The Basenji, in the
hound group (group 2), is a small, short haired hunting dog that
originated in Africa. It appears short in length (back) in
comparison to its 'high' legs. The wrinkled forehead and
cheeks give it an inquisitive or worried look. An arched
neck, lightly built but well toned (but not over muscled) body and
high set curled tail add to the overall gracefulness of the dog.
The Basenji should portray a demeanour of poise, grace and
alertness. The Basenji's gait is effortless and resembling a race
horse at full trot. (swift, tireless and elegant).
Ideal height for females is 16 inches and for males 17 inches at the
shoulder. Optimum weight should be about 24 pounds for males
and 22 pounds for females.
A Basenji's coat is short and fine. Colors range from chestnut
red to, black and white, to tri (black with red cheeks and pips
[eyebrows]), to brindle (black stripes on a red body), all color
variations with white feet, chest and tail tip. White blaze
and collar are acceptable, however, white should not be the
The nose should be black and its eyes almond shaped and deep brown.
A Basenji's feet should be small, compact and oval shaped with well
arched toes. Dewclaws are removed when very young. The
tail should sit high and be tightly curled over the back to either
a barkless and often silent dog, the Basenji is not mute by any
means. These dogs are capable of a range of sounds including:
growls, 'purrs', shrieks, yodels, and 'talking' ( a sound that can
only be explained by hearing it :) according to their mood.
Basenjis can also give a single "woof", but do not have the vocal
cords of a normal dog (the cords are more human like) and therefore
do not 'bark' in the traditional sense.
A Basenji is a naturally clean dog that does not shed much and will
groom it self much like a cat; they are considered a
Basenjis are often categorized/ compared to, as cat like. They will
perch on the back of a couch and watch their surroundings and will
groom themselves in a 'cat like' manner. They can be aloof with
strangers, so in essence, yes, they are 'cat like', but they are a
dog. They 'can' be somewhat challenging to train; they enjoy doing
it in their own time, not yours. Basenjis are 'smart like a fox'
and are trainable, but they do have "their" own mind. Time,
consistency and patience are the key. A heavy hand will not work.
Except against you.
Basenjis love people; although at first some may seem a bit snobbish
or aloof, they warm up quickly. They are a great judge of character.
Exceedingly intelligent and highly energetic, Basenjis love spending
time with "their people". They are, after all a pack dog. They
are not the dog to get if you are going to continuously be away for
long periods at a time. Every time you come home, they
greet you like it's the first. They will smell every inch of you,
rub up against you and welcome you as if you've been away for
Basenjis are very good with children, especially if raised with
them. Although protective of their humans, Basenjis are not a
guard dog. Most often they will verbally back down an
outsider, but will rarely go much further. However, with their
mannerisms, you will know if something is 'amiss'.
Basenjis are known escape artists. And as you know, where
there's a will, there's a way. Your best defence: a 6' fence
or run (not jumpable or dig-able is the key) and always keep your
dog on a leash when you are out. They are highly prey driven. It's
their instinct. Rabbits, squirrels, birds all hold fascination for
them. As well as cars.... That is just larger prey. Most Basenjis,
if escaped from the home, will get hit/killed by a car as they are
not street smart.
Basenjis become bored very easily so putting them on a chain is not
a good idea; if they can break it they will, if not, they will get
into a lot of mischief after let off they chain. Basenjis are an
indoor, sociable dog. The are a pack dog. Your family is 'their
pack'. They need to be a member of your family.
Basenjis are very adaptable. They will be your running partner
or your couch potato. ( I would not recommend running with
your Basenji till they are at least one year of age( due to puppies
bone formation)) Long walks are fine and enjoyed. They can live
in the country or the suburbs and with most other animals. I
say most, because Basenjis have an aversion to their own breed of
the same sex. If you want two basenjis, it is best to have 1
male and 1 female. Same sexed Basenjis will be in constant
competition with each other, especially the females for alpha
Regular brushing with a soft brush (Zoom Groom) is
recommended, especially during regular shedding times, which
is generally mild. Being a naturally clean and not a "doggy
smelling" dog, bathing with shampoo should only be done when your
dog smells bad. If dusty or muddy a simple water bath will be
sufficient. Over shampooing can strip essential oils from their
coat and cause dry skin.
Your dog nails should be ground with a Dremel (preferred
method) or clipped regularly; your vet can demonstrate the proper
way to do this.
Very Brief History Of The Basenji:
Basenji is a pariah (wild dog) native to Africa ( some believe
Egypt. Remember the statues in front of the
Pyramids? They have Basenji traits). In Africa, the Basenji is used
as a sight and scent hunting dog for lions, still to this day. Since
basenjis don't bark, they wear 'bells' around their necks so the
tribesmen know where they are. The Basenji breed hunts as a pack.
Many of the Basenjis in America originated from 13 dogs, although
AKC made allowances for the Basenji Club of America to obtain more
dogs from Africa and broaden the breeding lines while staying true
to the breed.
Each breed of dog, has it's own unique
group of health issues.
Please bear in mind that not all
Basenjis are predisposed to any/and or all of the following
This information is only meant to educate and
inform the reader.
Medical problems associated with the
following information is provided only to educate and not meant as a
means of diagnoses; if you suspect anything, please consult a
veterinarian that is knowledgeable in Basenji health. These health
issues "can" be found in the breed, but are not necessarily found in
all lines. Please discuss with your breeder about health issues (if
any) in their lines. If you are inquiring about adding a Basenji to
your family, ask the breeder what type of health testing the do. Ask
to see the test results.
Fanconi (pronounced: fan-cone-ee) is likened to diabetes in humans
and is a common disease among Basenjis. The potentially deadly
disease that affects the processing of sugars and proteins,
typically appears between 4 and 7 years of age; although is it
completely possible for the disease to show up at any age.
