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  • Temperament: Independent, Smart, Poised
  • AKC Breed Popularity: Ranks 88 of 194
  • Height: 17 inches (male), 16 inches (female)
  • Weight: 24 pounds (male), 22 pounds (female)
  • Life Expectancy: 13-14 years
  • Group: Hound Group

    The AKC has grouped all of the breeds that it registers into seven categories, or groups, roughly based on function and heritage. Breeds are grouped together because they share traits of form and function or a common heritage.

Basenji standing in three-quarter view
Basenji sitting in three-quarter view
Basenji standing sideways facing left
Basenji coat detail
Basenji puppy

Find a Puppy: Basenji

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GENERAL APPEARANCE

The Basenji is a small, short haired hunting dog from Africa. It is short backed and lightly built, appearing high on the leg compared to its length. The wrinkled head is proudly carried on a well arched neck and the tail is set high and curled. Elegant and graceful, the whole demeanor is one of poise and inquiring alertness. The balanced structure and the smooth musculature enable it to move with ease and agility. The Basenji hunts by both sight and scent. Characteristics-The Basenji should not bark but is not mute. The wrinkled forehead, tightly curled tail and swift, effortless gait (resembling a racehorse trotting full out) are typical of the breed. Faults-Any departure from the following points must be considered a fault, and the seriousness with which the fault is regarded is to be in exact proportion to its degree.

HEAD

The head is proudly carried. Eyes-Dark hazel to dark brown, almond shaped, obliquely set and farseeing. Rims dark. Ears-Small, erect and slightly hooded, of fine texture and set well forward on top of head. The skull is flat, well chiseled and of medium width, tapering toward the eyes. The foreface tapers from eye to muzzle with a perceptible stop. Muzzle shorter than skull, neither coarse nor snipy, but with rounded cushions. Wrinkles appear upon the forehead when ears are erect, and are fine and profuse. Side wrinkles are desirable, but should never be exaggerated into dewlap. Wrinkles are most noticeable in puppies, and because of lack of shadowing, less noticeable in blacks, tricolors and brindles. Nose-Black greatly desired. Teeth-Evenly aligned with a scissors bite.

BODY

Neck of good length, well crested and slightly full at base of throat. Well set into shoulders. Topline-Back level. Body-Balanced with a short back, short coupled and ending in a definite waist. Ribs moderately sprung, deep to elbows and oval. Slight forechest in front of point of shoulder. Chest of medium width. Tail is set high on topline, bends acutely forward and lies well curled over to either side

FOREQUARTERS

Shoulders moderately laid back. Shoulder blade and upper arm of approximately equal length. Elbows tucked firmly against brisket. Legs straight with clean fine bone, long forearm and well defined sinews. Pasterns of good length, strong and flexible. Feet-Small, oval and compact with thick pads and well arched toes. Dewclaws are usually removed.

COAT

Coat short and fine. Skin very pliant. Color-Chestnut red; pure black; tricolor (pure black and chestnut red); or brindle (black stripes on a background of chestnut red); all with white feet, chest and tail tip. White legs, blaze and collar optional. The amount of white should never predominate over primary color. Color and markings should be rich, clear and well-defined, with a distinct line of demarcation between the black and red of tricolors and the stripes of brindles.

HINDQUARTERS

Medium width, strong and muscular, hocks well let down and turned neither in nor out, with long second thighs and moderately bent stifles. Feet-Same as in “Forequarters.”

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basenji illustration

About the Basenji

Basenjis are small, graceful hounds standing 16 or 17 inches at the shoulder. They are recognizable by their glistening short coat, tightly curled tail, and wrinkled forehead and expressive almond-shaped eyes that convey a variety of subtle, humanlike emotions.
Basenjis are a lovely sight at a standstill but more impressive yet at a fast trot, when they exhibit the long, smooth strides of a mini-racehorse. And yes, it’s true, they don’t bark, but they make their feelings known with an odd sound described as something between a chortle and a yodel. Basenjis are fastidious and will groom themselves like cats. This has been called a “cult breed”—small in numbers, but those lucky enough to own one do so with singular devotion.

