Basenji Information

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The Basenji is a small, athletic dog that is unique and elegant in appearance. They have a distinctive gait that is horse-like in quality. They have long limbs, muscular thighs, and a level topline. The breed’s flat head features a forehead that is wrinkled and furrowed, and their almond-shaped eyes are small in size. The Basenji has a high-set tail that curls up over the back and slightly to one side. Their coat exists in a number of colors including copper, red, black-and-tan, and black-and-brindle. White feet and white markings on the chest may or may not be present.

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They are in the hound family and like to hunt. This breed may be prone to hunting smaller animals. So be aware of this trait in case you or your neighbors have small dogs, cats or rabbits. This breed is very intelligent and can out smart their owner. New owners should try to think one step ahead. The Basenji rarely barks if at all.

Accepted colors are red (the darker, the better), black, black and tan, and brindle -- all with white feet, chest and tail tip; which is officially part of the breed standard for color. White facial and/or neck markings; (ie. blaze, star, white on muzzle near nose, white ring around neck) may or may not be present, and are not considered faults. Freckling in white areas is common, though white in colored coat areas other than previously mentioned is a fault. Coat should be very short, fine and soft. Nose should be black, eyes should be brown. Teeth should meet in an even, or scissor bite. Tail may have a single or double curl, though the tighter curl is preferable. Basenjis are considered 'square' dogs - they should be approximately as tall as the body is long.

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The Basenji is energetic, alert, and continuously aware of his surroundings. They are affectionate and curious, and they love to play. If treated appropriately and touched regularly from an early age, the Basenji makes a very good pet. They are highly intelligent and respond well to obedience training. They can be leery of strangers and somewhat aloof, but they have a consistent need to please and they form strong bonds with their owners and family. Generally, the Basenji does best with older children. They are full of energy and love to climb, and they are very good at getting their own way. Somewhat demanding and manipulative, the Basenji will charm their owner into submission. The Basenji cleans itself like a cat and makes a low ululation rather than a bark. They are fast, frisky, spunky, and like to tease their owners into playing with them. The Basenji only has behavioral difficulties if their owners are incompatible with them.

Training can be challenging, as they are both intelligent and independent. Training methods must be consistent and sessions should be short, to avoid boredom. It's best to use only positive reinforcement. Most are so food-motivated, they will do many things asked of them in return for training treats, while harsh punishment is likely to create a resentful and unpredictable pet - or a runaway. Their dislike of being wet makes an ordinary squirt bottle a handy and effective deterrent and distraction tool. Crate training is also advised, as this breed can be quite destructive when unsupervised, bored, or under-exercised, in their ongoing efforts to amuse themselves. They have very strong jaws for their size and like to chew, even as adults; so be sure to provide appropriate chew toys.

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15 – 17 inches

Males: 16-17 inches Females: 15-16 inches
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20 – 26 pounds

Male: 23-26 pounds Female: 20-23 pounds
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General Health

The Basenji is prone to acquiring Fanconi’s syndrome, a type of kidney disorder. If signs of Fanconi’s syndrome are perceived in a Basenji, it’s imperative they be treated immediately. The Basenji is also susceptible to progressive retinal atrophy, other eye problems, and intestinal problems. The Basenji typically lives for 10 to 12 years and averages 4 to 6 puppies per litter.

Some Basenjis dislike water and won't want to go outside when it rains.

Fanconi syndrome is most usually an inherited disease, and there is no known cure -- though excellent results and near-normal life spans have been attained through early detection and treatment. After the age of two or three, monthly testing of basenjis is highly recommended, using simple urine glucose test strips. If the strip reacts, further testing by a veterinarian, including blood gas testing, is indicated. Care must be taken to distinguish an elevated urine glucose reading with normal or near-normal blood glucose (indicative of probable Fanconi) from an elevated urine glucose level accompanied by an elevated blood glucose level, that would signify diabetes. After a correct diagnosis, following the Fanconi-treatment protocol developed by Dr. Steven Gonto of Georgia to replace electrolytes and re-balance body chemicals with supplements has been very effective at restoring and maintaining a good level of health. This protocol can be obtained from The Basenji Health Endowment, links from the Basenji Club of America and other sources, and downloaded at no charge. Reputable breeders now routinely DNA-test for Fanconi, and do not interbreed affected dogs. Additionally, new Fanconi-free foundation stock has been imported from Africa, so incidences of this disorder are quickly becoming less common. Basenjis, in general, are very hardy dogs.

