Basenji

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Thinking of raising a Basenji? These so-called "barkless" dogs with the tightly curled tails are charming and unique.

Breed Snapshot

Life Expectancy:
13 to 14 years
Size:

Small

Maintenance Level:

Medium

Shed Level:

Low

Temperament:
IndependentActiveIntelligent
Coat Color:
Black And WhiteBlack Tan And WhiteBrindle And WhiteRed And White

Best For

The Basenji dog breed is best for experienced pet parents who tend to have quieter households and homes with fenced yards.

Basenji Traits

What makes the Basenji a Basenji? Let's find out how they stack up.

Basenji Temperament

The Basenji breed’s temperament might seem unusual if you’re used to more popular dog breeds like Golden Retrievers or Labs. Basenjis like their families, but they also like alone time and are quite particular dogs.

Originally bred as hunting dogs in Africa, Basenjis are instinctively alert dogs who love to chase things—and will do just that!—and they need plenty of mental exercise to keep from being bored. Even though they have low biting tendencies, Basenjis aren’t always keen on meeting new dogs and may be aggressive toward other types of animals. They can be friendly with children they know and often bond with one person, but early socialization is needed to make sure they grow up accepting new people, dogs and situations. Basenjis are quite fussy about their hygiene and will keep themselves tidy whenever possible.

Despite all this, Basenjis truly are members of the family and are indoor dogs who can’t think of a better place to hang out than your living room. They’re very intelligent, very active and very individualistic dogs who will definitely bring a smile to your face.

How to Care for a Basenji

Here’s the Basenji 101: They are easy to groom, and their food needs aren’t complicated. But they have an independent nature that will make training a challenge for the inexperienced pup parent. And Basenjis have a lot of energy that needs to be burned daily or else they just might find themselves getting into trouble. But hey—there are lots of ways to keep your Basenji entertained throughout the day.

Basenji Health

Basenjis have a lifespan of about 13 to 14 years. And the good news is that Basenjis are very healthy dogs with few health problems. It’s important for pup parents to be aware of these health issues, so you can help your pup live the fullest life possible.

  • Fanconi Syndrome: Basenjis can be predisposed to a genetic condition called Fanconi Syndrome which affects a portion of the kidneys. Affected dogs fail to reabsorb some nutrients and electrolytes back into the body. Fortunately, breeders can screen for this condition to ensure it’s not passed to future generations. There is no treatment for this condition, but it may be managed with supplements.
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy: This is a genetic eye issue that leads to eventual blindness. Typically, night and low-light vision are affected first. There is no cure for PRA; it’s usually a slow progression to blindness, giving the dog time to adapt.
  • Persistent Pupillary Membrane: This is an eye condition that can occur when a Basenji puppy’s embryonic eye membrane doesn’t quite disappear completely and remains on the eye, where it can cause mild to severe vision issues. Fortunately, this often clears up on its own and only occasionally needs veterinary intervention.
  • Hip Dysplasia: This is a hereditary issue that occurs when the hip joint doesn’t fit together properly, and it can be quite painful. Treatment options range from weight management to physical therapy to surgery.

Search for Adoptable Basenjis Near You

Basenji History

While Basenjis have only been in the United States since the 1930s, their history stretches back for centuries. Canine DNA research has shown Basenjis to be a truly ancient breed with unique DNA unlike any other domesticated dog breed. Cave paintings in Africa depict Basenji-like dogs with curled tails, and these dogs were given to pharaohs in ancient Egypt.

Basenjis were hunting dogs in Africa in the 1800s, but the qualities and characteristics of this intriguing breed fascinated Europeans. Early efforts to import Basenjis to England proved difficult due to distemper and other factors. In the 1930s, Mrs. Olivia Burn was instrumental in her efforts to establish Basenjis in England; she referred to them as “the barkless dog of the Congo.”

The first Basenjis arrived in the United States in 1937, and the American Kennel Club recognized the Basenji breed in 1944. (The Basenji Club of America was established a couple years earlier in 1942.) Today, Basenjis rank 86th on the AKC’s list of the most popular breeds.

So, where is the best place to find Basenji puppies? You can find a list of reputable breeders on the American Kennel Club’s website. What’s the average Basenji price? Depending on the breeder, expect to spend anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000 for a pup. But for that, you usually get a dog who’s been screened for health and temperament issues, and they might even come with pedigree papers. You can also reach out to Basenji rescue organizations to adopt a Basenji or keep an eye out for the breed at your local animal shelter.

FAQs

Are Basenjis hypoallergenic?

Yes, Basenjis are hypoallergenic. While it’s impossible to say that any dog is 100-percent hypoallergenic, Basenjis tend to be a better match for people with allergies than many other dog breeds. Basenjis shed minimally and have low amounts of dander, plus they are fastidiously clean dogs, which also helps to reduce allergens.

Are Basenji good family dogs?

Basenjis can be good family dogs when they’re properly socialized and trained from an early age. Children should always be supervised when they’re with your Basenji, and pups who were raised around children may have an easier time than an older Basenji trying to get used to children for the first time.

What are the most popular Basenji dog names?

The most popular Basenji names are also popular for other dog breeds, including Bella, Max, Luna, Lucy and Charlie. Some Basenjis are named Lady after a Basenji in a 1950s film. You might also choose a name that reflects your Basenji’s coloring, personality or heritage. New more name inspo? Get more dog names here.

What are the most common Basenji dog mixes?

The most common Basenji mixes are:

  • Basenji-Chihuahua mix (Chisenji or Basenji Chi)
  • Basenji-American Pit Bull Terrier mix (Pitsenji)
  • Basenji-Labrador Retriever mix (Labrasenji)
  • Basenji-Welsh Corgi mix (Corsenji)
  • Basenji-German Shepherd mix (German Shepenji)
  • Basenji-Siberian Husky mix (Basenji Siberian Husky)

How do you pronounce Basenji?

Basenji is pronounced buh-SEN-jee.

Do Basenjis bark?

No, Basenjis do not bark. But even though they are considered barkless, it’s important to remember they do make noise. Basenjis are capable of making many sounds, and they love to yodel!

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Top Takeaways

You might first be drawn to the Basenji for their barkless trait or their cute curly tail, but once you discover their intelligence, their easy grooming needs and their fascinating history, you’ll be a Basenji fan for life.

Expert input provided by veterinarian Dr. Ellen Kinzl, DVM, of Liberty Village Animal Hospital and certified dog trainer Christine Danker, CPDT-KA, KPA-CTP, PMCT3, of Hemlock Hollow LLC.

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Tips from Basenji Parents

  1. I have only one dispute against this article’s Basenji traits…they make excellent Medical Service Dogs when used for mobility assistance. I have trained and only used Basenji MSDs for myself. Their size and low maintenance coats are perfect for me. My current boy, “Guido” loves traveling everywhere and anywhere on a daily basis while helping me to walk in any environment or location. He is extremely quiet while working unless he would have to attract other’s attention to help me.
    He also enjoys the admiration and attention he attracts from everyone new he meets!