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Basenji Dog Breed: Everything You Should Know

Basenji Dog Breed: Everything You Should Know

With his short hair, compact, strong body, alert disposition, upright ears, and tail wrapped securely over one hip, the Basenji is famous as Africa’s “barkless” dog. He has a puzzled and often mischievous grin due to his blank expression.

All of this sounds appealing, but individuals who don’t do their homework before getting a Basenji may be disappointed or upset if they aren’t prepared for the Basenji’s distinct temperament and behavior. Obtaining a Basenji from a respected breeder who will clarify the benefits and drawbacks of owning this breed will provide you with a realistic assessment, and such a breeder is also more likely to screen breeding stock for heritable health issues before breeding them.

Although the Basenji is famed for not barking, this does not imply that he is silent. His vocalizations range from a sweet yodel to a spine-chilling scream, in addition to the standard growls, whimpers, and whines that all dogs do.

The Basenji is not for everyone because of his unique appearance and behavior, but for those who love this small dog’s attitude and intelligence, he can be a perfect companion. What are the chances? You might even join the ranks of Basenji owners who gloat about their dogs’ destructive abilities.

Overview of the Basenji breed

The Basenji is intelligent, yet he has a tenacious streak that runs the length of his body. He had never heard of the term “ready to please,” which is used to describe a variety of breeds. Even though a Basenji understands all of the orders you give him, whether he genuinely follows them is always a question. He might ponder first and then obey, or he might determine there’s no reason to do what you’re asking. Instead, Basenjis employ their brains to draw your attention and persuade you to offer anything they require or desire.

Basenji owners claim that their breed is good at teaching you how to clean up after yourself. Anything left out and accessible to the dog is fair game for chewing or eating. You’ll quickly learn to keep your belongings safe by keeping them out of reach of these curious dogs.

Basenjis are also excellent scavengers. A Basenji who is determined to be somewhere else will not be contained by a fenced yard. Unsupervised time alone in the yard could result in the loss of your beloved pet when he sets out to discover the world. Basenjis will not be contained by underground electronic fencing if they see or smell something fascinating. The jolt from the collar is a small annoyance to him.

On the plus side, Basenjis enjoy playing, though if you’re looking for a dog who would fetch a Frisbee or tennis ball, look elsewhere. They are tidy canines who groom themselves in a feline-like manner. They’re also fantastic watchdogs. When confronted, they will defend their people and possessions. They’re known for their bravery, and they’ll fight an invader with everything they’ve got. However, their size prevents them from serving as a true guard dog.


The Basenji is one of the oldest dog breeds, which may explain why he doesn’t bark. On hunts, prehistoric civilizations may have chosen a quiet dog. The Basenji, like his wild relative the wolf, can bark, but just once before going silent.

Basenjis are old canines whose genealogy may be traced back to Egyptian pariah dogs and subsequently to hunting dogs for Congolese tribes. The Basenjis typically wore bells to notify their human owners to their whereabouts in the dense jungle, as they ran in silent groups (they do produce sounds, but not constant barking). They were known for their sharp eyesight and strong sense of smell, and they still are.

Around 1936, a Mrs. Burn in England gave the basenji its name. The word “basenji” means “dog of the jungle” in that part of Africa, and it was previously known as the Congo dog or Congo derrier. The breed is classified as a hound because it is definitely a hunting dog, but whether it belongs with the sighthounds or the scenthounds is still a point of contention.

Several basenjis were imported from Zaire to the United States in the 1980s and added to the American Kennel Club AKC gene pool to aid with health issues. In terms of genetics and development, Basenjis are considered primitive canines.

The Basenji Club of America, their national breed club, was founded in 1942, and the American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1943. In 1944, Phemister’s Bois became the first Basenji to be registered with the AKC. Basenjis are an uncommon breed, ranked 84th out of 155 breeds and varieties recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC).

Personality and Temperament

Basenjis are an extremely energetic and intelligent breed that requires plenty of daily strenuous exercise and mental stimulation. They were bred to be alert for long hunts through the African wilderness. Basenjis are independent thinkers who are recognized for being rebellious, intelligent, and mischievous.

Living with a Basenji requires patience and a sense of humor. He’ll chew up or eat whatever’s left in his reach, and he’s capable of devising a strategy to attain his goals, whether it’s getting up on the kitchen counter or breaking into the pantry where the dog biscuits are kept. He can be aloof around strangers, and he shouldn’t be trusted with cats or other small animals unless he’s been raised with them and you’re confident he knows them as family.

