"Barkless But Not Silent"

Photo of Basenji


The Basenji is an ancient breed, originating in central Africa thousands of years before the birth of Christ. Then, as now (at least in Africa), the Basenji was used to flush small game into the waiting nets of hunters. However, the breed is a relative newcomer to Western culture. Basenjis did not appear in English dog shows until close to the end of the nineteenth century, and were not recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) until 1943. In 2006, the Basenji ranked 84th among the 155 breeds registered to and recognized by the AKC.


Basenjis are relatively independent dogs, but that doesn't mean they're unfriendly. They're spirited and curious, and are good with children if accustomed to them early in life (the dogs, not the kids). At their best, Basenjis are highly entertaining and readily able to amuse not only themselves, but anyone who happens to be around to watch. At their worst, they can cause havoc in a household whose owners have failed to dog-proof the premises beforehand. And while Basenjis do not bark, they can and do make noise; they are especially fond of yodeling.


The Basenji is a relatively small dog that ranges between 16 and 17 inches tall and weighs between 22 and 24 pounds. His coat, which is very short, is usually chestnut red with white markings. Some, however, are black-and-tan or brindle. His wrinkled forehead gives him a puzzled or worried look, but appearances are deceiving: this breed rarely worries over anything, and is clever enough to solve any puzzles that life throws at him.


The Basenji's fastidious nature makes him relatively easy to housetrain – but aside from that essential task, training can be a challenge. This dog tends to think his job is to train his people, not the other way around. That said, positive-reinforcement obedience training will go a long way toward helping you and your Basenji get along. Basenjis can't be allowed to run off-leash unless they're in a securely fenced area; their hound-like noses, boundless curiosity, and independent natures will almost always win out over their attachment to their people.

Grooming & Care

Basenjis are the ultimate wash-and-wear dogs. Their fastidious natures and obsession with cleanliness keep shedding to a minimum. They're reputed to be not overly fond of baths – or any water, for that matter. Weekly brushing and pedicures are recommended.

Health Concerns

Like any purebred dog, the Basenji has his share of inherited health issues. Among the chief health concerns are Fanconi syndrome (a kidney disease), malabsorption syndrome (a digestive and metabolic problem), and progressive retinal atrophy. Hypothyroidism can also be a problem, but it can be controlled with daily doses of synthetic thyroid hormone prescribed by a veterinarian. Breeding parents should receive OFA and CERF clearances before being bred.

Famous Basenji

Lady, the Basenji who was the title character in the movie "Goodbye, My Lady," starring Walter Brennan and Brandon de Wilde.

Ideal Owner
Activity Level Moderate
Schedule Full-time (but no overtime)
Personal Style Easygoing and casual
Training Style Consistent, Firm, Patient, Positive
Home Fenced yard or access to one
Children Gentle and respectful kids
Experience Definitely preferred
Quick Facts
Size Small
Grooming Easy to care for - brush weekly
Exercise Moderate - needs to walk or play every day
Training Can be stubborn, Needs daily practice
Temperment Enthusiastic, Alert
Challenges Makes a lot of weird noises; tends to escape; hard to train
Height 16 to 17 inches
Weight 22 to 24 pounds
Life 12 to 13 years
Home Alone Fine with lots of exercise first
With Kids Doesn't tolerate nonsense well
With Strangers Wary
Availability Rare and may have a waiting list

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