Referred to as one of the oldest existing AKC breeds, the Basenji is unique in that it is believed that some of the earliest domesticated dogs looked very similar to the Basenji dog breed of today.
The American Kennel Club even states that the breed is depicted in ancient Egyptian artifacts and even as far back as the ancient Mesopotamian and Babylonian empires.
Yet, despite the Basenji’s lengthy and colorful history, does that mean it’s the right dog for your lifestyle and household?
Standing just 16 to 17 inches at the shoulder and around 20-25 pounds, the Basenji has a lifespan of about 12-16 years.
Compared to its body, the Basenji’s long legs allow for a long and smooth stride, making it incredibly quick and agile for a dog of its size.
Physically, the Basenji has erect ears, a short coat, almond-shaped eyes, an incredibly expressive face, and curled tail.
Their coat color can vary, although the typical colors include red, black, tan, and brindle, although all will have white markings, often around the paws, legs, and collar.
Although it is known as a barkless dog, that doesn’t mean the breed is silent. Basenjis express themselves in other ways, like growling or yodeling.
Personality and temperament
Despite being known as one of the oldest AKC breeds, ironically, the Basenji is known for its “catlike” mannerisms.
For example, the breed is known for grooming themselves regularly and even prefer lounging on elevated surfaces to survey their environment.
Nevertheless, this also shows in their personalities, as it is not uncommon for a Basenji to be independent, stubborn, and intelligent, traits that some owners may find frustrating.
Regarding friendliness, the Basenji is known for being loving and loyal to their family, although strangers do not often give the same affection.
Because the breed once hunted in packs, they do well with other dogs if adequately socialized at a young age, although they are sometimes aggressive with other Basenjis.
Because the Basenji has not changed much since its days as an ancient domesticated dog, the approach to training them must be altered.
Unlike typical family dogs such as Golden Retrievers, many of the Basenji’s basic instincts remain intact, making it rather frustrating to train for the uneducated owner.
Thankfully, DogTemperament.com has several keys to success when handling this type of breed, which include but are not limited to the following:
Begin training early
Like most other breeds, the earlier you begin training with your Basenji, the better. Both as a puppy or an adult, if they are new to the home, the sooner they begin to learn the rules of the house and the fewer problems you’ll have with them. Then, you can spend more time sharpening the other aspects of their personality.
While some breeds may do just fine without crate training, that is not necessarily the case for Basenjis.
When they are left alone, they may not always be trusted to roam the house freely so a crate may be necessary. If you get them comfortable with being in the crate while they’re young, you limit your future problems.
Recognize the dog’s strong prey drive
Because of the Basenji’s ancient roots as a Central Africa hunting dog, the breed’s high prey drive remains intact.
Therefore, it is essential to treat it with the same respect as a wild animal. The last thing you want to do is intimidate, corner, or smother the dog without knowing its true nature.
It is crucial also to remind guests or strangers of this because in the case of an attack, according to the lawyers at DuBois Law Group, you could be liable.
Teach the dog its place in the household hierarchy
To have a positive training experience with successful outcomes, your Basenji must know its place on the totem pole.
The dog must know that you are the pack’s leader if you expect it to fall into line and obey. A Basenji that does not understand this will be disobedient, uncouth, and possibly aggressive,
Provide constant stimulation
There’s no denying that the Basenji is a high-energy breed with a mind of its own. Therefore, that energy needs to be harnessed in a productive way which the owner is responsible for.
This usually means providing the required amount of physical and mental stimulation.
A stagnant Basenji can be a handful and will likely get into trouble if its energy is not managed properly. According to hillspet.com, Basenjis need around an hour of exercise daily.
Perfect the dog’s recall abilities
Although this is not unique to the Basenji breed, making sure that your Basenji comes when it is called can be a lifesaver.
Ensuring that your dog listens and pays attention to you can save you from countless headaches and aid in building a respectful and loving relationship with your dog.
Because the Basenji has a short coat, grooming isn’t necessarily something you have to worry about when considering a breed for a pet.
However, it is still an active and adventurous dog, so it will likely get dirty more than its fair share of times. This means that, at the very least, you may need to bathe your Basenji if it becomes smelly or dirty past the point of being socially acceptable.
Furthermore, the dog’s teeth, ears, and nails must be checked and maintained regularly to prevent any discomfort for the animal.
Basenjis are widely considered to be relatively healthy dogs.
If you get one from a trusted and responsible breeder, chances are it will have already been screened for significant illnesses and potential ailments.
However, if you do not get your Basenji from a breeder, there are specific health tests you will want to perform on your new dog so you can be alerted to health problems.
Basenji health issues you should test for, according to the National Breed Club, include:
- Hip evaluation
- PRA-BJ1 DNA test
- Ophthalmologist evaluation for eye issues including progressive retinal atrophy
- Thyroid evaluation
- Fanconi Syndrome DNA test
Of course, like any other dog breed, Basenjis should also be taken in for regular checkups with your veterinarian.
Is the Basenji right for you?
The Basenji is a breed that sticks out among many others in the modern-day dog culture.
With a rich history, they can be highly sought after by some individuals and, if managed correctly, can be just the right kind of dog someone is looking for.
Intelligent, energetic, and beautiful, these dogs need owners willing to give them the time, energy, and attention this breed requires.
But for those who can, the Basenji can be the perfect fit for someone in the market for this kind of pet.
Alana Redmond is a content writer who specializes in law and consumer safety. She also works with Bentley & More LLP, a Riverside law firm specializing in dog bite injuries.