History & Origin

The Basenji or Basenjis are also known as the barkless dogs. They are one of the oldest breeds of canine that is officially documented. Interestingly, cave paintings that appeared in Libyan caves have Basenji like dogs even though they date back to as early as 6000 BC. These inquisitive canines can be easily identified in the picture thanks to their curled tails and prick ears.

Dr. Schweinfurth who traveled Africa during the 1800s wrote about the use of Basenjis as hunting dogs. Interestingly Basenjis were able to survive in the tough African environment over the years which make them even more valuable.

The oldest African civilizations including the Congo region used these dogs for their hunting and thinking abilities. The name Basenji literally means “small wild thing from the bush.” This further establishes the fact that Basenjis managed to survive in the wild without human supervision. Historically Basenjis were found in the Central African region that now stretches from the heart of the Congo Basin to South Sudan.

The first attempt to bring the Basenji to Europe failed miserably. Most of the dogs that were imported died shortly after arriving at the European shore. The first successful import of the breed happened in 1930 when Basenjis first set their feet in Europe.

The first Basenji entered the United States during the same time, i.e. 1930. In addition, the Basenji Club of America was formed in 1942 and the breed was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1943. Presently, the breed is ranked 84th among the 155 breeds and varieties of canines officially recognized by the Kennel Club.

The first Basenji as registered with the American Kennel Club in 1943, but even today, the breed is quite rare. If you decide to bring a Basenji puppy home, you might have to wait for a long time on the waiting list.

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What’s important to note is that like their wild cousins (the wolf), your basenji puppies and dogs would bark only once and then remain silent. However, they can be very noisy at times and make all sorts of sounds including whines and scream.

Basenjis are highly intelligent and extremely social puppies. While they don’t bark excessively, they are not dumb dogs. Your puppies will show their pleasure with a ‘happy howl’ and express their anger with a growl.

Unlike other popular canine breeds, your basenji puppy will prefer to be independent. It is sensible enough to understand your instructions, but whether he will obey them is another question.

Basenjis are known for their hunting instincts so the last thing you should do is leave them unsupervised without high fences and a strong leash. As a safety rule, never let your Basenji unattended around children and other small pets such as hamsters and guinea pigs.

The Basenji is intelligent and independent, and you will fall in love with your affectionate pet. He is a “sight-hound” which means you’ll find him chasing every moving object – cars, rabbits, hamsters and even cats and other small dogs! If you give a command, your Basenji will decide whether or not he wants to obey what you have asked.

Bored and aggressive Basenjis can eat and chew everything within their reach. Don’t be surprised if your pet comes up with an evil plan to get the cookies placed on the kitchen counter or break into the secure pantry.

Your pet will make an excellent watchdog. That’s right. Basenjis defend their family and property and stand up to intruders with all the strength they have. The only disadvantage is that their small size prevents them from being an actual guard dog.



nutrition and feeding


The breed has a life span of twelve to sixteen years, so be prepared for quite an emotional investment.


Nutrition requirements are based on the size of your dog. As a responsible owner, you are supposed to feed them dry food that fulfills their unique digestive needs. You will easily come across food that has been specially formulated for small and medium dogs.

What you decide to feed your Basenji puppy is your personal choice, but the best way to proceed is to consult your vet. A qualified vet will help you determine the right frequency and quantity of meals. In addition, you will also become familiar with the right diet you need to provide to increase your puppy’s longevity. Your pet also needs access to clean, fresh water at all times.

Basenjis are carnivores which means they need a ‘protein (meat) based diet.’ The diet you provide should contain meat or some kind of meat. However, meat by-products and grains are not recommended. On a separate note, canned and processed foods are not as nutritious as ‘real’ meat. Bones are also good for your basenji puppy as long as they cannot be swallowed whole. Remember, puppies fed raw diet are healthier.


As stated earlier, how much food your Basenji puppy eats will depend on his size, age, activity level and most importantly metabolism. Remember like us, puppies too have different food requirements. The best thing you can feed your pet is high-quality dry food with core ingredient being meat. You can provide ¾ to 1 cup of premium puppy food to your pet divided into two meals.

Even though Basenjis are light built, they still have the tendency to put on excessive weight. If your puppy is getting fat, you need to increase his daily exercise duration as well as monitor his food intake. If you’re not sure whether your puppy is overweight or not; perform this simple test. Place your hand firmly on your pet’s back and your thumbs should rest on his spine. Now spread your fingers and check if you can feel his ribs. If you can’t see and feel your pet’s ribs, it is clear that he needs less food and more exercise.

Place your hand firmly on your pet’s back and your thumbs should rest on his spine. Now spread your fingers and check if you can feel his ribs. If you can’t see and feel your pet’s ribs, it is clear that he needs less food and more exercise.

Keep a bowl of fresh water handy at all times. Dogs of this breed easily become dehydrated in warmer weather or warmer climates.

coat and grooming


Size and Coat

Basenjis stand at 1 foot, 4 inches tall at the shoulder and attract a number of admirers due to their short, striking coat. Your puppy would have a small muscular body and tightly curled tail should make him look more adorable.  Male Basenjis stand 17 inches at the shoulder and weigh about 24 pounds. Females, on the other hand, are 16 inches tall and weigh about 22 pounds.

