Ratings by owners.
| Breed Reviews By Breed | Review a Breed
Basenji Home Page

Average rating

Breed Notes

The name Basenji comes from the African Bantu word for "native of the bush." He is also sometimes called the Congo dog. He is an ancient breed, as carvings of dogs on ancient Egyptian tombs resembling the Basenji show. He is bred and used today in the region of Zaire, Africa, as a hunter who drives game into nets and tracker of wounded animals. He hunts silently so often wears a bell while working. The breed was first bred successfully in England in 1937 and in the United States in 1941. It was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1943.
The Basenji is a cheerful, perky, mischievous dog. He is a proud little dog with beauty, grace and intelligence. He does not bark but makes more of a "yodel" sound. He is somewhat aloof with strangers. He is curious and energetic so needs daily exercise. He is a very clean animal who washes himself like a cat. Another unique factor of the Basenji is that the female only comes into season once a year while most females of other breeds come in twice per year.
The Basenji's head is narrow and of medium length. The skull is flat and of medium width, tapering towards the eyes. The muzzle is slightly shorter than the skull in length and tapers from eye to end of muzzle. The bit is scissors. His ears are held erect and slightly forward on the head. He has profuse, fine, "worried" wrinkles on the forehead. His eyes are not too large and are almond shaped. His body is of medium length and width with a short, straight back. The tail is set on top and curled tightly over either side. His legs are strong, muscular and straight. His feet are small, narrow with prominently arched toes. He has a swift, tireless running gait that is similar to a racehorse trotting full out. His coat is short and silky. White is preferred on feet, chest and tail tip but otherwise coat color may include chestnut red, pure black, black and tan. Brindle and merle coats are seen on African dogs and are starting to be seen in the United States. Average height is sixteen to seventeen inches. Average weight is between twenty-two and twenty-four pounds. of Kansas writes:

Excellent dog for the involved, active pet owner.
I had the privilege of owning a pair of Basenjis for four years. While many of the criticisms leveled at the breed are true in many (but not all) cases, I found these dogs to be interested in the world around them and insistent about being involved as much as possible in my world. We went for walks every day and ended up lure coursing for my enjoyment as much as the dogs! If you want a dog as a companion and not just a couch potato or a backyard ornament, I highly endorse the Basenji. If you do not have room in your life to walk a dog and spend time with him, please do not get a Basenji. And remember that the most important factor in determining how a dog acts is you, the owner.

Name withheld by request of Minnesota writes:

Not for a family.
I really thought a Basenji was for my family. They do not shed, they are the perfect size and they are beautiful to watch. The few we met at the park were friendly and well-behaved with my kids.
Then the devil puppy entered our house. He was so cute. He immediately learned how to ask to go outside to potty but once he learned he never did it outside again. A good friend who knew the puppy well volunteered to let him out one day as I would be gone all morning. He bit her (even though she did not threaten him and had food to bribe him). She very nicely told me she would not let him out to potty again. Then the little guy made the mistake of threatening the vet. This was no little growl but a serious "I'm gonna kill you" growl and stance. The vet suggested we not keep him as we had small children. I never thought he would bite them but I could not trust him around other kids. I really feel the breeder had no business selling such a protective breed to a family where children would be coming in and out of the house. I thought I had done my research on this breed, but do not be fooled. This is a wild and challenging breed. You cannot trust them as far as you can throw them.

Name withheld by request of Massachusetts writes:

Constant guidance.
I have found owning a Basenji to be a constant mental challenge. People have said that they are intelligent, but I sometimes wonder. Despite ongoing training, my Basenji does not seem to retain commands. And he is constantly pestering any animal he encounters, especially cats. For this reason I have to constantly monitor him, making sure he keeps out of trouble. This is extremely frustrating for me, which in turn has kept me from enjoying his companionship. (I wouldn't really call it companionship with this breed &shyp; more of a high-maintenance ownership.) The mental and physical demands required for ownership of a Basenji really turn me off to this breed. I am trying to give him the best home possible, but I have to admit if I had it to do over I would not have gotten a Basenji.

Name withheld by request of Silicon Valley, CA writes:

Companion &shyp; not a "pet" &shyp; bright, playful, soulful.
I've had two Basenjis over the years, and I'm soon to get another. My current one is aging, but still here at sixteen years old. It is a wonderful breed for anyone who wants a very clean, happy companion animal that is smart and independent. This is not a dog that thinks it is a "pet." It won't necessarily do what you tell it to, it won't wait eagerly on your every word, and it won't put up with nonsense &shyp; sort of like a good friend, yes? On the other hand, my Basenjis have been highly loyal, very affectionate, playful until past ten or eleven years old and a joy to watch. They are VERY smart, but in their own way of figuring things out (e.g., how to get the cake off the counter, how to get the cat in the tree). They are somewhat dominant, so pick wisely. They are also fast &shyp; very fast &shyp; and complete escape artists. If you get a Basenji, spend much time as a young puppy teaching it the basics (make the learning fun and they'll comply, make it boring and they'll ignore you). But a Basenji is an exceptionally happy animal, a delight to have around, and highly sensitive to the owner's moods. When you're blue, they're there right away. When you're happy they're prancing and want to go play, when you're seriously working on something, they'll lie next to you patiently waiting for the clue that it's their turn.
I love this breed. I had dogs all my life (since a child) and now it's hard to imagine a full life without a Basenji in it. Again, not for everyone, but if your temperament matches that of the Basenji, and you're a patient sort, you'll be rewarded by riches that words fail to convey.