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Similar dogs to the Basenji have been found in Egyptian tombs and wall drawing of five thousand years ago. Alternatively called the Congo Dog, the Basenji was brought to Europe in 1934. The breed was refined by English breeders and exported all over the world. The Basenji is utilized as a forest guide in Africa, and it is also used to warn against the approach of dangerous animals.

The Basenji is also known as an African Wolf dog.

Long known as a 'primitive' breed, the basenji has retained ancestral wolf-like characteristics such as annual estrus, rather than the twice-yearly season of most domestic dogs, primary vocalizations of a ululating, or howling type rather than a bark, independent thinking, and others. Since the sequencing of the genome, recent DNA research (2004, 2009, et. al.) has confirmed the basenji as one of the world's most ancient dog breeds, whose DNA still remains closest to wolf. Though small in stature, they are swift and tireless runners who hunt by both sight and smell. As in centuries past, they are still used for small game hunting in today's Democratic Republic of Congo and other African nations.

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The Basenji requires very little maintenance or grooming. This breed will clean itself and their coat doesn’t have any odor. The Basenji is considered to be an excellent dog for people with allergies. They shed little to no hair.

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Ideal Environment

Because of the breed’s propensity to become overweight and lazy, the Basenji needs rigorous daily exercise. The Basenji can live happily in a small household or apartment, as long as they are sufficiently and consistently exercised. They are very active indoors, and do best with at least a small yard. The Basenji is happiest with other dogs of its kind.

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Dog Training!

If you're having problems training your dog or getting control, you should read our review of Adam will do whatever it takes to help you whip your dog into shape. I've used them to help with my Great Dane as well as help friends train their dogs. It's the first place I go to help answer users Questions. Many training issues are too extensive to answer in this forum, which is why I refer a lot of the load to his site. Update: I've been using and recommending DogProblems for three years now. I, as well as my users, value the techniques we've learned. I get weekly emails from users who have become better owners from the information they received.

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Basenji Q&A

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i adopted a dog from the pound and i have been told that she is a basenji but i dont think she is full blooded. she doesnt bark except for one time and it was a short shrill bark. her face and ears are exactly like the basenji pics but her tail is not curled. she is 4 1/2 months old. she has a worried wrinkled face and shredds paper toliet paper, but is a real sweet and loving dog. and sometimes i think she is a cat. i am having some difficulty in housebraking her, i am gonna crate her and hope that works, but too make a long story short, do all basenjis have curled tails, are they curled at birth or when they grow? thanks. lisa

Wait until she is a year old. Then the tail will be curled. ALL Basenjis must have a curled tail or otherwise they are disqualified from the show ring.


I have a 2 year old basenji.....I find it hard to get him to play with me and toys .....can you give me any advice?

They like to chase things. I used a rag when mine was young and graduated to those toys that are shaped liked snakes and have a rattle in them. You hold it up in the air and twirl around with it or run from one end of a room back and forth. You must let them catch it every now and then or they lose interest.


I want to get a basenji but I need to know if they are easily housebroken?

I have a basenji mix, but his temperament is mostly basenji and he has outsmarted me more times than I can count. As a pup, he chewed everything in sight and did a lot of damage to the house. He potty trained very easily, though. He shredded my house and belongings for about a year and a half. One day I came home and he was laying down with his front legs crossed (as basenjis will do) and I realized that he had grown into a big boy that day. For a second, I totally missed his puppy days, but he never tore anything up again. It may take a while for you to train one, but once they get it, you can trust them.

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