The basenji is a very unique breed originating from the jungles of Africa and introduced to the united States in the 1930’s. It’s personality is unlike any other dog which is precisely what attracts dog lovers to this breed. But is this dog for everyone? How do you know if the basenji is the right dog for you?
Theis dog is an original breed. Meaning it was not bred with any other breed to produce it’s distinctive features. It is also an ancient breed. There are images of basenji like dogs in ancient Egyptian paintings and sculptures sitting along side pharos and people of great stature. Mummified remains of similar dogs have been found in ancient Egyptian tombs. Recent genetic research has placed the basenji into category as one of the breeds that were the earliest descendents from the wolf. But, what are they like today?
Physical Features of the Basenji
This dog is small, around 20 to 25 pounds and has a very short coat. It’s legs are long and they are usually about as tall as they are in length giving them kind of a square appearance. Their muzzle is long and their ears are pointed and erect. One distinctive feature of the basenji is their wrinkled forehead. When their ears are upright, the skin on their head wrinkles up giving them a look of concern. It’s this look that grabs people because of its cute factor. Their tail is tightly curled and they come in a variety of colors such as, red, brindle, tri-color and black, but they all have that distinctive wide white band around the neck, like a scarf.
Another unique physical feature is the fact that they don’t bark. This is not completely true since the basenji is capable of barking and will sometimes let out a single bark to get your attention. But they don’t bark like other dogs do. They don’t use their bark make people or animals aware of their presence. They are relatively quiet dogs. But they are far from silent. Get a basenji excited and it will howl, or bah-roo, and talk and squeak, and whine. They will often great their owner with a few long howls of excitement announcing to everyone in the neighborhood that you are home.
The Basenji Personality
It is their personality that really sets this dog apart from other breads. They are very intelligent and mischievous and will constantly try to convince you that they are smarter than you. Because they have been a very independent breed that has survived life in Northern Africa for a couple thousand years, they still have some of that independence inside them. They will not listen to their owners unless they feel there is something in it for them. And this could change at any time. If you ask them to come, they will…if they want to. But, if they don’t want to come, then you will have to go to them. Many people claim that they are owned by their basenji rather than the other way around and this is partly true as we adapt our lives to fit the basenji’s personality.
Basenji’s are thieves and they will demand your attention by stealing something of yours, such as a sock you left laying around, or some important paperwork from the table top. They will take it to their den or bed and tear it to pieces. They will use trickery to get their way. One dog I know of, will regularly lure it’s owner out of it’s favorite chair so that it can take over the furniture by getting into something he’s not supposed to. As soon as the dog’s owner leaves the chair to retrieve the item, the dog takes the chair. Clever indeed. Massive destruction has been known to occur when a basenji is given the opportunity. Ask any owner and they will have a story of how their dog completely destroyed a room and they will have pictures of the proud dog standing amongst its handy work.
They are runners and they love to chase, and if they are given the opportunity to slip out the front door they will take it before you can catch them. When they get away they will play a game of tag with you, stopping long enough for you to catch up to them, then bolting when you get close enough to reach out. For this reason it is important that you never let the dog off the leash as you will have a hard time catching them and in worst cases, you may never see them again.
So why would anyone want to own a dog like this, one that is mischievous, doesn’t listen and runs away? Because they’re so darn cute, that’s why. Basenji’s can be good family dogs and are pretty good around kids, but, like any dog, should always be supervised around very small children. They will usually pick one person in the family and bond closely with that person saving their moments of affection for their favorite pet parent. They can be extremely cuddly and love to sleep with their pack of humans. Not only do they like to share a bed or other furniture, they prefer to be in constant contact with you whether it be laying on your lap or resting a paw across your legs.
They are an energetic breed and love walks and visits to the dog park and if they don’t get enough outside exercise they will turn your house into a racetrack, running back and forth at lightning speed, using the furniture as a ramp for quick turns. These dogs are great for people with allergies because of their short hair and the fact that they shed very little and only in the early summer months. Basenji’s seem to do better when they live in pairs. They will ways to entertain each other and their antics will provide the pet owner with hours of entertainment. They also love the heat and do great in warm climates. It could be 100 degrees outside and the basenji will choose to lie in the sun. The don’t do as well in cold climates and will need some kind of doggie jacket if they go outside in cold weather. They also hate the water, and when it’s raining or the grass is wet, they will do anything in their power to avoid doing their business and can hold it for hours if they have to.
All in all the basenji is a wonder dog breed but it is not for everyone. Be ready to spend time with your dog and train it properly. They need attention, exercise and playtime with intelligent games and toys. But the rewards are amazing when your basenji jumps into your lap to settle down and cuddle.