Name withheld by request of Little Rock, AR writes:

Not for everyone.
Small to medium-sized, sleek, elegant, compact, short-haired, non-barking (but definitely not silent), generally healthy and can live into the teens, personalities range from aloof/standoffish to cuddy-bunny, some are good with cats, generally good with children if the children are taught how to behave around dogs, all are swift of foot and curious about everything, love to chase squirrels, birds, bunnies, cars, motorcycles, kids on bikes &shyp; that's a Basenji. I have been fortunate to acquire my Basenjis from a wonderful, reputable breeder who breeds for temperament, health, and quality and who has answered questions about them any time I've asked. of Australia writes:

Not for everyone.
A Basenji is definitely not for everyone. They are obnoxious, disobedient, not a cuddly family pet at all.

Name withheld by request of Portland, OR writes on 2/13/01:

A wonderful dog in certain circumstances.
I met a Basenji several years ago and had wanted one ever since. I got one last year. He was the most endearing little guy, extremely energetic and mischevious, but he also doted on me and was loyal. This is a dog that loves to run and is extremely fast ! If you have a lot of land, or expect to go to the dog park a lot. Although I took him to obedience school, he was stubborn and never really learned, like a Lab or some other type of dog would. These are not a typical type of dog, and retain a lot more of their wild instincts and behaviors I think. Ours was shy, but friendly if he knows you. He would cry when I went to work. Also, I had trouble housebreaking him. He was an amazing escape artist also, and got out from our fenced yard several times - better than most dog breeds that people say are good escapers. He is an amazing little guy, can jump vertically very high, makes very cute sounds, and was a lot of fun. He went to live with his original owner again, who now has a nice big backyard for him to play in and a friendly Schipperke to chase around. I think it is a good place for him. While I love the Basenji breed, I must recommend him only in limited circumstances. They are not a typical domesticated dog, and it is unfair to expect them to act like what you might expect of a lethargic housedog. of Hamilton, OH writes on 6/19/00:

