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Breed Description


The basenji, also known as the “barkless dog”, is one of the oldest breeds.  The first specimens were brought from the source of the Nile as presents to the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt.  Later when the civilization of Egypt declined and fell, the Basenji lapsed into obscurity.  It was, however, still valued and preserved in central Africa where it was highly prized for it’s intelligence, speed, hunting power and silence.


Centuries later, an English explorer rediscovered the Basenji and a pair were brought to England in 1895.  Unfortunately, these dogs contracted distemper and shortly died there-after.  Aside from that attempt to make the breed known, the “outside” world in general did not hear of the Basenji until 1937 when it was successfully introduced to England.  At that time a pair was brought to America by Ms. Byron Rogers, of New York City.  Unfortunately, this pair and a litter of puppies all died from contracting distemper, except the older male dog, Bois.  Four years later a young female was brought from Africa to Boston and was mated with Bois, resulting in the first litter of Basenji pups to be raised to maturity in America.  The Basenji Club of America was formed in 1942 and the accepted standard for the breed was drawn up.


The basenji is about the size and build of a Fox Terrier.  He is a proud little dog and one is impressed with his beauty, grace and intelligence.  The breed is highly active and requires space to “run off” it’s energy.  As such, it most likely is not suited for an apartment environment.  He is a fascinating and endearing fellow, full of curiosity and play.  His habits are similar to that of a cat, as he regularly cleans his coat and lacks a typical “doggy odor”.  They are independent and can be aloof with strangers, but are typically open and clam with those he knows and loving and solicitous with children.


The coat of the Basenji is short and fine with a brilliant luster.  The breed is one of those that is hyper-allergenic.  There are four colors accepted by the standard:


Ø      (Chestnut) Red and White.

Ø      Tri-Color (Black, Red and White).

Ø      Brindle.

Ø      Black & White.


The Basenji, while barkless, is not mute.  They have a distinctive happy sound somewhere between a chortle and a yodel called a baroo, as well as growls.  Other distinctive features, other than the lack of bark, include a wrinkled brow, almond shaped eyes, pointy erect ears, and curled tail. They range in weight from 22-24 pounds and in height from 16-17 inches at the shoulder.


For countless years, the Basenji survived as a sight hound, often working out of the sight of hunters.  As such, it is quite independent and intelligent as well as adaptable.  When hunting, African tribes would be outfitted with a “bell” worn on it’s collar or strapped under it’s belly.  The bell would serve in flushing game as well as an aid to the owner in locating the dog in the brush.


More information

Books on Basenji history

  1. BASENJI by Veronica Tudor-Williams

  2. THE COMPLETE BASENJI by Elspet Ford

  3. THE BASENJI Out of Africa to You  by Susan Coe

  4. Basenjis by jack Shafer & Bob Mankey

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This site was last updated 02/25/09