Basenjis may have an illustrious hunting pedigree, but they can get very comfortable at home. In fact, Basenjis will sometimes sleep the day away. When they wake up, however, watch out: These dogs love to play, explore and run. Even if you’re not in the mood to play, your Basenji will find a way to coax you out of your chair. Their intelligence and craftiness is second to none.
- 21 - 24 pounds
- 16 - 17 inches
Ideal Human Companions
- Families with older children
- Hunters and sportsmen
- Experienced dog handlers
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What They Are Like to Live With
Basenjis don’t bark—a plus for some dog owners—but keep in mind that they do make some very interesting sounds. Depending on their mood, they will howl, scream or yodel. Basenjis also make human-like facial expressions—furrowing their brows when they sense danger or raising their eyebrows when they get worried.
Taking into account that their ancestors basically lived in the bush hunting and tracking, Basenjis are a mix of cleverness, resourcefulness and independence. They know how to take care of themselves, but they also love human companionship and togetherness. Basenjis form very strong bonds with their masters and, when properly introduced, are very playful with children.
Things You Should Know
Don’t be fooled by their lone-wolf nature: Basenjis are people-oriented dogs. If neglected or excluded from family occasions, they can get depressed. Sometimes this can lead to destructiveness. If left alone in the back yard for hours on end, a Basenji can easily dig up a garden or figure out a way to jump the fence.
Basenjis need lots of exercise to stay mentally and physically fit. Several walks a day will suit them. They also make superb jogging partners. But always remember to keep them on a leash.
A healthy Basenji can live as long as 12 years. Common health issues include Fanconi Syndrome (a kidney ailment), in addition to hip, eye and intestinal problems. Basenjis are clean animals. Like cats, they often groom themselves by licking their fur. A good brushing every few days will be good for them, but they shed very little.
The Basenji is an ancient breed, dating back to the time of the pharaohs. Used in central Africa for thousands of years, Basenjis were valued for their quickness, intelligence and silence by African hunters who used them for a host of duties—retrieving, pointing, tracking and herding. The first Basenjis taken to Europe in the 19th century did not survive. However, in 1937 these unique dogs were introduced in England and America, drawing huge crowds and causing a sensation.
The Look of a Basenji
Basenjis are small, pointy-eared dogs covered in smooth, shiny coats that can come in red, black, red & black, black & red and black & brindle. Their alert heads have tapered muzzles, almond-shaped eyes, dark noses, and wrinkled foreheads that sometimes give them a worried look. They have long necks that slope down to short backs. Their tails curl over, and they walk with a kind of horse-like trot. Overall, Basenjis carry themselves with gracefulness and readiness.
Talk About Basenjis
Clever, precocious energetic dogs
I have two young Basenjis, and I love their energy, regal persona, and cleverness. They can be a real handful: they are intelligent, strong-willed, and very "what's in it for me?" in the way that they approach life. One of mine can escape a wire crate in less than five minutes if it's not properly reinforced, and both can effortlessly jump over a baby gate to get to the cat food on the other side.
They are extremely challenging, but if you are determined, you can figure out what motivates them and convince them it was their idea to do whatever you've asked of them. I would compare it to living with a precocious toddler. You can teach them absolutely anything if you figure out how to explain what you want, but don't expect them to "sit" just because you ask them to.
It is an effort to make sure they are well exercised (two-mile jog or trip to the off leash dog park almost daily), and an effort to make sure you have them properly contained when you can't watch them. However, they do like to cuddle, and greet friends with enthusiasm.
We get a lot of attention out and about, as they are not a common breed. Many people are very interested in them when I tell them they can't bark, clean themselves like cats, and are often low-shed and low-allergy; however, I tell anybody who is interested to do a lot of research and meet some breeders first. This breed can be a real handful. However, if you enjoy challenges and the reward of earning the respect and love of a dog, this is a great breed.
~Carrie, owner of two Basenjis
Great escape artists
I fell in love with Basenjis when I saw "Good-bye, My Lady" as a little girl. My experience has proven them to be just as clever and sweet as that little Basenji. They have been listed as near the bottom in intelligence when compared to other dogs, but that is probably because they are quite independent, as they probably needed to be when in the jungles of Africa.
They can be trained, but they need to see a reason -- even if it is just for their fun! Training takes patience and a sense of humor, because they don't take abuse or aggresive training tactics well. They are great escape artists,too. I have seen them get out of areas no other dog can figure out. They will go under, around, and over almost any enclosure.
My dogs keep themselves clean -- and when you come out of the shower, they will even try to lick you dry. They can be somewhat aloof to strangers, tolerant to friends of the family, and quite lovable to family. They get along with cats better than any other breed and do well with horses, also.
They are one of the few hounds that hunt with both sight and smell. They can be agile and are used in coursing because of their speed. They do love to run and hunt, which is what they have been bred for. Because of this, they cannot be trusted out of an enclosure or off a leash -- unless you have 500 acres!
~Joy N., owner of two Basenjis
Brave little house-trashers
I fell in love with Basenjis 13 years ago after our very dainty Cleopatra joined our family. Not only are Basenjis an elegant breed but they are a challenge. They talk back to you (barkless does not mean silent). They are consummate problem solvers, i.e. "How do I remove the toilet paper from the roll? In large bitesize clumps or grabbing the end and running for the back of the house?"
They are team players, i.e. Cleo telling Bomba, "You convince Mom and Dad you have an urgent need to go outside while I grab the steaks." But even when you wish to throttle them, they roll on their side and wave their paws in the air begging for a belly rub. How can you resist that?
They are brave. Little 16-pound Cleo stood up to a 60-pound Rottweiler. She lost that fight, but boy she was willing to give it her best shot. They are clean. I seldom need to bathe my Basenjis. And even though they are not the breed for everyone (really think twice or three times before bringing a Basenji into your family) how many people do YOU know who have one? Not many. I've dealt/lived with many different breeds, and the Basenji is truly my very favorite breed.
~Lori S., owner of Basenjis