Basenji

Introduction | History & Health | Temperament & Personality | Breed Standard

Basenji

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Introduction

The Basenji, also known as the African Barkless Dog, the Belgian Congo Dog, the African Bush Dog, the Congo Bush Dog, the Congo Hunting Terrier, the African Dingo, the Ango Angari, the Avuvi, the Congo Dog, the Congo Terrier, the Egyptian Dingo and the Zande dog, is one of the oldest of all dog breeds. "Basenji" in African means "Little Thing of the Bush." Native names for the Basenji include M'bwa M'kubwa M'bwa Wanwitu, which means "the jumping-up-and-down Dog." Basenjis were brought from the source of the Nile as gifts to the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt. This small, silky athletic dog, with its tightly twisted tail and up-pricked ears, has been an all-purpose hunting and companion dog for thousands of years. It is both a scenthound and a sighthound and has been trained both to point and to retrieve. It makes a wonderful urban companion, as long as it gets an enormous amount of regular exercise to satisfy its nearly limitless energy. The Basenji Club of America was formed in the mid-1940s, and the Basenji was accepted into the American Kennel Club for registration into the Hound Group in 1943.
The Basenji is one of the most unusual of all domestic dogs. Basenjis do not bark; instead, they yodel, chortle, howl, growl and/or crow. When on alert, the skin on their forehead wrinkles into an unusual shape that gives them a very worried look. They only have one breeding season a year, while most domestic dogs have at least two. They groom themselves fastidiously, like a cat will do, and are cat-like in other ways as well. They tend to favor green vegetables, which should be part of their regular diet.
Basenjis are small, compact dogs, with an average height of 16 to 17 inches at the shoulders and weighing on average between 22 and 24 pounds. Their coat is one of their most admirable features: it is short and fine, shines in the sun and never loses its brilliant luster. Acceptable coat colors are chestnut red, pure black, tricolor and brindle. All should have white feet, chest and tail tip, with white legs, blaze and collar being optional but acceptable as well. Minimal grooming is required for this breed.

History & Health

History

The Basenji originated in Central Africa and is said to be "as old as the pyramids." It originated from Zaire, now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo. When the Egyptian civilization fell, this breed almost lapsed into obscurity, but thankfully it was preserved by its African admirers. Hundreds of years later, a European explorer discovered the Basenji and brought a breeding pair to England in 1895. The breed was exhibited at the Crufts dog show as African Bush Dogs, but the pair shown there died of distemper shortly after the show. Additional Basenjis were brought to England, and also to America. In 1936, Olivia Burn visited the Belgian Congo with her husband and found remarkably true-breeding Basenjis there. She brought excellent specimens back to England, which became the foundation stock of the modern breed. She exhibited her Basenjis at Crufts in 1937, having already been registered with and recognized by the Kennel Club (England). Her Basenjis caused such attention that police were called to control the crowds.
The Basenji Club of Great Britain was formed in 1939. In 1941, an African-bred female was imported to Boston and ultimately was bred with a Basenji male who had been imported earlier. The result of that breeding was the first litter of Basenji puppies to be raised to maturity in the United States. Eventually, dog lovers from all parts of America became interested in this unique breed. The Basenji Club of America was established in the mid-1940s, and the breed was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1943, as a member of the Hound Group. The breed reached its peak of popularity in 2001, when a Basenji won Best in Show at the Crufts World Dog Show. Today's Basenji is not widely popular but has fanatical support from those who fancy it.

Health

Basenjis have an average lifespan of 10 to 14 years. Health concerns of particular risk for this breed may include cataracts, coloboma, corneal dystrophy, Fanconi syndrome, hemolytic anemia, hip dysplasia, immunoproliferative small intestinal disease, persistent pupillary membrane, progressive retinal atrophy, thyroid problems and hernias.

Temperament & Personality

Personality

The Basenji is a unique breed of hound dog in that they do not bark. That is not to say they don't make noise, because they are capable of growling, whining and even screaming. Light in the voice, and light on their feet,the Basenji is an agile, energetic and curious breed with a constant yen for adventure.

Activity Requirements

A Basenji needs lots of exercise. They love to run and jump, and if they do not burn off enough excess energy throughout the day, are prone to destructive chewing. Basenjis have been known to chew through walls when left alone and bored. They need to be walked several times a day and are best served by families with a large, fenced in yard for running. Basenjis can be wary of strangers and small children.
Originally bred to be hunting dogs, basenjis are stimulated by sight. If this breed spots a fast-moving object in the distance, such as a rabbit, or bird, he will take off after it. For this reason Basenjis should not be left off-leash in open areas.
In fenced-in areas, Basenjis should still be watched closely. They can scale fences in a single leap, but if that doesn't work, a curious Basenji will dig under the fence in search of new activities.

