The word 'basenji' means "bushdog" in Bantoe, this is one of the dominant languages in Congo where Basenji originate from and can still be found. The Basenji is a primal dog, one of the oldest breeds in the world. The first mentions date back to 6000 years before the era.
The Basenji has an elegant appearance, they are square-built and of medium size. According to the breed standard, the male has a height of approximately 43 cm and a female a height of approximately 40 cm.
The Basenji can easily be recognised by their alert appearance with wrinkles between the eyes and upright ears. A Basenji's eyes are almond shaped and deep brown in colour. They have a short coat that hardly sheds and carry an upward curled tail with a white tip on their back. Their graceful appearance is enhanced because they are relatively high on their legs.
The Basenji comes in four official colours; black and white, brindle-white, red-white and tri-colour (white with black and tan). In addition, trindle is a variant of a tri-coloured Basenji if the brindle pattern runs through the tan of the coat.
Basenjis cannot bark, but this does not mean they are mute. Due to the shape of their vocal cords, they produce a yodelling sound. In addition, they can growl, cry and scream to support their opinion.
The females are usually in heat only once a year during fall, in the northern part of the world this means that the females are in heat between September and December. Litters are usually born during winter months.
The Basenji is a fairly healthy breed. However, there are some breed specific conditions that any Basenji used for breeding should be tested for. First of all, Fanconi. A recessive genetic kidney disease. This means that this condition is harmless unless a dog receives a Fanconi-gene from both parents. A DNA test is needed to determine whether a Basenji is 'free' (carries no Fanconi at all) or 'carrier' (carries one Fanconi-gene). If a Basenji does have a Fanconi gene from both parents, we call this 'sufferer'. This means that the Fanconi is active. In some cases, it can be controlled with medication, but Fanconi is deadly. According to Dutch rules, it is forbidden to combine two Basenjis that both carry Fanconi for breeding.
In addition, a DNA test is available to test for PRA, Progressive Retinal Atrophy, which can affect vision resulting in blindness. Like Fanconi, this condition is recessive.
The eyes are also tested by means of a physical ECVO test that describes the current condition of the eye. A specialist veterinarian may perform this eye test and describe the eye condition.
Furthermore, a responsible breeder will always test the hips, elbows and knees with X-rays. The health panel of the Dutch Kennel Club (Raad van Beheer) then assigns a score to the hips (A, B, C, D or E, A being excellent and E very poor). A specialist is licensed to indicate whether the elbows and knees are free of conditions such as Patellar Luxation and Elbow Dysplasia. Of course, the teeth must be full scissor bite and some breeders also test the thyroid gland.
Finally, epilepsy and cysteine stones also occur, how their inheritance proceeds are not clear yet.
The Basenji is opinionated and quirky. Certainly not the easiest dog in personality and definitely not a dog for everyone. Although loyal, affectionate, and downright cuddlers to their own humans, they can be aloof and reserved towards everyone else.
They are very intelligent but prefer to use their cognitive abilities to figure out ways to escape or open the pantry rather than to please their humans. They are opportunistic by nature and try to get the most for themselves out of every situation.
Basenjis are primitive in their communication, although this is beautiful to see, it also causes miscommunication with the non 'primal breeds'. In addition, they can really take a stand towards other dogs and do not deviate from their perspective.
They are sight hunters by nature and are still used as such in Congo. A hunting Basenji is a feast for the eyes, and the ultimate moment of happiness for the Basenji. However, this makes it difficult to let them run loose because their hunting instinct is always on. Unfortunately, not only prey animals but also small dogs are labelled as huntable.
Fortunately, there are fenced off-leash areas in the Netherlands because Basenjis need a lot of exercise. If they get enough exercise, they are very quiet in the house. Without sufficient mental and physical stimulation, they can be destructive.
Finally, they are huge sun worshipers, a blanket in the sun makes every Basenji happy. Walking in the rain and cold makes them less happy. Basenjis are almost feline in their habit of keeping themselves clean through extensive cleaning sessions and play with their front paws a lot as well.
Basenjis are known for being untrainable. We do not agree with that at all. They certainly are not slavishly obedient, but with patience, positive reward, humour and perseverance, every Basenji can complete all the obedience courses at the dog school. We believe it is necessary to do obedience training together with your Basenji. It strengthens your mutual bond and offers you the opportunity to walk safely and socially through off-leash areas. A thorough search for a dog school that suits you is highly recommended.
In addition, Basenjis are extremely suitable for agility and detective work. Participation in agility is often only allowed if the dog has successfully completed multiple obedience courses.
Tracing, or mantrailing, is often a private lesson. The trainer sets out a trail and the Basenji must, by using the scent, follow the route that the trainer has walked in order to eventually find the trainer. Mentally very challenging and great fun to see and do.
More recent additions to the dog training curriculum, such as hoopers and brain work, are fun and challenging to do together with your Basenji as well.
Due to their stamina and speed, Basenjis loving going on bike rides with you. Especially if you are not able to go to safe off-leash areas often, running alongside your bike is a great way to burn some energy.
The combination of endurance and speed along with manoeuvrability and hunting instinct makes Basenjis extremely suitable for coursing and the racetrack. It is a beautiful sight to see a Basenji on the coursing field or the racetrack.
- Basenjis are sight hounds, so hunting is their passion and their life! In the Netherlands there are several racetracks where Basenjis can practice lure coursing. It's wonderful to see them enjoying themselves as instinct takes over and chasing the lure as fast as they can! Under 'Contact' are references to all racetracks in the Netherlands and Belgium.