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Home »  Dog Breeds »  Basenji

The Basenji is a small to medium purebred from central Africa. It was bred to be a hunting dog and is distinct from most other breed because it does not bark, but it does make a yodeling sound (a baroo) as well as grunts and howling. The nickname 'soundless dog' that it is sometimes called is therefore not entirely accurate. This breed is also different in the it only has one breeding season each year rather than two or more that most breeds have.

The Basenji at A Glance
Name Basenji
Other names Congo Dog, Congo Terrier, African Bush Dog, African Barkless Dog, Ango Angari and Zande Dog
Nicknames Soundless dog
Origin The Democratic Republic of the Congo
Average size Small to medium
Average weight 20 to 26 pounds
Average height 15 to 17 inches
Life span 12 to 14 years
Coat type Short, fine
Hypoallergenic Yes
Color Red, black, tan, white, brindle
Popularity Somewhat popular – ranked 87th by the AKC
Intelligence Low – training will take longer than most dogs
Tolerance to heat Very good – can live in hot climates but not extreme heat
Tolerance to cold Low – not good in any kind of cold weather
Shedding Low – not much hair will be left around the home
Drooling High – will need to clean up daily
Obesity Moderate – not prone to gaining weight but food and exercise should still be watched
Grooming/brushing Minimal – brushing once or twice a week should suffice
Barking Rare – Unable to bark but they do make other noises
Exercise needs Fairly active for a small dog
Trainability Can be difficult to train
Friendliness Excellent – very social breed
Good first dog Very good – new owners could be fine but be prepared for harder training
Good family pet Very good with socialization
Good with children Very good with socialization
Good with other dogs Good with socialization
Good with other pets Moderate to good with socialization – does have a high prey drive
Good with strangers Good with socialization but wary
Good apartment dog Excellent due to size and lack of barking
Handles alone time well Very good – good for owners who are still working and out for the day
Health issues Not a healthy breed – issues can include Fanconi Syndrome, Malabsorption, Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency, PPM and eye problems
Medical expenses $460 a year for basic care and pet insurance
Food expenses $140 a year for treats and a good quality dry dog food
Miscellaneous expenses $200 for license, basic training, miscellaneous items and toys
Average annual expenses $800 as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $900
Rescue organizations Several including Basenji Rescue and Transport, Inc, Basenji Rescue, Phoenix Basenji Rescue and Colorado Basenji Rescue
Biting Statistics None reported

The Basenji's Beginnings

The Basenji's ancestors can be traced back to Egyptian times, paintings on tombs show similar dogs around 5000 years ago and it is thought they came over from Asia, being evolved from Asian wolves. It is an African dog and was used there for driving small game into hunter's nets, carrying items and to act as a watchdog in the forest in case of dangerous animals. This is one of the most ancient breeds of dogs around today and as such is referred to as a basal breed which pre-date modern breeds that were developed in the 1800s.

In the late 1800s Europeans saw and wrote about the Basenji which was a local dog the natives favored for its speed, intelligence, bravery and being quiet. There is some debate about its level of intelligence though, as the article by Stanley Coren ranked them low as they were not immediately obedient dogs, fans though point out its independent thinking. Several tries were made around this time and into the early 20th century to bring the dog to England and have it established there, but the early attempts failed due to diseases like distemper.

New Lease on Life

The first imports that were successful happened in the 1930s to England and to the US by Henry Trefflich an animal importer. In fact most of the current Basenjis in the West now come from those base stock at that time. In America the Basenji Club of America began in 1942 and it was recognized by the AKC in 1943. The popularity of the breed is on the decline currently, over the last 18 years it has gone from rank 71st to its current position at 87th.

The Dog You See Today

This is a small to medium sized dog weighing 20 to 26 pounds and standing 15 to 17 inches tall. It is a muscular and athletic dog with straight legs and a level back. It has a graceful neck and are as long as they are tall. The tail curls to one side or the other and it is set high. It has a fine, short and smooth coat and common colors are black, tan, red, brindle and white. Around the forehead it is wrinkled and it has a longer skull than muzzle. It has almond shaped eyes that are dark brown or hazel and are small. Its ears are erect, small and straight.

The Inner Basenji


Basenji are great watchdogs, very alert and able to let you know if there is an intruder trying to enter the home. However it is not likely it will scare away that intruder. It can be owner by new dog owners but since it is quite an independent breed and can be difficult to train, experience of course does help there. It is a very energetic and inquisitive dog and as mentioned there is some debate about its intelligence depending on what you value in it, the ability to learn obedience on command or the ability to make its own judgments. Socialization is important as it can be more reserved around strangers and without can be snappy, but with socialization it is a friendly, outgoing and happy dog.


It can form very strong attachments with one of it owners and is quite a frisky dog. Some prospective owners mistake the description of quiet to mean that this is an inactive dog. This is not at all the case, it loves to play and will need owners able to be somewhat active. For this dog quiet refers to the fact it makes more yodeling sounds and other snorting noises but it does not bark. This breed will want to be involved in everything.

Living with a Basenji

What will training look like?