The Basenji makes a yodeling noise instead of an usual yip or yelp. Though it won’t deter intruders—basenjis are far too small to be intimidating—your Basenji will most likely raise the alarm if they spot something odd, whether it’s the delivery person or a passing squirrel.

Basenjis are incredibly playful and, despite their independence, want to be kept close by. Basenjis become boisterous and exhibit unwanted habits if they are not properly exercised or left alone for an extended period of time.

As with any breed, good socialization of your Basenji puppy is critical. Cats, other dogs, and older children can all get along with a well-adjusted Basenji. It’s critical to teach kids how to engage correctly with dogs and to always watch them when they’re interacting with any animal.

Are they good family dogs?

Although Basenjis are not recognized for being particularly fond of children, their high energy level makes them suitable companions for older children. If they’ll be around children, it’s preferable if they’ve been reared with them since puppyhood. An adult Basenji who has never been around children is best suited to a home with children who are old enough to appropriately interact with him.

Always teach youngsters how to approach and touch dogs. Supervise any interactions between dogs and small children to avoid biting or ear or tail pulling on either party’s side. Teach your child to never approach a dog that is eating or attempt to grab the dog’s food. A child should never be left alone with a dog.

A Basenji should only be trusted around cats and other small animals if he’s been raised with them and you’re confident he recognizes them as family. However, that recognition will not apply to cats or tiny animals he encounters outside. They’re up for grabs.

Living needs

Do not confuse independence with a wish to be alone in a Basenji. Though they won’t snuggle up on your lap, these hunting dogs prefer to keep their owners in sight. They will let you know when they need attention. This high-energy breed requires plenty of exercise and is best suited to a home with a well-fenced yard, where owners should keep an eye on them at all times.

A well-exercised Basenji can be an excellent fit for apartment life. Thanks to their compact size and clean coats—just don’t leave her alone for too long. This breed is known to get boisterous.

“‘Oh, they don’t have any bark!’ Yes, but they yodel and scream. Having another pet in the house will help to alleviate this group dog’s loneliness.

Basenjis have a keen sense of smell as well as a strong desire to hunt. There’s no doubt about it: they’ll chase you down if you’re not adequately guarded.

Instead of going to the dog park, use your Basenji’s energy and prey drive to participate in dog sports. Some like tracking, agility, and lure coursing. Participating in these activities is a terrific method for a Basenji to get both physical and mental activity while also forming a bond.

With a Basenji in the house, you’re sure to have plenty of amusement. These teeny-tiny puppies have a lot of personality! Basenjis are best suited to owners who want to spend quality time with their dogs. Also people who have easy access to the outdoors, as well as those who want to participate in dog sports.

It’s crucial to think about your lifestyle before getting a dog. To evaluate if a Basenji is a good fit for you, talk to a Basenji breeder or rescue group about your expectations.

Caring for a Basenji dog

Basenjis are self-conscious about their appearance and will spend hours grooming themselves, much like cats, making them a low-maintenance breed. This means fewer baths and brushings—just once a week should do to keep your Basenji’s skin and coat in good shape.

Basenjis are pack dogs at their core. They enjoy being around their owners, as well as other dogs and the household cat.

Brushing their coat regularly is an excellent opportunity to check for coat sheen (dull hair can indicate a lack of nutrients in her diet), nail length, and ear and dental health. If you can hear their nails tapping against the floor, they should be clipped. The ear canals of Basenjis should be pale pink, with very little (and odorless) wax. In the canal, keep an eye out for any signs of movement (mites! ), as well as any foreign objects.

Brushing a Basenji’s teeth on a regular basis is recommended. A complete home health check-list is essential, but remember that it is not a substitute for a trip to the veterinarian. If you have any concerns, always contact your veterinarian.

Although Basenjis are intelligent dogs, they are not easy to teach. When it comes to training, this brilliant breed demands patience, inventiveness, and a lot of good reinforcement.


3/4 to 1 cup of high-quality dry food per day, divided into two meals, is the recommended daily quantity.

Basenjis should be fed high-quality dog food, which can be purchased or cooked at home. To guarantee that homemade diets are nutritionally balanced, they should always be produced with the help of a veterinarian. Whatever diet you choose, make sure it’s the right one for your Basenji’s age, whether he’s a puppy, an adult, or a senior. Table scraps should not be fed to your Basenji since they might be unhealthy and cause tummy distress.

