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Basenji Dog Breed…. Everything You Need to Know at a Glance!

Now, there aren’t many dogs out there that make you ask yourself…

“I wonder what he or she is thinking about right now?”

But if you’ve ever owned a Basenji or known someone who has, you’ll probably understand us when we say that this dog’s stare can be alarming and make you wonder…

“What in the world is he or she looking at?”

It’s almost as if this dog’s gaze can sometimes pierce through you!

Now we know this…

It may sound odd, but take it from us: this is a brilliant dog, and this “intelligence” will be made very clear to you just by looking at them for a few moments. This is why even though we here at IndulgeYourPet feel that a Basenji puppy can make a great addition to just about any household, there are a few things you’ll want to know about this breed before you run out and get one. Things like:

  • How big will they get?
  • How easy are they to train?
  • How much exercise will they need?
  • Etc, etc…

This is why we wrote this article about the Basenji dog breed so that you would be better equipped to know if a Basenji puppy is right for you. As well as to give you a better understanding of what you should be on the lookout for when deciding which Basenji puppy you should adopt. So, without further ado, let’s dive right into it!

Basenji Fast Facts

Country of origin:  Central Africa

Original Purpose:  Hunting small game

Weight: 20 to 24 pounds

Height: 1 foot 5 inches to 1 foot 8 inches tall at the shoulder

Average Life Span: 10 to 12 years

Dog Breed Group: Hound Dogs

Origin of the Basenji Dog Breed

If you’re unfamiliar with the Basenji dog breed, don’t worry; you’re not alone. You see, even though this breed has been around for thousands of years, the majority of that time, the Basenji dog breed has remained a well-kept secret of the Mangbetu people who first domesticated the species close to 2000 years ago.

The Mangbetu people.

The Mangbetu people, or the indigenous people of Congo, were the first to discover the “value” of these incredible animals. They were the first to domesticate and incorporate them into their “tribal life.” This makes the Basenji one of the oldest domesticated dog breeds on earth, which begs the question:

“Why did the Mangbetu people decide to domesticate the Basenji?”

We want to tell you that the Mangbetu chose to domesticate the Basenji because they’re just gorgeous (FYI, We here at IndulgeYourPet do findMangbetus quite handsome). Still, the truth is that the Mangbetu chose to domesticate these fantastic animals because they are excellent hunting dogs!

So much so…

During the early 1800s and even up to the 1900s, many “foreigners” attempted to bring the Basenji dog breed back to Europe and the Americas so their “talents” could be used back home. Unfortunately, these attempts were largely unsuccessful mainly because these dogs simply didn’t have the “immune” system to be able to fight off distemper (a viral disease) that killed off men if not all of them; the early attempts to introduce this breed to the “west.”

That all changed when, back in 1929, the Basenji breed was successfully introduced to England, which later allowed the Basenji Club of America to be started in 1942. Shortly afterward, the American Kennel Club (or AKC) “officially” recognized the breed in 1943.

So, what kind of dog is a Basenji?

It’s safe to say that at its “core,” the Basenji is a hunting dog. Mainly if they’re being used to hunt in the jungle. You see, the Basenji is a short, agile hunter that is very fast with incredible hearing. Features that are often used to describe a “Cat” rather than a “Dog.” This is why you’ll often hear the Basenji dog breed described as a “catlike” breed.

Yes, a dog with “catlike” characteristics

But unlike most “cats,” these dogs possess a “pack-like” mentality, which is why many of the Mangbetu people would often use their Basenji dogs to hunt as a pack driving prey or “flushing” prey from the “bush” so that their owners could then capture their targets.

This is also how the Basenji dog got his name.

“Basenji” actually means “bush thing.”

So, you’ve got to imagine if your name means “bush thing,” you’re probably pretty good at running through the jungle chasing after small prey. It also probably means you’re a tough little dog that isn’t afraid of much!

So, what will my Basenji Dog Look like?