The short coat of Basenjis can be black, tricolor, chestnut red or bridle. Popular coat colors include:

  • Black & white
  • Black tan & white
  • Brindle & white
  • Red & white
  • Black brindle & white
  • Blue cream & white
  • Cream & white
  • Mahogany & white
  • Sable & white

Their feet are white along with the chest and the tip of the tail. Some puppies have white running on their legs, between the ‘center’ of the face, their eyes and even their collar. The marking on Basenjis always stand out clearly, but they would never look muddy.


The Basenjis are clean dogs. In fact, they are quite similar to felines when it comes to grooming habits. Another good thing is that Basenjis shed very little and do not require extensive brushing.

You’ll have to brush your dog’s teeth at least two to three times a week to remove tartar and plaque buildup. Daily brushing can help prevent oral health problems such as gum diseases and bad breath.

It is important to trim your dog’s nails regularly so that they don’t scratch you. When you bring a Basenji puppy home, don’t forget to look inside his mouth and ears carefully. Also, handle his paws frequently so that he gets used to veterinary exams and grooming experiences when he’s an older dog.

Additionally, you’ll have to check for skin rashes, redness and other signs of infections such as tenderness and inflammation. Ears should be clean without too much wax buildup inside. If you spot any signs of infections or rashes, contact your vet immediately.



Exercise, Energy, and Activities

Basenjis are small packets of energy and they have a great deal of energy which needs to be channeled into positive, productive activities. Failure to do so can bore your puppy that would then become destructive and start chewing stuff. If you need to leave your Basenji puppy unattended for a long time, crating is the way to go.

Your pet will use its intelligence to get your attention and get whatever they need or want at that time. Most Basenji owners become trained when it comes to picking up leftover stuff in the house. Simply put, your puppy assumes that it is fair to eat and chew everything that’s lying around. If you don’t want to end up spending money on buying new items, put away your belongings in a safe place.

Basenjis love to play, but they won’t fetch a tennis ball or a Frisbee. If you’re looking for activities for your pets, the sport of lure coursing can be your best bet. Simply pull along a white plastic bag over the field and watch your canine friend chase it around and have a good time.

Being a hunting dog, Basenji puppies need to exercise daily and do well with a daily walk. Some dogs would require more intense and enthusiastic forms of exercise. As stated earlier, you should never leave your puppy unsupervised or he will soon become a missing pet.

Make sure you provide him at least 30 minutes of walk on a strong leash in a securely fenced area. Also, expect him to be disinterested if you try to walk him when it’s rainy or wet outside.

Training and Sleep/Rest

The Basenji puppies are not the easiest to train. The reason is that this breed has survived for thousands of years due to their independent thinking. If your puppy sees no benefit to obeying your instructions, he would keep looking at you and your training would be useless.

Remember that Basenjis can be very stubborn and you are likely to end up with an aggressive, untrained and a confused puppy if you try to overcome his training stubbornness with force.  Right from the first day when you bring your basenji puppy, correction and training should be consistent, but never harsh.

Obedience training is an excellent way to train your pet and help him form a lasting bond with you. Basenji puppies need early socialization and training so that they get familiar with different sounds, sights and people. Don’t forget to invite neighbors home and take your pet out for walks to help them socialize and polish his social interaction skills.

Positive reinforcement (appreciation, treats) works well while training Basenji puppies. Remember that you need to keep the training interesting or your basenji puppy will simply become bored and stubborn. Another important thing to understand is that Basenjis develop selective hearing if they find something that’s more interesting than the training.



Health Issues

When you buy a basenji puppy, make sure you get the health clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals. Like other dog breeds, basenjis are also susceptible to certain health conditions including:

  1. Fanconi Syndrome

This syndrome basically is a kidney disease that affects the breakdown of sugars and proteins inside your pet’s body. Your pet will pass out the proteins and sugars that are needed in the urine; hence he will become very weak. Signs of Fanconi syndrome include excessive urination and excessive glucose in the urine.

  1. Malabsorption

This condition is developed if your pet is allergic to the food he eats. As you can guess, your basenji puppy will have loose stools and might not gain weight easily. The easiest treatment is to change your puppy’s diet and minimize stress.

  1. Hemolytic Anemia

This genetically acquired condition is fatal as your basenji puppy will not be able to maintain healthy red blood cells. Sadly most puppies with hemolytic anemia do not live longer than their second birthday.

  1. Coloboma

Some puppies have a gap or hole in the eye structure (usually the bottom of the eye) and the condition is thought to be inherited genetically.

  1. Progressive retinal atrophy

This condition belongs to the family of eye diseases which cause the gradual deterioration of the retina. Puppies and dogs affected by the condition become night blind first and then lose their day time vision as well.

  1. Hip Dysplasia

Basenjis affected by the condition show lameness in one or both rear legs as the thighbone doesn’t fit properly in the hip joint. Unfortunately puppies with hip dysplasia can develop arthritis as they get older.

While hip dysplasia is hereditary, it can be triggered by numerous other factors such as allowing the puppy to gain excess weight or getting injured during exercise.

To Sum Up

Basenjis are affectionate pets, full of life and humor. They might not prefer cuddling like cats, but they do want to get your attention. To make your bond more enjoyable, start training your basenji puppy as early as possible after you bring him home. You would then love every minute of your time spent with your pet. Go get em!

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