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Basenji

Nicole Cosgrove

June 18, 2021
Height: 16-17 inches
Weight: 22-24 pounds
Lifespan: 13-14 years
Colors: Black and white, black and tan and white, red and white, brindle and white
Suitable for: Active individuals or families looking for a clever, independent, energetic breed who neither sheds nor barks
Temperament: Independent, smart, poised, mischievous, aloof, “cat-like”

Originally hailing from ancient Africa, Basenjis are known as the “barkless dog” because of the unusual way they vocalize. Basenjis may be the smallest of the hound group but don’t let their size fool you. This breed hides a ton of energy and individuality behind their sweet faces. The Basenji is sometimes described as “cat-like” both for their unique grooming habits and their free-thinking, sometimes stubborn personalities. Also, like cats, Basenjis are fond of climbing to the highest spot they can find, even if that spot is up and over the fence meant to keep them contained. If you think this breed might be the one for you, check the height of your backyard fence and read on to learn what you need to know before buying or adopting a Basenji.

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Basenji Puppies – Before You Buy…

Energy
Shedding
Health
Lifespan
Sociability

What’s the Price of Basenji Puppies?

Basenji puppies typically cost between $1,200 and $1,800 when purchased from a breeder. Be careful to look for responsible breeders and avoid purchasing from a puppy mill or pet shop. Responsible breeders will make sure the puppyʻs parents are healthy and free of inherited health conditions. They will also make sure their puppies are vet checked and given appropriate shots and dewormers.

Ask your veterinarian or other local Basenji owners to recommend a good breeder. The American Kennel Club (AKC) and the Basenji Club of America also maintain directories of reputable breeders.

If you prefer to adopt rather than buy, adoptable Basenjis are sometimes available from animal shelters or Basenji rescue groups. The cost of adoption will vary based on where you are adopting from but will most likely be substantially less than the cost to purchase a Basenji.

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3 Little-Known Facts About Basenjis

1. Basenjis Don’t Usually Bark, But They Aren’t Silent Either

The Basenji is known as the “barkless dog.” Although they are physically capable of barking, they rarely do so. They aren’t completely silent dogs, however, as they produce a yodel-like vocalization. It is suspected that Basenjis were selectively bred not to bark but the true reason for this unusual trait is not definitively established.

2. Basenjis Are Big Believers in Proper Hygiene

Basenjis maintain rigorous and meticulous grooming habits. They routinely clean themselves all over like cats. Basenjis also don’t have much of a “doggy” odor, a trait that certainly endears them to many people.

Basenji in a desert
Image Credit: Nikita Tiunov, Shutterstock

3. They Are One of The Oldest Known Dog Breeds

The first known Basenjis were given as gifts to the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt. Depictions of Basenjis have been discovered in artwork dating back to Egypt and other early civilizations.

Temperament & Intelligence of the Basenji

Basenjis are typically active and curious dogs. They are affectionate towards their people but can be wary and standoffish with strangers. Early socialization is a must because Basenjis are prone to being overly protective.

Basenjis are a clever breed, sometimes too much for their own good. Basenjis like to keep busy and if they become bored, they will find ways to entertain themselves, often causing a lot of trouble in the process. Although they are smart, Basenjis can be a challenge to train because they are stubborn and get bored quickly. Patience, creativity, and lots of positive reinforcement are needed when training this breed.

Are These Dogs Good for Families? 👪

Basenjis are a good breed for active families due to their high energy levels. When properly socialized, Basenjis do well with children. Because Basenjis like to be in charge and are not tolerant of rough treatment, children should be taught to handle them gently but firmly. Highly energetic Basenjis can sometimes play too exuberantly for young children and should be supervised when interacting with them.

One other important note especially for families with young children is that Basenjis are notorious chewers. Children who normally slack on cleaning up after themselves may suddenly find their toys imperiled by the curious teeth of the new pet. Parents, however, may appreciate the new incentive to get their kids to help with keeping the living space picked up.

Does This Breed Get Along with Other Pets?

Basenjis were originally bred to hunt together in a pack, so they typically get along with other dogs, although early socialization is key. As hunters, Basenjis do have a high prey drive. They can be taught to live with cats, especially if socialized young, but some caution should be exercised. Basenjis are untrustworthy with smaller animals like rodents and birds and should be kept separated from them.

basenji-looking-at-the-ball
Image Credit: Pexels

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Things to Know When Owning a Basenji:

Starting to think your lifestyle and personality may be a good match for a Basenji? Here is some more detailed information on the proper care and feeding of the Basenji to help you make an informed decision.

