Key Breed Facts
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Basenji
Average Cost to keep/care for a Basenji
The Basenji is often referred to as the "barkless" dog although they are also described as being "talking dogs" because although they don't "bark" like other dogs, they make their own unique sound which is more like a yodel that anything else. They are ultra clean dogs which makes them more cat-like than other dogs and they will spend hours cleaning themselves when they have any dirt on their coats. Just like cats, Basenjis use their paws to clean themselves and as a result rarely have any sort of smell about them.
Basenjis are around the size of a terrier and have a very endearing look about them which is enhanced by the wrinkles on their foreheads. They are wonderfully friendly by nature as well as being inquisitive and confident. A Basenji forms a very strong and close bond with a family and in particular with one person in a household which is why over the years, they have become one of the most popular choices of a family pets or companion dogs.
Basenjis have been around for a very long time with evidence of very similar looking dogs being found on wall paintings and engravings in the Pharaoh's tombs of Ancient Egypt. However, these extraordinary little dogs were also found in the Congo in the seventeenth century where they highly prized for the hunting and scenting skills.
Three dogs that were imported to France from the Belgium Congo can be seen in a picture that was taken in 1880 at the Zoological Gardens in Paris. These dogs bear a striking resemblance to the Basenji and the breed profile that was written back then is very similar to today's breed standard for the Basenji.
Over the years, these lovely little dogs became highly prized for their hunting skills in many African countries where they are often referred to as "the jumping up and down dog" or M'bwa M'kube M'bwawamwitu. It was not until the mid thirties that the breed found its way to the UK when a pair of Basenjis were imported into the country and later these dogs produced their first litter. The following year, in 1937, the puppies were exhibited for the first time at Crufts and the interest was so great that crowds of people had to be kept under control by the Police.
Today, the Basenji is still used as a hunting dog in many African countries, but these lovely, loyal dogs are extremely popular here in the UK and elsewhere in the world too thanks to their sweet personalities and the fact they don't bark. The Basenji also sheds very little and because they are often in the limelight when they appear and win at Crufts being described as the "silent dogs", they continue to be a great choice as family pets and companion dogs.
Height at the withers: Males 41 - 43 cm, Females 38 - 40 cm
Average Weight: Males 10 - 12 kg, Females 9.5 - 11 kg
Basenjis are quite unique not only in their appearance, but in their natures too. They are small to medium in size, much like a terrier. They are light and finely boned dogs and they boast a noble look about them. These dogs are always extremely alert and look ready to take off if they spot any prey. They are also very graceful and poised characters that boast a sweet and intelligent look about them with the wrinkles on their brows adding to their overall appeal.
They have nicely proportioned, fine and well-chiselled heads and when a Basenji pricks their ears, wrinkles appear on their foreheads giving them a quizzical expression that is very endearing. When they are puppies, these wrinkles are even more accentuated which is why the Basenji is so adorable looking when they are very young.
Their ears are almond-shaped and slightly hooded which are dark in colour. Dogs hold them upright and well forward on their heads. Their mouths are strong with a perfect bite. Basenjis have very strong and powerful looking necks which are nicely crested and fuller at the base which they hold arched and it's this that gives the Basenji their noble and proud look.
Their forequarters are powerful with well laid back shoulders and nice long, finely boned front legs. A Basenjis body is well proportioned and muscled with a shortish, level back over well-sprung ribs. They boast deep briskets that run neatly into a well defined waist. Hindquarters are powerful and strong looking with long second thighs. Their back legs give the impression that a Basenji is always ready to sprint off after their prey. Their feet and compact, neat and narrow with short nails and well arched toes. They carry their tails curled well over their backs whether in a single or double curl.
When it comes to their coat, a Basenji boasts a very short, sleek and fine coat that can be a variety of colours which includes the following:
Any white colour has to be on a dog's feet, chest and tips of their tails although some Basenjis have white legs or a white blaze and white collar which is also perfectly acceptable as a breed standard.
Basenjis boast very kind and friendly natures. As previously mentioned, their sense of smell and their sight is exceptionally good which is why they are so highly prized for their hunting skills in their native Africa. As pets, they retain much of their natural instinct which includes their independent and free-spirited outlook on life.
Basenjis are extremely affectionate dogs although they can be a little stand-offish when introduced to strangers. However, once a dog gets to know someone, they are friendly and playful around them. Although they are always very affectionate towards the whole family, Basenjis tend to form very strong bonds with one particular person in a household and this bond just gets stronger and stronger as time goes on.
When it comes to training, a Basenji responds well to gentle, yet firm handling. They are very sensitive dogs by nature which means any harsh or rough treatment would not sit well with them. It would be fair to say that a Basenji is not the best choice of pets for first time owners, but they make superb companions for people who are used to being around independent thinking dogs and who know how to handle and train them.
