With the nicknames 'barkless dog' or the 'talking dog', the sounds the Basenji actually makes are nothing short of extraordinary. From a pleasing 'yodel' to a happy 'chortle' and a lonesome howl, this dog will vocalise a range of noises to communicate its state of mind to its family pack and its owner.
The Basenji originates from Africa and its name means 'small wild thing from the bush'. The exact area of Africa it originates from is unclear - but it appears that it is either from Central Africa or Egypt. One thing is for certain - the Basenji or similar dogs have resided with the indigenous peoples of Africa for many thousands of years. Packs of these dogs lived on the outskirts of villages and came to rely on humans as one of their food sources; some of the packs became tame and then domesticated over time while others remained semi wild. No real intervention was thought to have taken place from humans with regards to breeding these dogs, meaning that as a breed, they have remained relatively untouched for many, many years. The Basenji belongs to a family of dogs called 'Schensi-Dogs'. This describes dogs that have not been domesticated and have remained wild. Other well known members of the Schensi family are the Australian dingo or the Canaan dog from Israel.
The Basenji is a very popular dog as a pet or working and hunting dog in Africa and is becoming more popular in Europe and the UK.
Average height at withers: Males and females up to 16 inches, with males on the larger side.
Average weight: Both males and females weigh up to 11kg.
A sleek and elegant looking medium sized dog with a proud posture, the Basenji has erect, triangular ears and a tail which curls over its back. It has dark, almond shaped eyes and many owners report that they appear to 'squint'. It is perfectly proportioned and has a good muscle tone leading to a characteristic athletic and graceful poise and stance. The short fur is suited to hotter climates and is easy to maintain. In colour, the Basenji is black, red, tricolour or brindle accompanied by white markings. It is noted that in areas such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, other colours do exist including livers and sables.
The Basenji is an independent and free spirited dog while remaining affectionate to its family members. It can be 'stand offish' with strangers, but once it knows a person, it will lavish them with love and loves to play. It does not always live with other animals very well, but this is something that may be overcome if introduced from an early age. It responds best to fair and sympathetic handling and training. As a breed, they can become very attached to one particular family member and will do anything for them. They are an alert companion and require quite a lot of exercise to keep them well grounded and stimulated. They are better in a household with experienced owners, who understand them as a breed. As such, they are not always suited to living with younger children who may confuse its vocalizations and body language. A bored Basenji is quite an escape artist and can leap and jump over high fences and hedges with considerable ease for its size. They are also noted for a particular loathing of water and getting wet!
The Basenji produces an unusual sound commonly called a 'barroo' , amongst other noises to communicate with its pack members. This is due to the shape of its larynx or 'voice box'. In addition, Basenjis share many unique traits with other wild dogs such as Dingoes'. Basenjis, like Dingoes and some other breeds of dog, come into estrus only once per year, as compared to other dog breeds which may have two or more breeding seasons every year.
A healthy Basenji lives to around 13-14 years old. There has been very little study into the general health of this breed, but they are generally thought to be quite healthy with few hereditary conditions. The main illnesses to look out for include PRA or Progressive Retinal Atrophy. This is a group of genetic diseases seen in certain breeds of dog. Its clinical symptoms include a degeneration of the retina, causing progressive vision loss culminating in blindness. There is currently no known treatment for this condition. They are also prone to a condition called Fanconis Syndrome, which is a chronic failure of the kidneys. Symptoms include dehydration, excessive thirst, Polyuria (excessive urination) and stunted growth. Once diagnosed, it may be treated but often leads to total kidney failure.
This is a dog which can live with children provided it is well socialised from being a youngster and the children are old enough to understand the dogs needs and behaviour. It is best suited for a family with quite an active lifestyle who are available for regular walks. It has a short and low maintenance coat and requires little brushing. The Basenji is very capable of keeping itself very clean and rarely requires baths.