Early detection is the key to controlling Fanconi. Usual
symptoms are elevated urine glucose, but not blood sugar levels, and
excessive drinking and urination. Testing for glucose in the
urine is the easiest way to identify Fanconi early. You can
purchase test stripes, over the counter, from your pharmacy.
Fanconi is caused by both heredity and environment. There is
no way to predict if a puppy will develop Fanconi and every puppy in
a litter has the same chance of inheriting it. If any breeder
tells you that they are 100% sure that their line does not carry the
disease, walk away. Instead find a breeder who will tell you
the truth. Ask for the number of occurrences in their
line. This will not guarantee you a non-afflicted pup, but it
will give you a good chance.
Another way to prevent Fanconi is by making sure your pup has a
beneficial diet. DO NOT restrict your Basenji's protein
intake. These dogs require higher amounts of protein on a
normal basis and when afflicted by Fanconi, the dog 'passes' the
proteins and amino acids necessary for healthy living.
Recent studies have shown that the Basenji breed does better when
given small amounts of high quality meat.
For a much more detailed report on Fanconi, please visit:
The Canine Phenome Project has made a
major breakthrough in identifying the Fanconi gene through the DNA
marker test. This new test is 96% accurate. Hopefully within a year
or two, the CPP will have a test that will be 100% accurate. For
complete information about the Canine Phenome Project, please visit
In a nut shell, there are 4 possible
- 1) Clear
- 2) Indeterminate or Equivocal (which is
a split gene, the dog not being clear, carrier or affected)
- 3) Carrier
- 4) Affected with the Fanconi gene.
A Clear, Equivocal or Carrier
cannot develop fanconi syndrome. These
dogs will live happy, healthy, long lives.
An Affected dog will develop fanconi at
some point during their lives. With the protocol that is in place,
these dogs may also live long, happy lives. For the protocol please
www.basenjihealth.org then click on "Download
the Fanconi Treatment Protocol.
**On each of my dogs
pages, you can find the results of this test.
Common in several breeds of dogs, Hip Dysplasia is the malformation
of the hip joint. Depending on the severity of the
malformation, the discomfort level may range from stiffness in
walking to a crippling of the back legs. Regular exercise and
a healthy diet can help in the proper maintenance of the hip joints.
Hip Dysplasia is not as common in Basenjis but it is always
recommended to have your dog checked by your veterinarian. All
Breeding stock must carry a hip rating from the Orthopedic
Foundation of America (OFA)
Acceptable OFA ratings are
Excellent, Good and Fair. Unacceptable breeding ratings are
borderline and moderate.
The patella, or kneecap, is part of the stifle joint (knee). In
patellar luxation, the kneecap luxates, or pops out of place, either
in a medial or lateral position. This can be genetic or due to an
injury. Most conditions can by managed with arthritic medication.
For more detailed information, please visit:
Basenjis like humans have "inny" and "outty" belly buttons.
You should not be worried unless the "outty" belly becomes violently
red and/or swollen. If this happens, see your vet immediately.
Hypothyroidism is common to Basenjis. Basenjis have a higher
thyroid activity level than other breeds of dogs and an under active
thyroid will cause obesity and poor coat and skin conditions. For
more information, please
Hypothyroidism can be controlled with medication; breeding should be
only under a veterinarian's supervision.
Persistent Papillary Membrane (PPM)
a fine sheet of veins that feed the developing eye of a puppy.
Before the eyes open, a protein that dissolves this
membrane will be excreted. If the membrane is not completely
dissolved, visible cobweb like strands will be left. In the
worst cases, the eyes of the dog will look blue instead of the deep
brown they are supposed to be. Again, reputable breeders will
have their dogs tested and 'CERF'ed and will not breed two PPM
'heavy' dogs. To have a CERF rating a Basenji has to be found
'clear' in comprehensive optical testing. Because of the
possibility that dogs ocular abnormalities may be produced by
breeding two mildly affected dogs, the ACVO (American College of
Veterinary Ophthalmologists) Genetics Committee advises breeders not
to breed affected stock, and CERF (Canine Eye Research Foundation)
certificates are not issued for affected animals. For more
information, please visit:
Coloboma, or a gap or hole in the eye
structure, can range from mild to severe. Usually found at
the bottom of the eye, the gap can occur in the eyelid, iris,
lens, choroids, or optical nerve. A responsible breeder will
have their dogs check for Coloboma and will not breed their dog if
it is found. Again, ask for a CERF rating and to see medical records
of the dog and its parents. For more detailed information, please
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)
PRA is a fairly common problem with Basenjis. As with Fanconi
Syndrome, your breeder should always be up front with the number of
occurrences in their line. PRA is slow continuing damage to
the retina in which it is replaced by scar tissue.
A veterinary ophthalmologist can examine the retina with an
instrument called an indirect ophthalmoscope. Changes in the
retinal blood vessel pattern, the optic nerve head and the
reflective substance within the dog's eye, called the tapetum,
can be seen; these changes are classic for PRA. However in
some breeds PRA characteristics have little or no early changes. The
eyes of these dogs may appear normal until they are in the later
stages of the disease.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy will progress at different rates in
different breeds. This variation causes difficulty in determining
just how long any one particular dog will continue seeing.
Testing for the recessive gene that causes PRA will be available in
the near future. For more information, please visit:
recessive gene which can be tested for, this form of anemia is not
curable. A reputable breeder will test their dogs before
breeding them. Affected pups usually die early on. For
detailed information, please visit:
Malabsorbtion or Immunoproliferative Systemic Intestinal Disease
(IPSID) is an inherited disease that is fatal. You can
maintain a dog with IPSID for several years, however, they will be
anorexic, have long term diarrhea, and can not be bred as it is