Owning a Basenjis is not right for everyone...
If you have ever heard of a Basenji I'll bet that you've heard that they are barkless and do not shed. Sounds just like what you are looking for, doesn't it? But before you go searching for that "perfect dog" let me share some Basenji traits with you.
If you are looking for a companion that will walk quietly with you in a heal position or come immediately when called then a Basenji is probably not the dog for you. The Basenji is a natural breed of dog and has survived in nature for hundreds of years on their wits. They will not readily bend to the whims of man. This does not mean that a Basenji cannot be trained, only that you have to understand the reasons that a Basenji behaves the way it does. Basenjis are extremely intelligent animals and will probably train the owner rather than the owner training the Basenji.
Yes you have already heard that a Basenji is barkless which is somewhat true. But "barkless" does NOT mean MUTE! Basenjis can make a variety of noises that range from whining to singing (what Basenji people refer to as yodeling). The occasional Basenji will also produce a single bark that sounds very much like a fox bark. I have returned home from work or the store to find my entire house singing! Some Basenjis yodel when they are happy and I have a male in my house that will scream like a banshee when he feels that he has been crated to long. Some Basenjis can be taught to yodel on command but this is very difficult to teach since it is instinct for a Basenji to remain quiet.
The Basenji is an active hunting dog and as such this is not the breed of dog that you can easily care for if you do not have a fenced yard. Basenjis are not dogs that you can open the door and expect them to go outside, take care of business, and return to the door. I know how difficult it is can be as I got my first Basenji while I was living in a mobile home park. Thank goodness that I had friends that were willing to let me borrow their yard so that my dog (and eventually dogs) could run and blow off some steam.
Ok now that I've mentioned a fenced yard don't think that just any kind of fencing will do. The Basenji is an escape artist and can easily climb or jump a fence or if really determined dig under the fence. I have friends that put their newest Basenji out back in a 10 foot chain link run and watched as the dog proceeded to climb put of the run without hesitation. This same dog has let himself out of crates that were guaranteed escape proof. However on the other hand my Basenjis have never offered to climb out of a fenced yard and are quite content to nap in their crates while I am away.
If you are not a neat person, one of twi things will probably happen. You become a neat person or you give up your dog. Having a Basenji in the household is like having a toddler around for the next 12-14 years. Trash cans need to be placed behind a door or on top of a counter.Covers on trash cans are not enough to deter the normal Basenji. Ink pens are best left in the desk or on counters well out of reach of Basenjis. And if you think you have something high enough out of reach you better move it back a little bit farther. I have observed my Basenjis getting things off of counters that I thought were safe- their paws are used just like we use our hands.
Basenjis are notorious paper shredders. Tissues, toilet paper, paper towels, newspaper, homework, etc. are not safe if a Basenji is in the right mood. Most Basenjis are very good about leaving things alone if they are taught what is "out of bounds" to them. However I have found my toilet paper unrolled out into the hallway (that is if it wasn't shredded first) and the best one was when I couldn't figure out where all the "dead tissues" were coming from until I just happened to catch the guilty party pulling the tissues from the box sitting next to the sofa. House plants can also be a problem. Not only in just the destructiveness, but also in the aspect that a number of house plants are poisonous and could cause your dog to become seriously ill or even die. A crate is a must for your Basenji. This is the only way to keep them from injuring themselves or destroying your home while you are gone. It also is a must in the car. Basenjis are VERY quick and can be out your car door or window before you know what has
If not socialized when young and continued to be socialized with other dogs as it becomes older, a Basenji can become aggressive towards other dogs especially when on lead or when they are confined. Puppy kindergarten classes and additional obedience classes are very helpful for both owner and dog. These places are a great place to meet other dog people. Some of our puppy class students have formed small groups that meet at someone's house (if they have a big enough yard) for a play session or at a local park.
If you have made it this far and are still considering getting a Basenji then maybe it is the right breed for you. Now I'm sure you would like to hear some of the good points about our breed.
Owning a Basenji can be one of the most rewarding and fascinating experiences of your life. Despite being a breed from the wild, they love their humans a great deal. It is not unlikely to find that when you sit down your Basenji will be either in your lap or glued to your leg. A number of Basenji owners allow their dogs to sleep in the bed with them. If you allow yours in the bed they will probably want to snuggle under the covers with you. They make great bed warmers- especially if you can persuade them to go to bed before you do so they warm up the bed for you!
The normal Basenji personality can range from being standoffish to a real snuggle bunny or lap hugger. I currently share my home with 4 Basenjis and each has their own unique personality. My first Basenji is standoffish and accepts you but on her terms. If you become one of her favorite people she may sit next to you and demand that you scratch her until she tells you to stop. My next Basenji I refer to as my "Southern Belle" as she is always there to greet you and tries to get her way by turning on the looks and charm. It takes a strong person to tell her NO! and mean it. Then there are the next two. My male is my clown. He is always into something or doing something to get my attention and make me laugh. The last lady in my home is again standoffish until she gets to know you then look out. She can turn in the charm just like her mother and can easily wrap you around her paw.
Basenjis can be very good with children. But as with some people, some dogs just don't like kids. It depends on the dog's personality and if it has been socialized with children. Sometimes if you have young children in the household it is best to wait until the children are old enough to deal with a dog, or look for an older dog that would possibly be more tolerant of the child. My basenjis are good with my niece and nephew, even thought they don't see them very often. I have watched my older basenji move out of reach of my niece when she was just a baby and throwing things but stay close enough to keep an eye on her. When the kids came for a visit recently, my male got into a tug of war game with my nephew who is only 2 years old. Dog and boy had the best time. Actually the adults did too watching it! Children and dogs have been known to share food- out of the dogs bowl of course. A Basenji will quickly learn that the best place during meal times is under the children's chairs.
The Basenji is very cat like in their mannerisms. They keep themselves very clean and use their paws much in the same way a cat does. They like to sun themselves and it is not uncommon to find the dog perched on the back of the sofa sunning itself much in the same way a cat does. A Basenji has a short coat that requires little care. An occasional brushing and an rare bath are all that is really necessary. Basenjis do not get that "doggie smell" that other breeds do. They do shed very little and can be a great companion for someone with asthma or dog allergies. They are a warm weather breed and do not like the cold and wet. House training can go out the window at the first sign of a raindrop or snowflake. Oh but how humorous it is to watch them try to squat and relieve themselves while trying to keep as many paws off of the cold wet ground as possible. The Basenji does participate in activities outside during cold weather with the proper protection but are not meant to be an outside dog.
The Basenji is a very versatile breed. Activities can range from pets to therapy dogs to show dogs to lure coursing and many other activities. There is nothing like the thrill of watching a Basenji do what comes naturally to them. Whether that is racing around the backyard or coursing after the "bunny" on a coursing field.
The breed as a whole has very little health problems but what we do have can be quite serious due to the small gene pool in our breed. Anyone in our breed that is a responsible breeder is aware of these health problems and takes great pains to try to avoid continuing the problem.
Most Basenjis owners are very willing to share their breed with you so please do not be afraid to ask to meet their dog(s) and ask them questions.

| Breed Reviews By Breed | Review a Breed
Basenji Home Page
Dogs Online