National Breed Clubs and Rescue

Want to connect with other people who love the same breed as much as you do? We have plenty of opportunities to get involved in your local community, thanks to AKC Breed Clubs located in every state, and more than 450 AKC Rescue Network groups across the country.
Basenji puppy

Find a Puppy: Basenji

AKC Marketplace | PuppyFinder

AKC Marketplace is the only site to exclusively list 100% AKC puppies from AKC-Registered litters and the breeders who have cared for and raised these puppies are required to follow rules and regulations established by the AKC.
Find Basenji Puppies

Care

NUTRITION

The Basenji should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Some dogs are prone to getting overweight, so watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.

GROOMING

Basenjis are fastidious creatures. Their short coat is a breeze to take care of, generally requiring no more than a quick once-over with a soft-bristle brush, a rubber grooming mitt or tool, or a hound glove every week. Brushing distributes skin oils throughout the coat to help keep it healthy and looking its best. Basenjis don’t have a “doggy” smell, and they usually don’t need to be bathed unless they get into something particularly messy. As with all breeds, the Basenji‘s nails should be trimmed regularly, because overly long nails can cause the dog pain as well as problems walking and running.

Grooming Frequency

Occasional Bath/Brush
Specialty/Professional
Occasional Bath/Brush

Shedding

Infrequent
Frequent
Occasional

EXERCISE

Basenjis are energetic, inquisitive, and very active. They require lots of regular exercise to keep them from becoming bored. Boredom can lead to destructive behavior. Long play sessions in a well-fenced yard or securely on lead are required. A Basenji should never run loose, as the breed’s instinct to hunt is very strong, and the dog might not be able to resist the urge to run off on a chase. Giving the dog a structured outlet for those instincts and that pent-up energy can help immensely; many Basenjis enjoy, and excel at, canine sports such as lure coursing, tracking, and obedience and agility competitions.

Energy Level

Couch Potato
Needs Lots of Activity
Energetic

TRAINING

Early socialization and puppy training classes are recommended for all breeds, but given the Basenji’s bountiful energy, intelligence, and penchant for mischief, they are a necessity. Basenjis are often described as “catlike,” which may not seem to bode well for training them. However, they do learn readily in an encouraging and rewarding atmosphere, and with the use of positive-training techniques. They also lose interest quickly, so training sessions should last no more than five or 10 minutes.

Trainability

May be Stubborn
Eager to Please
Independent

Temperament/Demeanor

Aloof/Wary
Outgoing
Reserved with Strangers

HEALTH

Basenji are generally healthy dogs, and responsible breeders screen for health disorders such as hypothyroidism, a type of inflammatory bowel disease called IPSID and canine hip dysplasia. Gene tests are available to identify carriers of Fanconi syndrome, a kidney disorder, as well as progressive retinal atrophy, or PRA; such tests allow breeders to plan breedings that will not produce those diseases. As with all breeds, a Basenji’s ears should be checked regularly, and the teeth should be brushed often.

Recommended Health Tests from the National Breed Club:

  • Hip Evaluation
  • Ophthalmologist Evaluation
  • PRA-BJ1 DNA Test
  • Fanconi Syndrome DNA Test
  • Thyroid Evaluation

Read the Official Breed Club Health Statement.

Basenji
Basenji
Basenji
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Basenji

History

Basenjis are contenders for the title of oldest AKC breed. Paleontologists tell us that the first domesticated dogs looked a lot like Basenjis. They were already well established when they were brought up the Nile from interior Africa as gifts for the pharaohs of ancient Egypt. Basenjis are depicted in ancient Egyptian artifacts, and traces of the breed can also be seen in ancient Babylonian and Mesopotamian art.

These once-mighty civilizations collapsed millennia ago, but the Basenji endured as a semi-wild dog living at the headwaters of both the Nile and Congo rivers. African tribesmen prized Basenjis as versatile hunters with keen eyesight, explosive speed, and a highly developed sense of smell. Basenjis are known expert vertical leapers, a skill developed to scout prey in African grasslands. (An African breed name translates as “the jumping-up-and-down dog.”) Father Jerome Merolla, a 17th-century Catholic missionary to the Congo, left behind this written description of the Basenjis he saw living a feral state: “These dogs, notwithstanding their wildness, do little or no damage to the inhabitants. They are red-haired, have small slender bodies and their tails turned upon their backs.”