Food & Diet Requirements 🦴

Basenjis should be fed high-quality dog food, either commercially manufactured or homemade. Homemade diets should always be prepared with the input of a veterinarian to ensure it is nutritionally balanced. Whatever diet you choose, make sure to feed the correct formulation for your Basenji’s stage of life whether a puppy, adult, or senior. Basenjis can be prone to obesity so be sure to monitor their weight and don’t offer too many treats. Avoid feeding your Basenji table scraps as these can be unhealthy for them and cause stomach upset.

Exercise 🐕

As already discussed, Basenjis are a high-energy breed and will require daily exercise to keep them fit and entertained. It’s best to plan on at least 40 minutes of vigorous play, walking, or jogging for your Basenji every day. Because of their strong hunting instincts, Basenjis should not be allowed off-leash without a fence or they may run away in pursuit of some unlucky prey. Basenjis enjoy many canine sports, particularly lure coursing, which takes advantage of those natural hunting tendencies.

Training 🎾

Basenjis can be tricky to train, not because they aren’t intelligent but because they are often stubborn and get bored of training quickly. A Basenji may learn a new skill rapidly due to their cleverness but whether they reliably follow the command is a different story. Patience and positive reinforcement style training are most effective for Basenjis. Remember that Basenjis usually don’t have patience for long training sessions so it’s best to keep them short and full of praise and reward.

Grooming ✂️

Like cats, Basenjis take responsibility for their appearance and will keep themselves clean without requiring much help from you. They don’t have an undercoat and don’t tend to smell, so regular bathing isn’t usually necessary. A bit of brushing with a hound glove or soft bristle brush can help keep the Basenji’s coat healthy. Like all dogs, the Basenji’s nails should be kept trimmed and their teeth should be brushed regularly.

Basenji
Image Credit: Iza Ponchie, Pexels

Health and Conditions 🏥

Overall, Basenjis are a healthy breed. As previously mentioned, they are prone to obesity so their diet and weight should be monitored carefully. Conscientious breeders will screen their dogs for inherited health conditions and only breed the healthiest specimens. Ask your breeder whether your puppy’s parents are properly health checked and certified before purchasing.

Minor Conditions
  • Hypothyroidism

A less grave health condition that affects some Basenjis is hypothyroidism, or not making enough thyroid hormone. Hypothyroidism is common in many breeds, but Basenjis may specifically suffer from inherited autoimmune thyroiditis. Breeding dogs should be screened for this genetic disorder and disqualified as breeders if they are found to carry it.

Serious Conditions

Three serious, inherited health conditions Basenjis may experience are Fanconi syndrome, progressive retinal atrophy, and hip dysplasia.

  • Progressive retinal atrophy

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is an eye condition that affects the Basenji’s vision, eventually leading to complete blindness. PRA is a late-onset disease, meaning a puppy’s eyes can seem perfectly normal but later they will begin to suffer vision loss.

  • Fanconi syndrome

Fanconi syndrome is a kidney disorder where the kidneys don’t properly reabsorb nutrients and water back into the body. Instead, the nutrients are dumped back into the urine and voided from the body. Eventually, the affected Basenji’s nutrition will suffer, resulting in poor body condition and even death.

  • Hip dysplasia

A small percentage of Basenjis have hip dysplasia, a condition where the hip socket doesnʻt fully cover the ball of the upper leg bone. While not life-threatening, hip dysplasia can be painful and lead to poor quality of life. Thorough breeders will have their dogsʻ hips checked before breeding to prevent passing on this condition.

Reputable breeders will perform genetic screening for these inherited conditions before they breed their dogs. Make sure to confirm with your breeder that your puppy’s parents have been screened and are free of these disorders.

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Male vs Female

Some dog owners already know that they prefer male or female dogs. But if you aren’t sure whether you’d rather have a male or female Basenji, are there any differences between them to help you make up your mind?

Female Basenjis are usually a little bit smaller than male Basenjis. Besides the size difference, there doesn’t tend to be a lot of difference between male and female Basenjis. They usually have similar temperaments and activity levels.

The decision of whether to get a male or female Basenji may depend on what puppies are available as well as simple personal preference.

 

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Final Thoughts

As we have seen, Basenjis are a unique breed with their own special blend of endearing and challenging personality traits. Potential Basenji owners should familiarize themselves with these traits to make sure they are prepared to provide a loving, activity-filled life for their new pet. When welcomed into the right home and allowed to be part of the family, Basenjis can provide endless entertainment and companionship. Many Basenji owners end up deciding that one Basenji just isn’t enough!


Featured Image: Verbitskaya Juliya, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.

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