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Last updated date: 27th Feb 2024
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What is Basenji Dog?

Basenji dogs are also called Belgian Congo dogs or  Congo bush dogs, they are the ancient breed of hound dogs and they originated from central Africa. These species are widely used to retrieve, point and drive quarries into a net. Basenji dogs are also known as barkless dogs. But they will produce a different variety of sounds other than barking. The basenji generally produce different yodel sounds due to their unusually shaped larynx. Basenji dogs are graceful animals and they have some characteristics to show alert expressions by the finely wrinkled forehead, tightly curled tail, and erect ears. Basenji dogs are usually short and have reddish-brown, black, or black with tan silky coats. Its feet, chest, and tail tips will appear white in colour. Basenji is the only breed, which can enter into the reproductive cycle within a year. But many breeds require several years to enter into the reproductive cycle. 

Basenjis have many distinctive traits with Indian pariah dogs. Basenjis will undergo reproduction or breeding only once a year, which is similar to dingoes and New Guinea singing dogs. Many other dog breeds have yearly two or more breeding seasons. Basenji dogs don’t show any distinctive odour. Further, they are prone to howls, yodels, and other vocalizations over the characteristics of modern barkless dogs. 

These dogs will use their scent and sight for their hunting.  During the ancient days, many people used them to flush small hunter games and to control rodent populations in villages.  But nowadays, these breeds became more friendly with human beings and spread great love with family members. Basenji is a purebred dog, but they can be found in shelters or rescue groups.  Barkless Basenjis are good companions for the person or family, they are a clever and endearing breed, who can stay ahead of human beings. They are capable of adapting to apartment living and can bond with their new pet parents. 

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History of Basenji

The Basenji dogs are one of the oldest breeds, which are used for domestication. Ancient people have chosen that the basenji bark is absent. But, in earlier days ancient people used this breed for hunting rats and rabbits for their prey. Those people also considered basenji as a cousin of wild wolves. Because they are the most intelligent and barkless characteristics and the unique sounds created by them. Some researchers also theorized that Basenji dogs are partially domesticated animals. The body metabolism of basenji dogs is very high while compared to the other domesticated dogs.  Likewise, the female Basenjis will breed only once a year. But other dogs can breed twice a year. 

Basenjis were first discovered by African westerners in the Congo region during the 19th century. People from those areas used the dogs to carry goods, to flush game into nets, and to warn of the approach of dangerous animals when on the trail. The good hunting skills of basenji created more values among the tribes of Africa. They preferred Basenji not only for his hunting skill but also for their resourcefulness and ingenuity, but also protection and security. 

Europeans made multiple attempts to bring basenji to Europe, but they failed as all the imported dogs have died in a short span of time. After that, during the 1930s both England and the United States successfully imported the Basenji breeds. Later, the  Basenji Club of America was formed in 1942. Further, the American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1943.  In 1944, Phemister's Bois was the first Basenji registered with the AKC. Further, the basenji ranked at 84th position among the 155 breeds and varieties recognized by the AKC. 

Characteristics of Basenji 


Basenji dogs generally look small with short hairs, erect ears, tightly curled tails and graceful necks. The forehead of Basenji’s are wrinkled and can find some more wrinkles during their young stage. Basenji have almond-shaped eyes. The Basenji dogs can grow up to 16 to 17 inches (41 to 43 cm) and their weight ranges from 22 to 24 pounds (10 to 11 kg). Basenji comes under square breed, which means, male species look long, large, and tall than that of female breeds. These Basenjis are the athletic breed, so they are more powerful irrespective of their size. Basenji breeds are available in different colours like black, red, brindle, and tricolour. They all have white coloured feet, chests, and tail tips. Rarely, the Basenji breed comes in tricolour with brindle points. They have a confident gait like a trotting horse, graceful, and skim the ground in a double suspension gallop. Further, they show characteristic curled tails that stretch out for greater balance when they are running at their top speed.

Temperament and Behaviour

The Basenji is energetic, alert, curious, and reserved with strangers. Mostly Basenji can't emotionally attach to a single human. Basenji sometimes cannot mingle with non-canine pets. Basenjis do not like wet weather and they like to play with cats. Furthermore, they often refuse to go outside in damp conditions.  They like to climb and easily wire/link fences.  Basenjis will often stand with their hind legs. They are learning by themselves and this behaviour can often be observed from the dogs when they feel curious about something.  Basenjis have their own strong prey drive. According to the research, Basenji dogs are a more intelligent species and they are the second least trainable dog, which requires minimum commands from a human being. They will expose their whole intelligence when it actually needs to solve a problem for achieving their own goal.  Basenjis are highly prey-driven and will go after small animals for their feed.

Health of Basenji 


Most of the Basenji breeds can survey for 13 years. The oldest basenji dog which survived for a long time was about 17.5 years. About 30% of the deaths of Basenji are caused due to their age. Another barkless Basenji is attaining their death due to behaviour ("unspecified" and aggression 9%), urologic (incontinence, Fanconi syndrome, chronic kidney failure 13%), and cancer (9%). 