The Basenji’s light body, which is sometimes compared to that of a deer, makes him unsuitable for carrying considerable weight. To put it another way, don’t let him gain weight. Rather than putting food available all the time, measure your Basenji’s food and feed him twice a day to keep his physique in shape. The rest should be taken care of by giving him lots of regular activity.


As a hunting dog, the Basenji requires regular activity. Some Basenjis may get by with just a daily walk, while others demand more vigorous activity. Basenjis who have been raised alongside kids are prone to wearing each other out.

Every day, your Basenji should get at least 40 minutes of active play, walking, or jogging. Basenjis should not be allowed off-leash without a fence because of their intense hunting instincts, or they may go away in search of some unlucky prey. Basenjis participate in a variety of dog sports, including lure coursing, which takes advantage of their inherent hunting instincts.

If you want to do something fun with your dog, lure coursing is a great option. It’s the perfect game for these dogs who hunt by sight and enjoy chasing. They pursue a bait — generally a white plastic bag — across a field course. As the dogs pursue the lure, it is attached to a rope that is pulled by a series of pulleys. Another sport that might appeal to the Basenji’s desire to have a good time is agility. While Basenjis may not perform well in obedience competitions, they can be successful if you can convince them that training and competition are their ideas.

Training a Basenji dog 

The Basenji is intelligent, yet he has a rebellious streak that runs the length of his body. He had never heard of the term “eager to please,” which is used to describe a variety of breeds. Even though a Basenji understands all of the orders you give him, whether he genuinely follows them is always a question. He might ponder first and then obey, or he might determine there’s no reason to do what you’re asking. Instead, Basenjis employ their brains to draw your attention and persuade you to offer anything they require or desire.

Basenji owners claim that their breed is good at teaching you how to clean up after yourself. Anything left out and accessible to the dog is fair game for chewing or eating. You’ll quickly learn to keep your belongings safe by keeping them out of reach of these curious dogs.

Basenjis are also excellent scavengers. A Basenji who is determined to be somewhere else will not be contained by a fenced yard. Unsupervised time alone in the yard could result in the loss of your beloved pet when he sets out to discover the world. Basenjis will not be contained by underground electronic fencing if they see or smell something fascinating. The jolt from the collar is a small annoyance to him.

Basenjis can be difficult to train, not because they are dumb, but because they are often stubborn and grow bored easily. Because of their intelligence, a Basenji can learn a new skill quickly, but whether they can reliably follow the command is a different story. Basenjis respond well to patience and positive reinforcement training methods. Remember that Basenjis don’t have a lot of patience for extensive training sessions, so keep them short and sweet with lots of praise and treats.


The Basenji has a short, fine coat with white feet, chest, and tail tip, and is available in rich chestnut red, black, tricolor (black and chestnut), or brindle (black stripes on a chestnut background). He could also have white on his legs, a white blaze running up the center of his face between his eyes, or a white collar around his neck. More of his primary hue will always be visible than white. His marks are distinct and never appear muddy.

The grooming habits of the Basenji are similar to those of a cat, and he maintains himself quite clean. He shouldn’t need to be bathed more than once or twice a year. Basenjis shed, as do all dogs, but their hair is so short and fine that it isn’t as obvious as the shedding fur of other dogs.

Brush your Basenji’s teeth at least twice or three times a week to get rid of tartar and the bacteria that live inside it. Brushing your teeth on a daily basis is even preferable if you want to avoid gum disease and foul breath.

If your dog’s nails don’t wear down naturally, trim them on a regular basis. They’re too lengthy if you can hear them clicking on the floor. When your Basenji jumps up to welcome you, short, cleanly trimmed nails keep your floors from being scratched.

Basenji health problems

With a lifespan of 13–14 years, the Basenji is considered a generally healthy breed. The Basenji, like all breeds, is prone to various diseases.

The official national breed group, the Basenji Club of America, mandates registered breeders to screen for hip dysplasia, autoimmune thyroiditis, Fanconi disease, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), and a full eye exam every year.

Of course, not all Basenjis will have major health problems, but it’s vital to be aware of these common health risks if you’re thinking about getting one. It’s also crucial to buy your dog from a trustworthy breeder who will show you the dog’s parents and siblings. If you’re thinking about adopting, inquire about the rescue’s medical history.

Most common health issues

Hip Dysplasia

Canine hip dysplasia occurs when the hip joint becomes unstable as a result of both developmental and environmental factors. Vizslas are prone to this bone and joint disorder. The femur does not meet the pelvic bone appropriately, causing the bones to wear out prematurely.

