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Getting to know the Basenji

Basenjis are considered by some to be the world’s oldest dog breed; and the first domesticated dogs, according to paleontologists, look like the Basenji. This breed was well-established before they traveled up the Nile from Africa, and they were given as gifts to the pharaohs of ancient Egypt. When the Basenji made its way to England, in the mid-1930s, they were such a sensation that they caused riots and required police to be brought in for crowd control.

Today, the Basenji ranks 87 out of 193 breeds in popularity, according to the American Kennel Club. The breed is prized for its ability to leap vertically when it scouts prey, their keen eyesight, sense of smell and the speed with which they run.

The Basenji’s Personality And Features

Considered to be bark-less, the Basenji actually makes a baroo sound, which is similar to a yodel. Another trait of this breed is the Basenji grooms itself like a cat does; they’re fastidious and do not shed much.

Basenjis are easily recognizable by their tightly curled tail, wrinkled forehead, expressive almond-shaped eyes and “humanlike emotions.” Standard colors include black and white, black and tan, brindle and white, and red and white. Basenjis typically stand 16-17 inches (males) and 15-16 inches (females.)

All dogs benefit from training and socialization, but the Basenji’s boundless energy, insatiable curiosity, and high intelligence makes training imperative. Positive, reward-based training will help your Basenji stay interested and invested in his training.

If you’ve ever wanted a dog with whom you can do agility coursing, the Basenji is your dog for that. Hide and seek, fetch, tug of war, taking a run or hiking are all activities that your Basenji will love to partake in and will help expend his energy.

Basenjis have a strong urge to chew, so pet parents should invest in sturdy toys that can feed this dog’s need to chew and redirect unwanted chewing behaviors.

Basenji Health And Wellness

Overall, the Basenji is a healthy breed and lives an average of 12-16 years. There are some conditions, more prevalent in this breed, to watch out for including hypothyroidism, inflammatory bowel disease, and hip dysplasia.

The Basenji is fussy about its cleanliness and will groom itself, but brushing him is a great way to get some hands-on bonding time. They need regular nail trimming, and they may not appreciate regular baths (much like cats).

Bottom Line On The Basenji

The Basenji is a beautiful, playful, unique dog who would be the ideal companion for the active family willing to take the time to work with and train this curly-tailed, energetic pup! As with any dog breed you want to bring home to share your life with, it’s best to do your homework, talk with other owners, and determine whether your personality, living arrangements, and lifestyle are a fit for a lifetime.


Robbi Hess, award-winning author, is multi-petual: She shares her home with two Devon Rex kittens, three adult rescue cats, a mini poodle, a Goldendoodle, three lizards and two ferrets. When not caring for her pets, she is an editor, speaker, time management and productivity guru, content creator, social media manager and blogger. She writes at All Words MatterMy Divas Dish, and is the story editor and chief cat herder at Positively Woof.

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