Breed Profiles


Basenji

The Basenji is a breed of hunting dog that was bred from stock originating in central Africa.

The Basenji produces an unusual yodel-like sound commonly called a "barroo", due to its unusually shaped larynx. This trait also gives the Basenji the nickname "Barkless Dog." In behavior and temperament they supposedly have some traits in common with cats.

Basenjis share many unique traits with Pariah dog types. Basenjis, like dingos and some other breeds of dog, come into estrus only once annually, as compared to other dog breeds which may have two or more breeding seasons every year. Both dingos and Basenjis lack a distinctive odor, and both are considered relatively silent, more prone to howls, yodels, and other undulated vocalizations over the characteristic bark of modern dog breeds. One theory holds that the latter trait is the result of the selective killing of barkier dogs in the traditional Central African context because barking could lead enemies to natives' forest encampments. While dogs that resemble the basenji in some respects are commonplace over much of Africa, the breed's original foundation stock came from the old growth forest regions of the Congo Basin, where its structure and type were fixed by adaptation to its habitat, as well as use (primarily net hunting in extremely dense old-growth forest vegetation).

Appearance

Basenji are small, elegant-looking, short-haired dogs with erect ears, a tightly curled tail, and a graceful neck. Some people consider their appearance similar to that of a miniature deer. A basenji's forehead is wrinkled, especially when the animal is young or extremely old. Basenji eyes are typically almond shaped, which gives the dog the appearance of squinting seriously.

They are typically a square breed, which means that they are as long as they are tall. The basenji is an athletic dog and is deceptively powerful for its size. They have a graceful, confident gait like a trotting horse, and skim the ground in a "doublesuspension gallop", with their characteristic curled tail straightened out for greater balance, when running flat-out at their top speed.

The basenji is recognized in the following standard colorations: red, black, tricolor (black with tan in the traditional pattern), and brindle (black stripes on a background of red), all with white.. There are additional variations, such as the "trindle", which is a tricolor with brindle points, and several other colorations exist in the Congo such as liver, shaded reds and(sables), "capped" tricolors (creeping tan).

Temperament

The Basenji is alert, affectionate, energetic, and curious and reserved with strangers. The Basenji is somewhat aloof, but can also form strong bonds with people and can become emotionally attached to a single human. Basenjis may not get along with non-canine pets. It is commonly patient, but does best with older considerate handlers. Basenjis dislike wet weather, like to climb, can easily get over chain wire fences, and are very clever at getting their own way. The Basenji has the unique properties of not barking (it makes a low, liquid ululation instead) and cleaning itself like a cat. It can be described as speedy, frisky, tireless at play, and teasing the owner into play. Most Basenji problems usually involve a mismatch between owner and pet. Basenjis often stand on their hind legs, somewhat like a meerkat, by themselves or leaning on something; the Basenji is also known to be able to jump over 6 feet vertically. This behavior is often observed when the dog is curious about something. Basenjis reveal their animal-of-prey nature by chasing after fast moving objects that cross their paths.

Health

Many basenjis suffer from PRA (progressive retinal atrophy), which causes blindness, and Fanconi's syndrome, which can cause kidney failure. Besides Fanconi Syndrome and PRA, Basenjis also suffer from Hypothyroidism, IPSID (immunoproliferative systemic intestinal disease), and HA (Hemolytic Anemia). Basenjis are also sensitive to environmental and household chemicals which can cause liver problems.

Basenjis sometimes carry a simple recessive gene which, when homozygous for the defect, causes genetic Hemolytic Anemia. Most 21st-century basenjis are descended from ancestors that have tested clean. When lineage from a fully tested line (set of ancestors) cannot be completely verified, the dog should be tested before breeding. As this is a non-invasive DNA test, a basenji can be tested for HA at any time.

Basenjis sometimes suffer from hip dysplasia, resulting in loss of mobility and arthritis-like symptoms. All dogs should be tested prior to breeding.

Malabsorption, or immunoproliferative enteropathy, is an autoimmune intestinal disease that leads to anorexia, chronic diarrhea, and even death. A special diet can improve the quality of life for afflicted dogs.

History

The basenji is arguably one of the most ancient dog breeds. Originating on the continent of Africa, basenji-like dogs have lived with humans for thousands of years. Dogs resembling modern Basenjis can be seen on stelae in the tombs of Egyptian pharaohs, sitting at the feet of their masters, looking just as they do today, with pricked ears and tightly curled tails. Dogs of this type were originally kept for hunting small game by coursing.

Europeans first described the type of dog from which the basenji breed was derived in the Congo in 1895. These local dogs, which Europeans identified as a unique breed and called "basenji" were prized by locals for their intelligence, courage, speed, and silence.

Basenjis were assistants to the hunt, chasing wild game into nets for their masters. The Azande and Mangbetu people from the northeastern Congo region describe basenjis, in the local Lingala language, as mbwá na basˇnzi. Translated, this means "dogs of the savages", or "dogs of the villagers". In the Congo, the basenji is also known as "dog of the bush." The dogs are also known to the Azande of southern Sudan as Ango Angari. The word basˇnzi itself is the plural form of mosˇnzi. In Kiswahili, another Bantu language, from East Africa, mbwa shenzi translates to “wild dog”. Another local name is m’bwa m’kube m’bwa wamwitu, or “jumping up and down dog”, a reference to their tendency to jump straight up to spot their quarry.

Several attempts were made to bring the breed to England, but the earliest imports succumbed to disease. In 1923, for example, Lady Helen Nutting brought six basenjis with her from Sudan, but all six died from distemper shots they received in quarantine. It was not until the 1930s that foundation stock was successfully established in England, and then to the United States by animal importer Henry Trefflich. So it is that nearly all the basenjis in the Western world are descended from these few original imports.

Although in the past it was speculated that Basenjis were somehow descended from jackals, modern genetic testing shows that Basenjis are related to all other dogs and are descended from the wolf, Canis lupus



 
 
 
 

Behaviour Tip

 
When a dog is presented for behaviour problems to a veterinary ethologist or accredited animal behaviourist it will usually have multiple disorders...
Apr 2011
 

ABC Booklets

   
  Useful booklets on common behavioural problems
 
 

Join the ABC

Membership of the ABC is
open to all. Various
categories of membership
exist



 

Find an Expert

We offer a list of accredited consultants in your area

Find an Expert

Find a Puppy School

Puppy school is place where you and your puppy are educated.