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Basenji Information: Breed Facts, Traits & More

The Basenji is a highly intelligent and energetic dog with a distinctly curly tail. If you're considering making this curious sighthound your companion, let's look at what makes these vivacious and watchful pals tick.

Yani Perez

Last Updated: May 17, 2022 | 5 min read

Portrait of a red basenji standing at sunset in a green field for a walk in the summer

Are you considering a Basenji? This intelligent and curious dog will surely bring some excitement to your life. Before you decide whether the Basenji is the right pet for you, let’s take a look at who they are and what their care entails. From their affectionate and stubborn nature to their need for consistent exercise, we’ll cover it all and more.

The breed is known as the “barkless” dog. Why? Because they are not barkers. However, they are not mute dogs. They can yodel or shriek and quite loudly too! They are very energetic and will require mental and physical stimulation. They can make a great companion for some.

Basenjis are quite elegant in appearance and stature. They are more on the smaller end but have a grandiose presence. Let’s learn more about the Basenji and see if this breed is for you.

Basenji
    • weight iconWeight21-24 pounds
    • height iconHeight16-17 inches
    • lifespan iconLifespan12-14 years
    • color iconColorsChestnut red, Black and White, Tan, Brindle
  • Child Friendliness
  • Canine Friendliness
  • Training Difficulty
  • Grooming Upkeep
  • Breed Health
  • Exercise Needs
  • Puppy Costs

Breed History

Basenji
Basenjis are quite smart but have an independent streak.

The Basenji, often referred to as Africa’s “barkless” dog comes from the Congo. The breed is among the oldest breeds. Evidence suggests the breed was present in Libya and Egypt since 6000 BC. It was tradition to name the breed after the tribe they lived with and so the Basenji gets its name from the Pygmy tribe in what is now, The Democratic Republic of the Congo. Towards the middle of the 1800s, explorers traveling in Africa discovered the Basenji and slowly started introducing the breed to Europe and later the United States.

The dogs that were brought back to Europe in the late 1800s did not survive due to distemper. Vaccines were not invented until the 1920s and were not readily available until the 1950s.

Dogs that were brought to England during the 1930s managed to survive and became the standard for the breed outside of the Congo.

The Basenji was a hunting dog used primarily to lure prey into nets. They were free to roam and hunt independently of their owner, allowing them to develop their intelligent and independent nature apparent in their personality.

Temperament

Basenjis are clever and inquisitive. They are energetic and independent. They need to be stimulated and exercised. If left without proper supervision or doggie proofing, they can get into entanglements and mischief. They are known to chew and tear household items. They are stubborn, and when they get an idea in their heads, they must see it through, so make sure to secure all treats and food. Basenjis can be affectionate with their humans and do well with older children since they tend to have the same energy levels.

They are not necessarily barkers but they can howl or yodel. They aren’t prone to constant barking but that does not mean they are silent creatures either.

Size And Appearance

The Basenji is a small-medium dog with pointy ears and a curly tail. They can grow 16- 17 inches tall. They can reach an average of 24 lbs. They have a sleek frame but are suspectable of putting on weight so they need to maintain a healthy and balanced diet along with consistent exercise.

Coat And Colors

Basenjis have short, thin coats. They traditionally are red and white, black and white, tricolor, and brindle and white. They can also be cream and white or blue tricolor but these colors are more commonly found in Africa. They are rare in the United States.

This breed enjoys grooming and taking care of itself. They tend to be odorless, which means not much bathing is needed, which they will appreciate since they are not fans of water. In fact, they do not like the rain. However, if trained early, Basenjis can adapt to baths and maybe even the rain.

Exercise Requirements

Two Basenji dogs running in autumn meadow
They need to go on walks or runs to keep them active and entertained.

Due to their high-energy demeanor, Basenjis need to exercise regularly. A Basenji should not be unleashed as it is a sighthound that gets easily distracted by moving creatures and objects. The dog could end up taking off on the chase. Engaging the Basenji in activities that challenge him mentally and physically would keep him content.

Living Conditions

Basenjis are curious dogs. They can do well in apartments or houses but the locations need to be doggie proofed. They are known for getting into cabinets, closets, and rooms. It is essential to dog-proof the home to ensure their safety and the home. If yards are on the premises, they should be fully fenced. Basenjis get easily distracted by smaller animals and true to their hunting nature will run after them. Leashes will prevent a run-away Basenji.

Training

Basenjis are highly intelligent and independent, which means they may choose to obey or not. Trainers recommend starting them young. Training can be a challenge as they are headstrong and often want to engage in their own activities. This breed will highly benefit from training sessions.

Health

A girl holding a sick Basenji dog's paws
Basenjis are relatively healthy dogs.

They have some inherited health conditions, some of which include Fanconi Syndrome, Progressive Retinal Atrophy, and Hip Dysplasia.

Fanconi Syndrome

Fanconi syndrome is a kidney disorder caused by the defective transport of nutrients and water back into the body. Since the body is not able to absorb the nutrients, they are eliminated. This can cause serious harm to the health of a Basenji.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is an eye condition that affects the Basenji’s vision. It can cause complete blindness. PRA is a late-onset disease. The dog’s eyes may appear to be healthy as a puppy but vision loss will start to develop as they mature.

Hip Dysplasia

A small percentage of Basenjis have hip dysplasia. This is a condition where the cartilage and bone of the hip begin to wear down. Over time, this causes muscle atrophy, arthritis, and limited mobility. This can be painful and uncomfortable.

Nutrition

Curious Basenji dog puppy climbs on the table with fresh vegetables at home in the kitchen
Basenjis like most dogs need a balanced diet.

Puppies will need to be fed three times a day while an adult Basenji can be fed once a day. Due to the structure of their bodies, they can be prone to gaining weight; therefore maintaining a healthy body weight may require some discipline and keeping treats locked out of their reach.

Grooming

They are cat-like in nature. They enjoy being clean. Grooming is not as cumbersome with Basenjis. They have a short coat and do not shed as much as other breeds. A thorough brushing will keep their coats lustrous and shiny. As with other doggies, ensure their paws and ears are kept clean.

Portrait of funny basenji dog wrapped in a towel after washing in bathroom
Grooming for this breed is relatively easy since they enjoy cleaning themselves.

Breeders And Puppy Costs

Basenji puppies typically cost between $1,200 and $1,800 when purchased from a breeder. When choosing to buy a puppy, refer to authorized and responsible breeders.

Rescues And Shelters

If the Basenji has captured your heart, why not look for a shelter or rescue to give one of these doggies a loving home. For more information on rescues, check out the Basenji Rescue. 

As Family Pets

  • Good for older kids
  • Be careful with smaller animals in the home. If they were raised together, it shouldn’t be a problem.
  • Need to be in fenced-in, well-secured areas
  • Will bolt out of the door
  • Keep on a leash. They love to chase.
  • Affectionate with family
  • May act aloof with strangers

Final Thoughts

The Basenji is an intelligent, independent, loving dog. Having one around will surely liven up a home. They are mischievous yet caring. They can be stubborn and inquisitive. They may not obey all the time, and they may occasionally take off for a good chase, but they are good-natured and can make a wonderful addition to a home. However, it is vital to consider their need for consistent exercise and stimulation. Ensuring their needs are met is important to building a strong and long-lasting bond with this charmer.

The information provided through this website should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease; it is not intended to offer any legal opinion or advice or a substitute for professional safety or care advice. Please consult your health care provider, attorney, insurance expert, or product manual for professional advice. Products and services reviewed are provided by third parties; we are not responsible in any way for them, nor do we guarantee their functionality, utility, safety, or reliability. Our content is for educational purposes only.

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