Highly Energetic, Does not Bark and Grooms Itself Like a Cat


Highly Energetic, the Basenji does not Bark and Grooms Itself Like a Cat

Athletic, rather small but quite muscular, the smooth and sleek Basenji loves to play. A very energetic dog, it is affectionate and makes a good pet – but must be socialized from a young age to learn to obey promptly. It is motivated to please and trains well, but also exhibits a very strong will of its own. Endearing and very clever, the Basenji makes an excellent companion to the right family as long as they make sure they are firmly in charge. It is not the best choice of pet in households with non-canine pets due to this breed’s strong hunting instincts.

Fastidious, the Basenji cleans itself like a cat and can raise itself upright on its haunches much like a squirrel when curious about something, in order to get a better view. It doesn't bark but instead makes a low, liquid sound in its throat when excited or curious.


The Basenji comes from the Congo region of Africa. A hunting dog by nature and classified in the Hound Group by the AKC, the Basenji uses sight and scent to track prey and was originally used to control vermin in African villages. The dog's lack of bark was highly appreciated as an asset to the hunt. In addition to its adaptability, courage and intelligence, it is an excellent retriever and pointer, able to drive game into nets and search out wounded prey.

First exported to England in 1895, those early dogs died quickly because of distemper. In 1937, another attempt was made to import dogs from Africa to England, while at the same time, a pair was sent to America. The American dogs gave birth to puppies, but only the older male named "Boris" survived, with the rest dying, again from distemper. Later, English and Canadian imports helped develop the breed further in the United States.


This barkless dog is by no means a pushover. Clever and charming, Basenjis will love and obey their humans – if they wish to. Stubborn and incredibly intelligent, the Basenji is much more likely to charm its human into obedience – rather than the other way around. Therefore, human owners must take care to establish firm, consistent boundaries which should be maintained – no matter how cute this pup may act. By establishing these firm guidelines against a Basenji's stubbornness, you will provide the clear etiquette this dog so strongly seeks. If you don't, your pet will be aggressive and confused – and will not take to force kindly at all. Establish firm behavioral standards and socialize from puppyhood, and you will have a much happier, better-behaved pet.

The Basenji can also growl or howl in addition to its low, undulating "yodel" in lieu of a bark. These pets can be destructive if they're not happy, but also because they simply like to chew. Provide plenty of chew toys to avoid damage to expensive shoes, furniture, clothes, etc.

Will defend property and family when challenged by any intruder regardless of size or ferocity. Although your little pet is certainly no match for a large, fierce intruder, you won't be able to convince this dog otherwise. Fearless beyond comprehension, this little dog just never gives up.


Small, sleek and elegant, the Basenji tends to resemble a sculpture because of its refined appearance. Defined by a muscularly-developed, smooth body, the Basenji’s forehead is wrinkled and the muzzle is shorter than the skull. The eyes are almond-shaped and small; ears are straight, erect and small, and open to the front. With a level back and straight legs, the tail is high and curls over to one side or the other. The short, shiny coat is copper, black, chestnut red, red, or tricolor with combinations of white, tan and black, or brindle, black and white. The American Kennel Club's standard says the dog should have white on the feet, tip of the tail, and chest, although white blaze (the white stripe running up the center of the face usually between the eyes), legs, and collar are options, not requirements. In adulthood, the Basenji stands 15 to 17 inches at the shoulder and weighs between 20 and 26 pounds.

Proper Environment

Although small, the Basenji needs vigorous exercise on a daily basis, because this breed can become lazy and, more dangerously, temperamental, without it. A long daily walk and plenty of vigorous play (which your pet will often initiate, to your amusement) is necessary for your pet to stay happy.

Note that the Basenji will behave best in a household with two or three other Basenjis to keep it company. While not advisable to reside with other non-canine pets, the Basenji breed does not fight among its own species, making for a peaceful, happy household. In addition, several basenjis will play with each other and remove some of the need for you to devote time to keep this breed amused.

Crating is a fine way to train your Basenji when you are not there – although this is a breed that needs its people around. Don't crate just to get your pet out of the way or if you want to be lazy; rather use the crate to establish firm boundaries during training.

An apartment is fine for this breed if you give your pet enough exercise.


The Basenji is prone to kidney problems known as Fanconi's syndrome, which must be treated as soon as you notice symptoms. The Basenji can also have eye problems, intestinal problems, and can suffer from progressive retinal atrophy. Relatively hardy and healthy, you can expect this dog to live between 10 and 12 years.


The Basenji is almost feline in its grooming habits. Immaculate and fastidious, this dog will clean itself when needed. Since it will shed very little, you will only need to brush its coat occasionally.


AKC Meet the Breeds®: Get to know the Basenji.

Retrieved November 10, 2013.


Retrieved November 10, 2013.


Retrieved November 10, 2013.

Basenji (Congo Dog) (Congo Terrier).

Retrieved November 10, 2013.

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