Information about the Basenji

The Basenji is a breed of hunting dog that was bred from stock originating in central Africa. Most of the major kennel clubs in the English-speaking world place the breed in the Hound Group; more specifically, it may be classified as belonging to the sighthound type. The Fédération Cynologique Internationale places the breed in Group 5, Spitz and Primitive types, and the United Kennel Club (US) places the breed in the Sighthound & Pariah Group.

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”.

Basenjis share many unique traits with Pariah dog types. Basenjis, like dingoes 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 dingoes and basenji lack a distinctive odor, and are 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 humans’ forest encampments. While dogs that resemble the basenji in some respects are commonplace over much of AfricBasenji are small, elegant-looking, short-haired dogs with erect ears, a tightly curled tail and a graceful neck. 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.

Dogs typically weigh 24 pounds (11 kg) and stand 16 inches (40.6 cm) at the withers. 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 double-suspension 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, by the FCI, KC, AKC, and UKC. 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, and “capped” tricolors (creeping tan).

The basenji is alert, affectionate, energetic, curious and reserved with strangers. It can be described as speedy, frisky, tireless at play, and teasing the owner into play. 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. Most Basenji problems involve a mismatch between owner and pet.

The basenji has the unique properties of not barking (it makes a low, liquid ululation instead) and cleaning itself like a cat. Often, the Basenji is commonly referred to as the shrieking dog, or screaming child dog.

Basenjis often stand on their hind legs, somewhat like a meerkat, by themselves or leaning on something; 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. According to the book The Intelligence of Dogs, they are the second least trainable dog.