Isolated in remote areas of the African continent for thousands of years, the unique Basenji went unaltered by Western fads and fancies. The breed that so impressed the pharaohs was pretty much the same as the breed that was introduced to the West in the late 1800s.
A breeding pair was brought to England by a returning explorer in 1895, but they died soon thereafter. Another pair was brought to England in 1937. They were exhibited as natural curiosities, and this previously unknown breed caused such a sensation with the dog-loving British public that police were called in for crowd control. But, again, tragedy struck: The female and a litter of puppies died, leaving only the male, named Bois.
Bois was acquired by a Boston breeder who had recently obtained a female named Congo. This resulted in the first Basenjis bred in America. More dogs were slowly added to the gene pool until, finally, the Basenji was established in the United States.

Did You Know?

The Basenji is a dog with fastidious, dainty habits, such as cleaning himself all over as does a cat; the basenji also lacks a doggy odor, contributing to his assets as a house dog.
The Basenji does not bark but does make yodeling noises. The Basenji is known as the "barkless dog".
The first specimens of the Basenji were brought from the source of the Nile as presents to the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt.
The Basenji is also known for being quite independent and aloof at times. It is alert and careful with strangers, open and calm with friends, and loving and solicitous with children. When meeting strangers, the Basenji prefers to make the first overtures and should not be approached from behind.

The Breed Standard

GENERAL APPEARANCE

The Basenji is a small, short haired hunting dog from Africa. It is short backed and lightly built, appearing high on the leg compared to its length. The wrinkled head is proudly carried on a well arched neck and the tail is set high and curled. Elegant and graceful, the whole demeanor is one of poise and inquiring alertness. The balanced structure and the smooth musculature enable it to move with ease and agility. The Basenji hunts by both sight and scent. Characteristics-The Basenji should not bark but is not mute. The wrinkled forehead, tightly curled tail and swift, effortless gait (resembling a racehorse trotting full out) are typical of the breed. Faults-Any departure from the following points must be considered a fault, and the seriousness with which the fault is regarded is to be in exact proportion to its degree.

HEAD

The head is proudly carried. Eyes-Dark hazel to dark brown, almond shaped, obliquely set and farseeing. Rims dark. Ears-Small, erect and slightly hooded, of fine texture and set well forward on top of head. The skull is flat, well chiseled and of medium width, tapering toward the eyes. The foreface tapers from eye to muzzle with a perceptible stop. Muzzle shorter than skull, neither coarse nor snipy, but with rounded cushions. Wrinkles appear upon the forehead when ears are erect, and are fine and profuse. Side wrinkles are desirable, but should never be exaggerated into dewlap. Wrinkles are most noticeable in puppies, and because of lack of shadowing, less noticeable in blacks, tricolors and brindles. Nose-Black greatly desired. Teeth-Evenly aligned with a scissors bite.

BODY

Neck of good length, well crested and slightly full at base of throat. Well set into shoulders. Topline-Back level. Body-Balanced with a short back, short coupled and ending in a definite waist. Ribs moderately sprung, deep to elbows and oval. Slight forechest in front of point of shoulder. Chest of medium width. Tail is set high on topline, bends acutely forward and lies well curled over to either side

FOREQUARTERS

Shoulders moderately laid back. Shoulder blade and upper arm of approximately equal length. Elbows tucked firmly against brisket. Legs straight with clean fine bone, long forearm and well defined sinews. Pasterns of good length, strong and flexible. Feet-Small, oval and compact with thick pads and well arched toes. Dewclaws are usually removed.

COAT

Coat short and fine. Skin very pliant. Color-Chestnut red; pure black; tricolor (pure black and chestnut red); or brindle (black stripes on a background of chestnut red); all with white feet, chest and tail tip. White legs, blaze and collar optional. The amount of white should never predominate over primary color. Color and markings should be rich, clear and well-defined, with a distinct line of demarcation between the black and red of tricolors and the stripes of brindles.

HINDQUARTERS

Medium width, strong and muscular, hocks well let down and turned neither in nor out, with long second thighs and moderately bent stifles. Feet-Same as in “Forequarters.”

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basenji illustration

Colors & Markings

Colors

Description Standard Colors Registration Code
Black & White Check Mark For Standard Color 019
Black Tan & White Check Mark For Standard Color 030
Brindle & White Check Mark For Standard Color 059
Red & White Check Mark For Standard Color 146
Black Brindle & White 021
Blue Cream & White 346
Cream & White 077
Mahogany & White 130
Sable & White 165

Markings

Description Standard Markings Registration Code
Brindle Markings Check Mark For Standard Mark 007
Black Mask 004
Black Saddle 065
With Cap 066

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