Because Basenji dogs are natural hunters, you will find that they will be built like a “natural” hunt: with a fine coat, sleek physique, prick ears, and a tail that curls over the back. Most Basenji will be about 15 to 18 inches tall and weigh between 20 to 24 pounds. And will likely have a coat color of either red, black, or black and tan with a white chest and white feet.

Personality and Temperament

It’s important to understand that the Basenji dog breed is brilliant. So much so that they are considered much more intelligent than some other dog breeds you may be familiar with. Which is great! But as the old saying goes…

“The devil will find work for idle paws!”

This means that you will want to keep your Basenji busy, or he will find his way to keep himself entertained. And just to warn you, his ideas about what is fun and your ideas may not be the same! The good news is that the Basenji breed is not super sensitive; they’re not like one of those dog breeds willing to be upset when their owner doesn’t give them a TON of attention.

At the same time…

You’re Basenji doesn’t want to be left alone at home all day either. He is a companion dog and likes to be around humans; he’s just not going to follow you all day, demanding your attention 24/7. Plus, Basenji’s are not “barkers.” The Basenji breed is also referred to as the African Barkless dog. Now, they can bark, but for the most part, they choose not to. It’s probably more “fair” to say that the Basenji is like the wolf in many respects.

It may…

But once and then, it goes quiet. The Basenji is all about action; it’s not the type of dog that will bark non-stop. So, if you live in an apartment or have neighbors close by, this dog isn’t going to make your neighbors crazy. And as long as you’re willing to give your Basenji plenty of opportunity to run and play, having a Basenji living in an apartment should be fine.

Basenji and children.

As a general rule of thumb, the Basenji dog breed is a good family dog. And they will generally do well with children in the house. However, like with most dogs, having small children around isn’t always the best idea.

So, if you have small children or toddlers in the home and still want to adopt a Basenji right now, we strongly encourage you to adopt a Basenji puppy rather than a Basenji rescue dog. This way, your puppy will have more time to “acclimate” to the baby and become better “socialized” from the start.

Training your Basenji…

When training your Basenji, your biggest challenge is “combating” their instincts to chase. Remember, these dogs are hunting dogs that will have powerful predatory instincts and like nothing better than to track and hunt small animals such as rats, mice, moles, and squirrels. He is also brilliant and knows how to get past an obstacle. So, being firm and kind while training this dog would be best. Treat him like an intelligent but independent-minded child. Make use of positive reinforcement techniques to keep him in line.

He can be very rebellious and may not see why he should obey humans. He has this independent, solid streak about him. This is why you’ll need to provide plenty of positive reinforcement training when working with a Basenji and probably keep plenty of “treats” on hand!

Potential Health Conditions

The Basenji is generally a very healthy dog, strong and energetic. But he is known to get afflicted at times by specific ailments such as:

  • Fanconi syndrome,
  • Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA)
  • and immunoproliferative small intestinal disease.

Other serious health concerns may include:

Remember this when adopting a Basenji: ensure he has a CHIC certification before choosing a Basenji. The dog breeders should get Basenji’s DNA tested for Fanconi syndrome and have his eyes checked by the Canine Eye Registry Foundation.

The Basenji Club of America wants all breeding dogs checked by a veterinary ophthalmologist for the abovementioned conditions. This is why we never recommend anyone buy the Basenji puppy from a breeder who cannot provide you with the necessary documentation to show that the dog is genuinely healthy.

Now, at this point…

You’re probably saying to yourself…

“Wait a second, I thought you just said the Basenji dog breed is a healthy breed?”

And we did. But that doesn’t mean the breed isn’t susceptible to certain medical conditions, just like any other dog breed. This is why we here at IndulgeYourPet also encourage anyone currently considering adopting a new pet to take a moment and see just how much it might cost to purchase a pet insurance policy for that new pet.

This way…

If your new family member does become sick or injured, you won’t be burdened with the total cost of their care on your own! Check out our Best Pet Insurance Companies article for more information on what a pet insurance policy might cost you.

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Barry H. December 14, 2020, 3:34 pm

    We have 4 Basenji and you are right on with your explanation.

    • indulgeyourpet December 15, 2020, 1:25 pm


      We’re glad you approve.



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