A poised, elegant hunting dog from Africa, the Basenji is smoothly muscular and moves with ease and agility. He is lightly built and possesses a wrinkled head and a high, curled tail. The Basenji is commonly known as the “barkless dog,” but when excited, he makes a noise that sounds like a yodel. Colors include chestnut red, pure black or brindle — all with white feet, chest and tail tip.
A Look Back
Prized for its hunting prowess in its native Central Africa, the first specimens of the Basenji were brought from the source of the Nile as presents to the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt. The breed wasn’t successfully introduced in England until 1937, and the first litter of Basenji puppies raised to maturity in America was in 1941. In Africa, the natives use him for pointing, retrieving and driving game into nets.
The basenji is square-proportioned and high on leg. It is far more slightly built and longer-legged than most other primitive breeds, giving it a good amount of speed and the ability to perform the double-suspension gallop. Its erect ears help it locate prey in thick bush and may act as heat dissipaters. Its short coat also aids in dealing with the hot climate of Africa.
Some consider the basenji to have terrier-like mannerisms because it is feisty for a hound. More often it is considered catlike in mannerisms: clever, inquisitive, stubborn, independent and reserved. Its hunting roots are very evident, as it loves to chase and trail. It needs regular mental and physical stimulation, lest it become frustrated and destructive. Basenjis may be barkless, but they are not mute. They do make a sort of yodel, howl and shriek — and occasionally bark, but just one or two “fox barks” at a time.
The Basenji is a small, short haired hunting dog from Africa. It is short backed and lightly built, appearing high on the leg compared to its length. The wrinkled head is proudly carried on a well arched neck and the tail is set high and curled. Elegant and graceful, the whole demeanor is one of poise and inquiring alertness. The balanced structure and the smooth musculature enables it to move with ease and agility. The Basenji hunts by both sight and scent. Characteristics–The Basenji should not bark but is not mute. The wrinkled forehead, tightly curled tail and swift, effortless gait (resembling a racehorse trotting full out) are typical of the breed. Faults–Any departure from the following points must be considered a fault, and the seriousness with which the fault is regarded is to be in exact proportion to its degree.
Size, Proportion, Substance
Ideal height for dogs is 17 inches and bitches 16 inches. Dogs 17 inches and bitches 16 inches from front of chest to point of buttocks. Approximate weight for dogs, 24 pounds and bitches, 22 pounds. Lightly built within this height to weight ratio.
The head is proudly carried. Eyes–Dark hazel to dark brown, almond shaped, obliquely set and farseeing. Rims dark. Ears–Small, erect and slightly hooded, of fine texture and set well forward on top of head. The skull is flat, well chiseled and of medium width, tapering toward the eyes. The foreface tapers from eye to muzzle with a perceptible stop. Muzzle shorter than skull, neither coarse nor snipy, but with rounded cushions. Wrinkles appear upon the forehead when ears are erect, and are fine and profuse. Side wrinkles are desirable, but should never be exaggerated into dewlap. Wrinkles are most noticeable in puppies, and because of lack of shadowing, less noticeable in blacks, tricolors and brindles. Nose–Black greatly desired. Teeth–Evenly aligned with a scissors bite.
Neck, Topline, Body
Neck of good length, well crested and slightly full at base of throat. Well set into shoulders. Topline–Back level. Body–Balanced with a short back, short coupled and ending in a definite waist. Ribs moderately sprung, deep to elbows and oval. Slight forechest in front of point of shoulder. Chest of medium width. Tail is set high on topline, bends acutely forward and lies well curled over to either side.
Shoulders moderately laid back. Shoulder blade and upper arm of approximately equal length. Elbows tucked firmly against brisket. Legs straight with clean fine bone, long forearm and well defined sinews. Pasterns of good length, strong and flexible. Feet–Small, oval and compact with thick pads and well arched toes. Dewclaws are usually removed.
Medium width, strong and muscular, hocks well let down and turned neither in nor out, with long second thighs and moderately bent stifles. Feet–Same as in “Forequarters.”
Coat and Color
Coat short and fine. Skin very pliant. Color–Chestnut red; pure black; tricolor (pure black and chestnut red); or brindle (black stripes on a background of chestnut red); all with white feet, chest and tail tip. White legs, blaze and collar optional. The amount of white should never predominate over primary color. Color and markings should be rich, clear and well-defined, with a distinct line of demarcation between the black and red of tricolors and the stripes of brindles.
Swift, tireless trot. Stride is long, smooth, effortless and the topline remains level. Coming and going, the straight column of bones from shoulder joint to foot and from hip joint to pad remains unbroken, converging toward the centerline under the body. The faster the trot, the greater the convergence.
An intelligent, independent, but affectionate and alert breed. Can be aloof with strangers.
The Basenji, popularly known as the “Barkless Dog”, is one of the oldest breeds, with documentation of the first specimens found in ancient Egypt. When the civilization of Egypt declined and fell, the breed lapsed into obscurity but was preserved in Central Africa. It was highly prized for its intelligence, speed, hunting power & silence.
The first exportations were taken to England in 1895, but unfortunately these dogs perished due to contracting distemper. It wasn’t until 1937 that another attempt was made to introduce Basenjis to England, and at the same time, a pair was also exported to America. The American dogs produced a litter of puppies, but all of them with the exception of the older male, “Boris”, perished from distemper. In 1941 a young female was imported to the Boston, MA, area, and this female and Boris produced the first American litter of Basenjis. Later, additional imports from Canada and England helped to develop the breed in the United States.
The Basenji was developed first and foremost as a hunting dog, with great emphasis being placed on intelligence, courage and adaptability. These traits aided the dog in the field, as frequently the dogs would work out of the sight of the hunters. The natives used the Basenji for pointing, retrieving, for driving game into nets and for hunting wounded quarry, and the breed’s ability to be silent was a great asset in a successful hunt.