it’s very opposite. They’ll definitely need a good quality doggy coat during winter time walks.
Tendency to put on weight
They’re not prone to obesity or weight gain.