Trainability

Like most other breeds of hound dogs, the Basenji is intelligent and independent and takes time to decide if he will follow a command. Patience and confidence are needed when working with a Basenji. Breeders recommend training and socialization as early as possible to introduce the dog to new people, animals and stimuli. They can grow up to be wary and untrusting of new people and situations if not properly trained.
Highly intelligent, Basenjis enjoy problem-solving activities. If not stimulated enough in this way, this breed will find ways to stimulate themselves, including opening (or even chewing through) cabinets to find food or toys. They excel in agility training as well as lure courses, where dogs chase a mechanical lure around an enclosed track or field.

Behavioral Traits

Basenjis are not for the timid owner. They can be willful and dominant, so confidence is a must. Though they do not bark, Basenjis can howl and even scream, so this is by no means a silent breed.
Destructive behavior can often be a problem with this breed, so when leaving a Basenji alone, problem-solving toys and plenty of bones should be left behind for entertainment.
They can be territorial, thus making them wary of strangers. They can also be aggressive towards other animals, and because they enjoy chasing and hunting so much, families with cats or other small animals should probably not consider adopting a Basenji.

Breed Standard

General Appearance
The Basenji is a small, short haired hunting dog from Africa. It is short backed and lightly built, appearing high on the leg compared to its length. The wrinkled head is proudly carried on a well arched neck and the tail is set high and curled. Elegant and graceful, the whole demeanor is one of poise and inquiring alertness. The balanced structure and the smooth musculature enables it to move with ease and agility. The Basenji hunts by both sight and scent. Characteristics--The Basenji should not bark but is not mute. The wrinkled forehead, tightly curled tail and swift, effortless gait (resembling a racehorse trotting full out) are typical of the breed. Faults--Any departure from the following points must be considered a fault, and the seriousness with which the fault is regarded is to be in exact proportion to its degree.

Size, Proportion, Substance
Ideal height for dogs is 17 inches and bitches 16 inches. Dogs 17 inches and bitches 16 inches from front of chest to point of buttocks. Approximate weight for dogs, 24 pounds and bitches, 22 pounds. Lightly built within this height to weight ratio.

Head
The head is proudly carried. Eyes--Dark hazel to dark brown, almond shaped, obliquely set and farseeing. Rims dark. Ears--Small, erect and slightly hooded, of fine texture and set well forward on top of head. The skull is flat, well chiseled and of medium width, tapering toward the eyes. The foreface tapers from eye to muzzle with a perceptible stop. Muzzle shorter than skull, neither coarse nor snipy, but with rounded cushions. Wrinkles appear upon the forehead when ears are erect, and are fine and profuse. Side wrinkles are desirable, but should never be exaggerated into dewlap. Wrinkles are most noticeable in puppies, and because of lack of shadowing, less noticeable in blacks, tricolors and brindles. Nose--Black greatly desired. Teeth--Evenly aligned with a scissors bite.

Neck, Topline, Body
Neck of good length, well crested and slightly full at base of throat. Well set into shoulders. Topline--Back level. Body--Balanced with a short back, short coupled and ending in a definite waist. Ribs moderately sprung, deep to elbows and oval. Slight forechest in front of point of shoulder. Chest of medium width. Tail is set high on topline, bends acutely forward and lies well curled over to either side.

Forequarters
Shoulders moderately laid back. Shoulder blade and upper arm of approximately equal length. Elbows tucked firmly against brisket. Legs straight with clean fine bone, long forearm and well defined sinews. Pasterns of good length, strong and flexible. Feet--Small, oval and compact with thick pads and well arched toes. Dewclaws are usually removed.

Hindquarters
Medium width, strong and muscular, hocks well let down and turned neither in nor out, with long second thighs and moderately bent stifles. Feet--Same as in "Forequarters."

Coat and Color
Coat short and fine. Skin very pliant. Color--Chestnut red; pure black; tricolor (pure black and chestnut red); or brindle (black stripes on a background of chestnut red); all with white feet, chest and tail tip. White legs, blaze and collar optional. The amount of white should never predominate over primary color. Color and markings should be rich, clear and well-defined, with a distinct line of demarcation between the black and red of tricolors and the stripes of brindles.

Gait
Swift, tireless trot. Stride is long, smooth, effortless and the topline remains level. Coming and going, the straight column of bones from shoulder joint to foot and from hip joint to pad remains unbroken, converging toward the centerline under the body. The faster the trot, the greater the convergence.

Temperament
An intelligent, independent, but affectionate and alert breed. Can be aloof with strangers.

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