Later in life, your dog may develop arthritis, which can be excruciatingly painful. This ailment shows itself as a peculiar walk, shaky posture, or limping, all of which are plainly seen in your beautiful pup. To preserve your dog’s quality of life, discuss care with your veterinarian as soon as feasible.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy

Progressive retinal atrophy is an eye ailment that might have a negative impact on the quality of life of your dog. This usually happens later in life as a result of retinal degeneration. Retinal dysplasia is the name for the early-onset type, which is observed in puppies. This is when the retinal cells do not mature properly.

The dog becomes partially or completely blind in both cases. While the disease isn’t unpleasant, it can have a significant influence on your dog’s quality of life. Consult your veterinarian about your dog’s alternatives, as well as what to do if he becomes blind.


I’m this condition the hormone generated by the thyroid gland is at an unusually low level. Infertility is a common symptom of this condition. Obesity, mental dullness, drooping eyes, low energy levels, and erratic heat cycles are some of the more visible symptoms. The dog’s fur becomes harsh and brittle, falling out, and the skin becomes tough and black. Hypothyroidism is treated with daily medicine that must be given to the dog for the rest of his life. Thankfully, a dog who receives thyroid therapy on a daily basis can enjoy a full and happy life.

Fanconi Syndrome

Fanconi syndrome is a kidney disease that affects how carbohydrates and proteins are processed normally. The dog burns the protein he requires to live. Excessive thirst, urination, and glucose levels in the urine are all warning signs. It’s most common in dogs between the ages of 4 and 7. Fanconi syndrome was once thought to be fatal, but a novel treatment method has doubled the life expectancy of dogs with the disease. There is no way to stop it.

A test to see if a dog is a carrier is also unavailable. Treatment is not expensive, but it is time-consuming because your dog will need to take up to 30 medications per day. A reputable breeder should be able to show you which dogs in his bloodline have produced Fanconi Syndrome puppies and which have not.

Immunoproliferative Systemic Intestinal Disease

This illness, also known as malabsorption, is analogous to irritable bowel disease in people. ISID dogs appear to have a lifelong allergy to the food they eat. Affected dogs will have chronic loose stools and will have trouble gaining weight. Stress reduction, frequent dietary changes, and the use of antihistamine medicines are all part of the treatment. This condition is no longer as common in Basenjis as it once was.

Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency (Hemolytic Anemia)

Affected Basenjis have two faulty genes for the generation of pyruvate kinase, an enzyme necessary for the maintenance of healthy red blood cells. This sickness frequently kills basenjis before they reach their second birthday.

Persistent Pupillary Membrane (PPM)

Persistent Pupillary Membranes are tissue strands in the eye that are remains of the fetal membrane that nourished the eyes’ lenses prior to birth. They usually go away by the time a puppy is 4 or 5 weeks old, although they sometimes linger. The strands can span from iris to iris, iris to lens, or cornea to iris, and they can even be seen in the eye’s anterior (front) chamber.

The strands do not bother many dogs, and they usually break down by the time they reach 8 weeks of age. If the strands do not break down, cataracts or corneal opacities can develop. Your veterinarian may prescribe eye drops to help break them down.


A gap or hole in the eye structure is referred to as a coloboma. The gap can appear anywhere in the eye, although it is more common near the bottom. Although it is suspected that the illness is inherited, no pattern has been discovered. Depending on the size and location of the hole, the ailment might have minor or serious consequences. Affected puppies must be spayed or neutered to prevent the disease from spreading.

Umbilical Hernia

At birth, abdominal fat or internal organs protrude against the abdominal wall at the umbilicus, causing umbilical hernia. If the hernia is minor, it may not require treatment. Some minor hernias close spontaneously by the time the puppy is six months old, and some dogs have survived their entire lives with small hernias.

Large hernias necessitate surgery, which is frequently performed when a dog is spayed or neutered. A more dangerous issue occurs when an intestine loop falls into the hernia, resulting in life-threatening “strangulation” of the intestine.

How much do Basenji puppies cost?

When buying a basenji puppy from a breeder, expect to pay between $1,200 and $1,800. Avoid buying from a puppy mill or a pet store by looking for responsible breeders. Responsible breeders will ensure that the parents of the puppy are healthy and free of genetic diseases. They’ll also have their puppies examined by a veterinarian and given the necessary vaccinations and dewormers.

Request a recommendation from your veterinarian or other Basenji owners in your area. The American Kennel Club (AKC) and the Basenji Club of America both provide respectable breeder directories.

