Other Names: African bush dog, African barkless dog, Congo dog, Ango Angari
Country Of Origin: Democratic Republic of Congo
Dog Group: Hound
Recommended For: Families, couples, single owners
Maintenance Level: Low/moderate
Lifespan: 12-14 years
Temperament: Curious, intelligent, alert, energetic
Good For First-Time Owner: Yes
Good With Children: Yes
Good With Other Animals: Yes with dogs
Good With Strangers: No
Good For Apartments: No
Exercise Requirements: Daily walking
Can Live In Hot Weather: Yes
Can Live In Cold Weather: No
Can Tolerate Being Left Alone: Yes
The Basenji was bred in the Congo as a hunting dog, and is known for its inability to bark.
While it isn’t completely silent, Basenjis make an unusual yodeling sound, which is how they earned the nickname “barkless dog.”
The breed was designed specifically for hunting in densely forested regions, which means it’s reasonably small and very agile.
The breed is popular across Africa, and is recognized by almost all English-speaking kennel clubs.
Color: Red, black, brindle, or tricolor. All colors have white feet, tail tips, and chest.
Height: Males – 17-18 inches, Females – 16-17 inches
Weight: Males – 22-24lbs, Females – 20-21lbs
Personality and Temperament:
Basenjis are known for being very alert and energetic dogs, and function well as both hunting dogs and companion pets.
They have a very sociable personality, and form very close bonds with a single person, but are still friendly with the rest of the family.
Basenjis are good with children, and so make excellent family pets. However, they should be socialized with children from a young age because the breed is surprisingly powerful, and can get quite boisterous when playing.
Owners should always be wary when first introducing the dog to children, because any generalizations made about the breed might not apply to every dog.
When it comes to training, the African bush dog picks up commands quickly, and can learn complex commands.
This is because their primary use is in hunting, and so they have to know what to do.
Any obedience training should start at a young age, which will also help with socializing.
Basenjis are generally fine around other dogs, but need to be socialized properly to ensure they don’t develop any bad habits.
However, Basenjis can be aggressive around other pets, and their prey instinct is very strong. While this might be little problem around cats, owners should be careful with rodents and other small pets.
The breed is known for its athleticism and strength, and so needs frequent exercise.
At least one daily walk is recommended, although they can happily take as much exercise as you can give them.
Supplementing walks with play time in the house is a great way to burn off some of that extra energy.
Owners should also note that Basenjis love to climb, and so any outdoor areas they can access need to be secure.
They can easily get over chain-link fences, so consider solid wood panels or vinyl for extra security.
It’s also worth noting that the breed’s high energy levels mean they’re not suited to apartment living.
Basenjis need access to plenty of space, and much prefer to be outside. The ideal home for a Basenji is one with a large, secure backyard that they can visit whenever necessary.
Basenjis are suitable for first-time owners because they’re generally quite low maintenance. The only thing owners will have to consider is the level of exercise the breed needs.
This might be something that puts off first-time owners, but if you’re happy to commit to that much walking, then Basenjis can be a great choice as a first dog.
The breed can be wary around people they don’t know, so owners should be conscious about introducing strangers.
However, the breed doesn’t make a good guard dog, simply because they can’t bark.
They are very alert though, so can be good for warning owners, providing you can actually see the dog.
Because the breed originates in the Congo, they’re naturally designed to tolerate hot weather.
There are few places that will be too hot for Basenjis, but owners should still be cautious exercising them in hot weather. Conversely, Basenjis can’t tolerate cold weather, and absolutely hate the rain.
African bush dogs can tolerate being left alone for longer periods, although this will be much easier if they’re left with other dogs.
The breed is quite independent, so don’t get particularly lonely. However, leaving them alone should be started from a young age so they get used to the idea.
Basenjis have a short, reasonably fine coat that actually requires very little maintenance.
Owners should brush them weekly with a soft-bristle brush or rubber slicker just to help remove loose hair and distribute oils.
They don’t need bathing very often because their coat does a pretty good job of keeping itself clean.
Unlike other breeds, they don’t really smell either, so bathing should be saved for when really needed.
Bathing too frequently results in the coat and skin drying out, and can lead to a number of health complications.
Basenjis have straight, upright ears that don’t need loads of attention. However, you should check them once a week for debris, but they’re not particularly prone to ear problems.
Basenji’s nails grow quite quickly, and so will probably need frequent trimming even if they get plenty of exercise.
Because the breed has quite dainty legs, long nails can lead to pain and can affect their gait.
As with all dogs, owners should brush a Basenji’s teeth several times a week to prevent dental problems.
Common Diseases and Conditions:
There have been few studies done on the prevalence of genetic conditions within the breed, mainly because it’s only bred so strictly in the English-speaking world.
The only real test done on Basenjis was in the UK in 2004, and it showed that the most common condition affecting the sample group was dermatitis. This is why it’s important not to bathe them too frequently.
One condition that is common among Basenjis is Fanconi syndrome. This is a condition in which the kidneys fail to absorb necessary electrolytes.
The most common symptoms are excessive drinking and urination, and the condition can manifest anywhere between the ages of 3 and 10.
The condition is easily treated but is incurable. It’s recommended that owners test their dog’s urine for glucose, beginning at the age of 3.
The earlier the condition is spotted, the easier it is to minimize organ damage.
However, there is now a procedure in place for disease management, so get to your vet as early as possible.
Examples of dogs that look very similar to the Basenji have been found in drawings dating back to ancient Egypt, which gives you some idea of how long this breed has been around.
The breed was first recognized by the wider world in 1895, when Europeans first documented them.
Basenjis have been used as hunting dogs for hundreds of years, but were also regularly kept as companion dogs.
Their name comes from the Lingala language, spoken in the Congo, and means “villager dog”.
The most recognized theory as to why the breed doesn’t bark is used to explain the prevalence of this phenomenon across Africa.
It believes that barking, rather than alerting to danger, actually posed more risk for the owners by giving away their position.
This resulted in the Basenji being a good guarding breed, but meant it was able to do so without compromising its owners’ safety.
The first Basenjis were brought from the Congo to the UK in 1923, but all 6 died in quarantine from the vaccinations.
However, several breeding pairs brought over in the 1930s survived, and were taken from the UK to the USA by Henry Trefflich, a famous animal importer.
Historians believe that almost all Basenjis owned in the West have descended from these original pairs.
The breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1943, and the breeding pool was enlarged in 1990 when 14 new Basenjis were brought from the Democratic Republic of Congo to the USA.
The breed is actually declining in popularity across the USA, although no reason for this has been given.
In 1999, it ranked 71st, but by 2011 had dropped to the 93rd most popular dog in the country.
Basenji Facts & Figures:
Did You Know:
- Basenjis like to stand on their hind legs, like a meerkat, particularly when curious or interested.
- Basenjis are classed as a “square breed,” meaning they’re as long as they are tall.
- The breed is quite stubborn, which many owners believe led to it being ranked so low on one of the only intelligence tests completed on it. Breeders believe that Basenjis have the ability to distinguish between commands that will benefit the dog, and those that are done simply to please others.
- Basenjis were popular in ancient Egypt, having been found depicted on walls, shields, and in drawings. Owners even liked to mummify their Basenjis once they died.
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York actually has an ancient Babylonian bronze sculpture of a Basenji.
- Basenjis are used by Kenyan nomads to hunt lions, with the dogs essentially being used as bait.