This is not an easy dog to train, in fact it is meant to be one of the hardest. It is not inclined to listen to commands and will only obey if it judges what you want is something it wants too! You need to have a lot of patience and be consistent. Try to stay ahead of it as it will try to manipulate you. It has a very strong mind and will try to be the dominant one. You need to persevere and be positive but make it clear you are the boss and that there is no getting away with things or getting around things.

Early socialization is very important too with the Basenji, its wariness can turn to being overly timid and can also lead to snapping and aggression otherwise, and because of its high prey drive, without socialization small animals even in the home will be at risk. Early socialization will ensure it can be the best dog it can be and one that you are more confident in.

How active is the Basenji?

This is a fairly active dog so even though it is just small to medium in size you will need to ensure it has two good walks of around 30 minutes each a day, and that it has other opportunities like going to a dog park where it can be off leash and run free, play doggy games with you and socialize too. It can live in an apartment as long as it gets enough time outside but it does tend to do better with access to an average sized yard. It needs enough mental and physical stimulation it it can get bored easily and will act out and become destructive. When walking it always keep it on leash as its strong prey drive will have it chasing any small animals or anything moving.

Caring for the Basenji

Grooming needs

This is not a hard dog to take care of when it comes to its maintenance and grooming. It is low shedding so there is not a lot of hair around the home. It can also be a suitable breed for people with allergies though this should always be tested before you bring any breed home. What is also interesting about this breed is that it is quite cat like and will clean itself like cats do and does not have a strong doggy smell. It should not need a bath that often, only do it when it is needed, so that you do not dry out its skin.


You should brush its teeth two to three times a week and also check its ears for infection signs, use a dog ear cleanser to wipe them clean with and avoid inserting anything into them. Dog nails will need to be clipped when they get too long, is you are not aware of not cutting too low down, have a groomer do it for you.

Feeding Time

It will need ¾ to 1½ cups of good quality dry dog food each day, split into two meals. How much exactly will change depending on its size, metabolism, activity level, build and health. Be sure it is not overfed as it does not carry extra weight well, it is meant to be a sleek dog.

How is the Basenji with children and other animals?

Basenji are good with children with socialization. They enjoy being active, and they love being lively and playing with kids. They are affectionate with them too but they are best with older children as younger children are not mature enough yet. Make sure the children are taught how to play nicely, how to touch appropriately and be kind to it.

This breed has very strong prey instincts, it wants to chase small animals so it is not the best breed to get if you have cats, rabbits and so on. With good socialization from a young age it can learn to better around them in its own home, but when it is out if it sees a squirrel or a strange cat it will go after it, or try to. It can be fine with other dogs with socialization though if not neutered or spayed will be aggressive with other dogs of the same sex. It enjoys being with other Basenjis.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

This dog has a life span of 12 to 14 years but it is not an especially healthy breed. Problems that can arise include Fanconi Syndrome (kidney issues), eye problems, intestinal problems, Hypothyroidism, HA, liver problems, hip dysplasia, malabsorption and umbilical hernia.

Biting Statistics

When looking at dog attack reports that did bodily harm in the US and Canada over the last 34 years, the Basenji is not named in any incident. It is very unlikely to be a dog that starts that kind of trouble. However any dog can snap, become aggressive given certain situations or conditions, or just have am off day for some reason. There are things owners can do to lessen the risk of dog attacks against people or other dogs. Make sure they are socialized from an early age and that the socialization covers a lot of different situations and people. Complete at least basic level obedience training with the dog. Make sure it is well exercised and given mental stimulation and that it gets the kind of attention it needs.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

A Basenji puppy will cost about $900 possibly a bit more for a pet quality dog from a good breeder. From a top show dog breeder that will be several thousand dollars. Avoid using pets stores that use puppy mills or backyard breeders you find usually with paper or online ads. The health of the puppy cannot be trusted and you are funding some pretty despicable practices. Another option is to find one in a rescue or shelter. It may be adult age rather than a puppy but it will be around $50 to $400 and it will have had medical needs taken care of.


Once you have your puppy or dog you need some things for it at home, and you need to take it for some medical procedures. Things you might need include a crate, carrier, bowls, collar and leash for about $200. Getting it examined by a vet, having blood tests done, deworming, micro chipping, spaying or neutering and its shots will all cost about $280.

Annual costs are another aspect of pet ownership you need to be prepared for. It will of course need to be fed, using a good quality dry dog food and including dog treats that yearly cost will be around $140. Medical basic needs like check ups, flea and tick prevention, shots along with pet insurance will cost about $460 a year. Other costs like toys, license, basic training and miscellaneous items you might need are likely to start at around $200. This gives an annual starting figure of $800.


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Basenji are not the right dog for everyone. It is not a low energy lap dog, this is a small but active and energetic dog and it needs owners that are happy to be out for about an hour a day in total. It may be ranked low in intelligence because of its difficulty training and lack of obedience, but in other ways this is an independent thinking and smart dog who will try to get its own way as often as it can. Socialization is important so that its wariness does not turn into something that makes it aggressive, anxious and timid. Also keep in mind while it might not bark it does make other noises.

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