Adoptable Basenjis are sometimes available from animal shelters or Basenji rescue groups if you choose to adopt rather than buy. The cost of adoption will vary depending on where you adopt from, but it will almost certainly be less than the cost of purchasing a Basenji.

Famous Basenji Dogs

Several famous persons have owned Basenji dogs in the past. Basenji dogs were owned by both the queen of the Netherlands and the king of Thailand, despite their Congolese origins. Kelsey Grammar, for example, has owned one of these dogs.

Basenjis are well-known in their own right, independent of their owners. This breed of dog appears to be popular in animated films and television shows. They’ve appeared in films including Soulmate and Tales of Halloween, as well as episodes of The Wild Thornberrys and Pound Puppies. Basenjis had an appearance in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, albeit the video didn’t make the final film.

These dogs have even been included in books. Have you read James H. Street’s Good-bye, My Lady? The book’s primary character is a female Basenji, and it was adapted into a film starring Sidney Poitier and Brandon de Wilde. Brandon de Wilde even kept the puppy once the shoot was finished.

Things to consider before buying

“Elegant and graceful, his entire manner is one of elegance and questioning attention,” according to the AKC Standard. The stylish, light-footed Basenji, high-spirited and ceaselessly interested, demands to be a part of everything.

He will become bored if he does not get enough physical and mental stimulation, and he will chew up your house or scale fences (occasionally trees) in pursuit of a more interesting life.

This dog is far too active and inquisitive to be left alone in your home or yard. Don’t let him off the leash since he’s a fast, agile chaser who can’t be caught.

You must stay one step ahead of this thinking breed, as he employs his sharp intellect in devious, often deceptive methods to further his own goals. Leadership that is consistent is essential.

Providing enough exercise and mental stimulation

Basenjis are hunter-bred dogs who are always on the move. They require regular opportunities to release their pent-up energy and to engage their busy minds in stimulating activities. Basenjis are notorious for chewing through walls, pulling the stuffing out of sofas, and turning your yard into a lunar landscape of craters when bored.


Basenjis require a lot of exposure to strangers; else, their innate caution can become suspicious. But don’t be pushed around by strangers! Basenjis prefer to communicate with people on their own terms. They also don’t enjoy being grabbed or held tightly, so I don’t advocate keeping them around small children.


Many Basenjis are aggressive against other dogs of the same gender. Many people have strong inclinations to chase and capture smaller animals like rabbits and rats, as well as chickens.

They don’t do well off the leash

Basenjis, like all dogs, must be taught to come when called. However, I would only trust this breed to follow his instruction in a confined space. Off-leash Basenjis should not be trusted. These canines are blazing fast runners, and the risk of their charging at full speed after anything that runs is too significant.

Fence safety

Many Basenjis are skilled evaders who will climb over or under fences in quest of excitement. Because of their small stature, you’ll need higher fences to keep your Basenji in. To prevent digging, you may need to sink wire into the ground along the fence line. Some owners must use a wire pen with a covered top since basenjis can climb.

The fiery personality

Basenjis have their own distinct personality and are not easy to nurture and teach. They can be manipulative, and many of them are stubborn, obstinate, and domineering (they want to be in charge), and they’ll make you prove that you can get them to do things.

Health issues

Basenjis are susceptible to health issues such as eye illnesses and fanconi, a fatal kidney disease that affects only Basenjis. More information on Basenji Health can be found here.

Final Thoughts

As we’ve seen, Basenjis are a unique breed that has a mix of things that make them both lovable and difficult to deal with. Prospective owners of Basenjis should learn about these traits so they can be sure they can give their pet a happy, active life. It can be a lot of fun and friendship if Basenjis are allowed to live in the right home and be part of the family. Many people who own Basenjis think that having just one isn’t enough.

Basenjis can be found in shelters or in the care of rescue groups, despite the fact that they are purebred canines. If you think this is the breed for you, consider adopting!

Those who can stay one step ahead of these dogs are in for a treat. They can adapt to living in an apartment, and even people who have never had a dog before will find these pups to be great first-time dogs. So, make sure that you can keep up with their high levels of activity by giving them a lot of exercise. You’ll need to spend a lot of time walking and playing.

Are you the proud owner of a Basenji dog? Please tell us all about him in a comment!

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My name is Katy and I am 27. I love to travel and you would be surprised how good I am at karaoke. 🙂 Passionate dog lover and a "mother" to a beautiful toy puddle named Zara. I work as a volunteer in a local shelter and I am a veterinary assistant helping our four-legged friends every day.