A Basenji needs to be kept busy both mentally and physically to be truly happy and well-balanced dogs. If left to their own devices for too long, they get extremely bored very quickly and they are known to be extremely good escape artists boasting the ability to jump over high fences and hedges with the greatest of ease. Another thing that many Basenjis do not like is getting wet or being in water which is another very cat-like trait about them.
Basenjis are intelligent, but they are high spirited and sometimes a little nervous by nature which can make them harder to train. Their training and socialisation needs to start early always showing a Basenji a lot of understanding and patience. It's also important to bear in mind that these dogs tend to form a very strong bond with one person which makes it easier for that person to educate them.
The Basenji is a sensitive dog by nature and therefore does not respond well at all to any harsh correction or training methods. They do respond to positive reinforcement and with patience they will learn the house rules and how to behave, although it would be fair to say that they might not win any prizes in obedience competitions. One thing to bear in mind when training a Basenji puppy is that if they have a bad experience during their education, they will not forget it. In short, great care has to taken when training a Basenji when they are young.
Basenjis do make wonderful family pets although very young children tend to worry them which means any interaction has to be well supervised by an adult at all times to make sure things stay calm and friendly.
When it comes to other pets and animals, Basenjis, if well socialised from a young age and introduced to as many new things as possible, generally accepts being around them and this includes cats. However, it always pays to keep a close eye on things when a Basenji is first introduced to another animal or dog to make sure things stay calm and under control.
For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.
The average life expectancy of a Basenji is anything between 12 to 14 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality, well balanced diet to suit their ages.
As a breed, the Basenji is known to be a robust and healthy dog. However, they are known to suffer from the following disorders which are worth knowing about if you are about to get a Basenji puppy or adopt and older more mature dog:
As with any other breed, Basenjis need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they stay fit and healthy. On top of this, Basenjis need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.
Because Basenjis boast fine, short hair they are not high maintenance dogs in the grooming department. The other thing to bear in mind, is that they like to keep themselves very clean and will wash themselves using their paws much in the same way as a cat. With this said, a weekly brush will help keep a dog's coat in great condition and it will also keep their skin healthy too.
Basenjis are not that fond of water which means bathing them can be a challenge, but with this said they should not need to be bathed that often unless really necessary.
Basenjis like to be kept busy and therefore need to be given regular exercise on a daily basis and ideally this has to include lots of mental stimulation for them to be truly happy, well-rounded characters that are a pleasure to have around. They are a great choice for people who lead active, outdoor lives because a Basenji is definitely not a "stay at home dog" nor are they couch potatoes. As such a good brisk walk in the morning and then again in the afternoon are absolutely essential. Two hours daily exercise is the ideal for these active, alert dogs to prevent boredom setting in and it should include lots of mental stimulation.
However, because the Basenji is an incredibly skilled sighthound, letting them off their leads can be problematic unless the area is ultra-safe and there are no animals around for them to chase after. Gardens need to be made extremely secure because the Basenji is more than capable of jumping high fences which as previously mentioned, they do with the greatest of ease.
Basenjis need to be fed a good quality well-balanced diet that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives for them to remain fit and healthy. If you have decided to get a puppy from a breeder, they would provide you with a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to it for the first few weeks after bringing a Basenji puppy home. You can change their diet when the time is right, but this needs to be done very gradually and carefully over a few weeks to make sure puppies don't suffer any tummy upsets.
It's also important for puppies to be fed at least 3 to 4 times a day to begin with, but you can start feeding them the same amount of food twice a day when they are around 4 months old always keeping an eye on things to make sure a young dog can cope with the change in their feeding routine.
Older more mature dogs can be fed twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening and this needs to be good quality food that contains all the right nutrients, vitamins and minerals that dogs need to remain healthy. However, some Basenjis can become fussy eaters if given too many treats which is something to bear in mind when you are training a dog and using high value treats.
If you are looking to buy a Basenji, you would need to pay anything from £350 to over £500 for a well-bred pedigree puppy. The cost of insuring a 3-year-old Basenji in northern England would be £19.01 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £40.81 a month (quote as of March 2016). When insurance companies calculate pet insurance, they factor in a few things and this includes where you live in the UK and a dog's age and breed.
When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry, to feed your dog making sure it suits the different stages of their lives. This would set you back between £20 - £30 a month. On top of all of this, you would need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a Basenji which includes their initial vaccinations, their boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying your dog when the time is right and then their annual health check visits, all of which quickly adds up to over a £800 a year.
As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for a Basenji would be between £60 to £90 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a pedigree Basenji puppy.
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