Basenji Dog Breed - Characteristics, Evolution, History, Facts, Temperament, Health, Care, Training
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The Basenji dog breed, also known as the “African barkless dog” or the “yodelling dog” is one of the oldest canine breeds in the world. They originated in central Africa (Congo region) and were brought to Egypt long before the pyramids were built. Basenji were so prized, they even appeared in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs and other Egyptian artwork.
ABOUT THE BASENJI DOG BREED
NAME The Name Basenji (in the local African Lingala language) means “dog of the savages” or “dog of the villagers”. In the Congo, the Bisinji is known as the “dog of the bush” or in East Africa “wild dog”. Another local name given to the Basenji is the “dog that jumps up and down” because of their tendency to jump when excited.
BARKLESS (YODEL) CHARACTERISTIC Scientists believe the “barkless” feature of the Basenji is a result of selective breeding, as tribes may have given preference to dogs that remained silent during hunts and so over repetitive generations the trait for barking was slowly eliminated.
EVOLUTION The Basenji is a “basal breed” and is known as one of the oldest and most unique breeds of dogs. Their lineage split off early in the canine evolutionary process and they are closer in relation to the Dingo than other breeds of dogs.
HISTORY Europeans first wrote about the Basenji around 1895 when they were being observed in the Congo. The Basenji is prized for their intelligence, speed, courage, and stealth (silence). They are excellent hunters, especially in groups.
INTELLIGENCE CONTROVERSY In 1994 “The Intelligence of Dogs” was published by psychology professor Stanley Coren and he ranked the Basenji near the bottom of the intelligence list. Because this ranking was based on “working / obedience intelligence” it was not meant to say that the Basenji is not smart but rather that they are not as trainable as other dogs. We have found this to be true in our own experience with the Basenji and we find them VERY SMART … but they’re usually not interested in pleasing others.
APPEARANCE Basenjis are small (9.1–10.9 kg or 20–24 lbs) and 41–46 cm (16–18 inches) tall at the shoulder). They have short hair, pointed ears and curly tails. They often have wrinkled foreheads (especially as puppies). They have almond shaped eyes and are known as a “square” breed which means they are as tall as they are long. The Basenji is very athletic and strong for their small size.They are graceful and can run like a trotting horse or very fast with a “double suspension” gallop. They will often uncurl their tail when running at high speeds for increased balance. Basenjis come in several cooler variations including red, black, tri-color, brindle and “trindle” (tricolour with brindle prints which is very rare). All Basenjis have white feet, white chests and white tips at the tail.
TEMPERAMENT Basenjis are often described as “cat-like” or “acting like cats (felines)”. They are energetic, curious, alert, and aren’t usually very interested in strangers or other dogs (except other Basenjis). They usually bond well with their human parents and may not get along well with other (non canine) pets. Basenjis don’t usually like to be wet and they don’t like wet weather. They are excellent climbers and can often figure out how to get on top of counter tops and tables. They also love to sit on people’s lap or curl up in the cosiest place they can find (often snuggling up against another dog). Basenjis sometimes stand up on their hind legs (like a meerkat) and they are a driven hunter with a natural instinct to chase.
LONGEVITY & HEALTH (RECOMMENDATION: TEST AT 3 YEARS OLD) The median lifespan of the Basenji is 13.6 years which is 1-2 years longer than other dogs of similar size. Something to be mindful of with Basenjis is the genetic tendency for them to develop the Fanconi syndrome which causes them to have problems absorbing electrolytes. Care should be taken to test Basenjis (DNA tests are now available for this) starting when they are 3 years old to make sure they are treated properly if fanconi syndrome is found. Basenjis can also carry other recessive genes that can cause issues so it’s recommended to have them tested.