With origins as a hunter of small game in the central plains of Africa, the Basenji is a lightly built, muscular, smooth-coated dog of medium stature. This is an ancient breed known as the "barkless dog," but Basenjis do not lack vocal cords. Instead, their sounds resemble more of a yodel than a bark. Basenjis were admitted to the hound group of the American Kennel Club in 1944.
Basenjis are a slight breed that stand approximately 17 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh just under 25 pounds. Males should be the larger of the two sexes. They have erect pointed ears, curled tails and a slightly wrinkled triangular head. The breed has a single layered short coat and should be lightly boned possessing good muscle tone for agile movement, according to the American Kennel Club. Colors range from black to brindle, chestnut red and tri-color. White markings are acceptable on the legs, chest, collar area and tail, but should never be the predominant color.
Basenjis were bred to seek out game and drive it toward nets set by waiting hunters. They did this quite independently, without constant guidance from humans. In Africa, this breed is still used to hunt small game. As pets, they can be somewhat aloof, independent and leery of strangers. They are trainable, but on their own terms. Basenjis possess some cat-like behaviors and typically keep themselves clean and odor-free. They can be inquisitive.
Basenjis are an independent breed that benefit from early socialization and training. Training classes can be found in your area through The Association of Pet Dog Trainers. These dogs do best when trained using positive methods of reinforcement learned from an experienced professional. Short, frequent training sessions are best for this breed. This is an extremely agile and playful breed that will benefit from daily exercise.
The Basenji is called the "barkless dog" because of its inability to produce a normal barking sound. The sounds it does make resembles a yodel, weak rooster crow or a whine.
This is an ancient breed dating back to the time before the Pyramids were build in Egypt.
Unlike most domesticated breeds, Basenjis have only one reproductive season per year. Most puppies are produced in the spring.
Because of their unique personality, trainability and characteristics, Basenjis are most likely not the best choice for the first-time dog owner.
This is a breed appropriate for small living quarters thanks to their fastidious, cleanly nature and somewhat-muted vocal abilities.
Basenjis should always remain leashed unless securely fenced. This is a small--but agile and determined--hunting hound that can tend to get into trouble when free.
Anyone interested in this breed should contact reputable breeders through the Basenji Club of America. A reputable breeder will make sure you and your new pet are an appropriate match.
By Kimberly Kilmer
About the Author
Kimberly Kilmer began her writing career in 1990. With work published in breed-specific canine magazines, she is also a pet columnist for "Healthcare Traveler," a staff writer for "Metropolitan Magazine" and an online writer concentrating on recreational pursuits, travel and dogs. Kilmer holds a Bachelor of Science in recreation from West Virginia University.