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The Basenji is a hunting dog originally from Congo, Central Africa. Here their job was to herd small game into hunters’ nets and control the rodent population in the villages. They came to England in the 1930s, making excellent police dogs for crowd control. Today, they are an uncommon sight, and according to the American Kennel Club, they rank 87 out of 193 breeds in popularity.
Despite being rare, Basenjis can make wonderful family pets as they are owner-orientated, intelligent, and adaptable. They have the nickname “the barkless dog”, as they do not have the traditional bark but rather a “baroo” sound.
Meet the Basenji
The Basenji is a small hound dog, typically weighing between 22 to 24 pounds and standing 16 to 17 inches tall. Thanks to their alert, pointed ears and bushy, curled tails, they are easy to recognise. They are also famous for their wrinkled foreheads giving them human-like facial expressions and endearing almond-shaped eyes that look directly into your soul.
Despite their lean and compact appearance, these canines have muscular, athletic bodies and long legs, allowing them to keep going all day. They also have square-shaped bodies, meaning their length is proportionate to their height. In addition, they move gracefully and confidently and often straighten out their usually curled tail when running fast to gain better balance.
Basenjis have short coats with fine hair, which may be one of the four standard breed colours. These are chestnut red, black, tricolour (black, tan, and white), or brindle (black stripes on a chestnut base). However, a distinct feature of this breed is that regardless of their colour, all Basenjis will have white chests, feet, and tail tips.
Basenjis are very low shedders, and their short coats require minimal maintenance. Moreover, they have the cat-like nature of grooming themselves, which means they don’t have that typical “dog smell”.
Basenjis typically live between 12 to 16 years, and as one of the oldest dog breeds, they are generally healthy. However, like with many other pedigrees, you should watch out for hypothyroidism, inflammatory bowel disease, and hip dysplasia.
The temperament of a Basenji
Basenji dogs are alert, energetic, and intelligent canines bred to endure long hunts in the African wilderness. Because of this, they require a lot of daily exercise and long walks, preferably with challenges like hills and sprinting. Moreover, as they do not need to hunt as family pets, they need plenty of mental stimulation instead. So, a regular and consistent training program is highly recommended for this breed.
Basenjis have a playful and curious nature, so they are much more likely to be running around the garden than napping on the couch. Unfortunately, they can also be very mischievous and tend to chew on things, especially as puppies. In fact, most Basenji owners quickly learn what they need to keep out of their reach when they bring their new pup home!
Interestingly, Basenjis don’t bark, but this does not mean they are silent. Instead, these hounds make a yodelling type noise that can be either cute or annoying. They will use their voices to alert you of any intruders (or visitors) and will become noisy if you leave them alone for too long.
Basenjis have an excellent sense of smell, so they tend to wander off. Therefore, you will need an enclosed garden to stop these dogs from getting lost and hunting the neighbourhood cats and small wild animals. They are intelligent but strong-willed, so you’ll need plenty of patience when training them. Even so, with a good trainer, they will excel in all canine sports, such as tracking and agility.
10 reasons to add a Basenji to your family
- Basenjis don't bark - Basenjis stand out from other canines as you won’t hear them barking. Instead, they make (usually quieter) yodelling noises.
- They are self-groomers - Many dogs couldn’t care less about keeping themselves clean. However, Basenjis are more like cats in the grooming department, resulting in a smell-free furry friend.
- They will keep you fit - Whether it’s walking around the neighbourhoods, hiking in the woods, or endless games of tug and war, you’ll undoubtedly stay active with a Basenji.
- They make human-like expressions - Their warm eyes, alert ears, and wrinkled foreheads result in a whole range of facial expressions you’ll recognise.
- They attach to their owners - These canines show extreme loyalty and affection to their humans and like to be close to them at all times.
- They are protective - A Basenji will never let harm come to their humans, so for that reason, they make excellent watchdogs.
- They can climb - Another cat-like trait these pups have is their love for climbing. While it’s impressive to watch, you’ll need to ensure your garden fences are high enough!
- Their tails are adorable - Basenjis keep their tails tightly curled and are pretty bushy compared to their short hair elsewhere.
- They are a hardy breed - Basenjis have been around for centuries where they spent long days hunting in the African heat. Thus, their muscular bodies can pretty much handle anything.
- Living with a Basenji is a rewarding experience - While they are not the easiest dog to deal with, if you’re up for the challenge, you’ll enjoy a fulfilling companionship with your Basenji.
Best homes for a Basenji
Basenjis are ideal for active families looking for a companion for their daily walks or runs. These canines love the outdoors, so they are great to take on hiking adventures, too. They may not be the best choice for new dog owners, though, as they need consistent training and leadership and a lot of patience. Even so, there are many excellent dog trainers out there who can help you out if you’re committed to raising a Basenji.
Naturally, Basenjis will enjoy a home with a fenced garden. Still, because of their size and need to be close to their humans, they adapt very well to living in flats. But, of course, if you do not have an enclosed outdoor space for them, you’ll need to increase their daily exercise regime.
Basenjis do not display a specific fondness for children. However, if raised around them from a young age, they can make good companions. What’s more, because of their high prey drive, they should not be in a home with cats or other small animals. For this reason, they are best as solo pets.