Fanconi Syndrome

Fanconic syndrome is common in Basenji. This is mainly caused by an inheritable disorder, which causes failure in reabsorbing electrolytes and nutrients by the renal (kidney) tubes. The Basenji dogs which are affected by Fanconi syndrome will show symptoms like excessive urination, excessive drinking, and glucose in the urine.  Sometimes physicians will misdiagnosis these symptoms as diabetes. The basenji dog usually gets affected by Fanconi syndrome between the age of 4 to 8 years, but sometimes they will get infected even before 3 years and even after 10 years.  Fanconi syndrome is a completely curable disease. The organ damage due to this Fanconi syndrome can be avoided if they are treated in the early stages. So, veterinarians will advise testing the dog’s urine to check its glucose level once a month from the age of 3 years. Further, the Fanconi disease management protocol has been developed that can be used by veterinarians to treat Fanconi-afflicted dogs.

Other Health Issues

Some Basenji dogs may be affected by a simple recessive gene, which may defect the homozygous and cause genetic hemolytic anemia. Characteristics of Basenjis are modified a lot from their ancestors due to various conditions.  Sometimes, Basenjis suffer from hip dysplasia which causes symptoms like arthritis, which may lead to loss of mobility.  Malabsorption or immunoproliferative enteropathy is one of the autoimmune intestinal diseases, which may lead to chronic diarrhoea, anorexia, and even death. A proper diet can improve the quality of a dog’s life. Some breeds are also becoming a victim of progressive retinal atrophy. This may cause blindness due to degeneration of the retina. Further, some Basenji dogs are affected by hereditary eye problems such as coloboma and persistent pupillary membrane. The coloboma was caused due to a hole in the eye structure. A tiny thread across the pupil may lead to a persistent pupillary membrane 

Pyruvate kinase deficiency is affecting the genes of the Basenji. They will affect the pyruvate kinase enzyme. They play an important role in maintaining the health of red blood cells. This is one of the deadly diseases and causes the death of Basenji. 

Hypothyroidism is mainly caused due to the deficiency of thyroid hormone. This may produce signs like mental dullness, obesity, infertility, and lack of energy. The skin of the infected basenji dogs becomes tough and dark. The proper medication till the lifetime may increase the life of dogs. 

Some breeds are affected by umbilical hernia, which occurred during the birth of an individual. Here, abdominal fat or internal organs accumulated near the umbilical cord causes a hernia for the young one. It may cause difficulty for their entire lives.  Some may require serious medical treatment for maintaining the basenji dog’s health. 

Hip Dysplasia is one of the heritable conditions that occur in Basenji dogs. This causes when the thigh bone doesn't fit snugly into the hip joint. These may show some pain and lameness on one or both rear legs. This causes more disconformable in Basenji’s life. 

Highlights About Basenji 

  • Usually, basenji dog bark is absent, but they will create much noise and creates unique sounds includes  whines, yodels, and screams

  • Basenji bark dogs are generally hard to train. These species have survived for thousands of years in this world. They are independent thinkers. So, they find it difficult to obey humans’ commands. But the positive perfect trainers can make them obey. 

  • Basenji dogs can find their prey with great knowledge. They canare well enough to find their own prey. 

  • Basenjis are the escape artists. They can jump up, climb over and run the long distance. So, they can easily escape from their problems. 

  • Basenji dogs are more active. So, their great deal is to store energy. Because the species will find its own way to burn off its whole energy in all possible ways. So, doctors will recommend crating 

  • Basenji dogs can easily mingle with the owner’s family. They cannot be leftover in the yard with a sufficient amount of water and food. But they require a great deal of attention and time. 

  • Basenji dogs cannot equally combine with other pets in the home. They often chase other pets. They will fight against guinea pigs, hamsters, rats,  gerbils, mice, birds, or ferrets.

  • Basenji dogs are stubborn enough to achieve their target. People will end up confused and aggressive behaviour, once they try to break Basenji's stubborn characteristics. 

FAQs on Basenji

1. Do Basenji Dogs Bark?

Ans: As like hound dogs, Basenjis are a very vocal species. But, in Basenji dog bark is absent. They create a unique noise and they can describe it best through their yodel. Basenji is a very nice family dog and they can live for about 13 years. Basenji dogs can be fiercely protective for the family, but they are suitable for hunting. They need plenty of socialization with other people for the ideal companions. 

2. Do Basenji Dogs Smell?

Ans: Basenji dogs groom themselves like cats. So, the barkless basenji dogs do not have any doggie smell on them. The self-grooming quality of basenji does not mean that it has all cat-like characteristics.  They are aloof, difficult to train, independent, and can bond with one or two family members.

3. Is a Basenji a Good First Dog?

Ans: Basenji dogs will show many personality quirks to new inexperienced dog owners. But, the Basenjis can act lovely with their owner’s families and they can well mingle with the children in public when they are properly socialized.  

4. Do Basenjis Like Cuddling?

Ans: Usually, Basenjis will show much interest in cuddling with humans and other dogs.  This is mainly due to their personal characteristics. They like to lie down back to back during the night sleep with human beings. They will cuddle the feet, jump on the couch and curl up beside and jump into bed with their owners. 

5. Do Basenji Dogs Shed the Hair?

Ans: Some Basenji dogs usually shed a minimal amount of hair. But most of the dogs have heavier undercoats, which stops the loti. The Basenji dogs will often be aloof and sleep for about 20 hours a day. For the other four hours, they are awake and walk with a horse-like gait.