Primary Current Function: 

lure coursing

Date of Origin: 



sighthound, scenthound, primitive, Southern (pariah)

Other Name: 

Congo dog, Congo terrier

Original Function: 

hunting small game

Place of Origin: 

Central Africa (Zaire and the Congo)


The basenji is an ancient breed that was depicted in Egyptian hieroglyphics as early as 3600 B.C. Early explorers to Africa found the dogs, wearing large bells around their necks, among Pygmy tribes. The dogs were being used in hunting to help capture game in nets.

Basenji Breed Health

Major concerns: 

Fanconi syndrome, PRA, basenji enteropathy

Life span: 

10 - 14 years

Avg Size of Male: 

Height: 17 inches Weight: 24 pounds

Avg Size of Female: 

Height: 16 inches Weight: 22 pounds

Suggested tests: 

eye, DNA test for PK, Fanconi urine test

Minor concerns: 


Occasionally seen: 


Basenji Breed History

Although many attempts were made to bring this breed to England, it wasn’t until the 1930’s that the transfer was successful. These first few dogs, along with additional dogs brought from the Congo and Sudan, were the basis of the breed, whose name means “bush thing.” In 1941, with the dog’s growing popularity, basenjis were brought to America as both a pet and a show dog. In 1956, the movie Good-bye, My Lady brought attention to the breed, specifically its ability to “yodel” rather than bark. In the 1980s, more basenjis were imported from Africa in order to widen the breed’s gene pool. This was an attempt to reduce hereditary health problems, but it also introduced the now-recognized brindle colorings. The basenji also became recognized as a sighthound and began competing in lure-coursing trials.

Basenji Breed Appearance

The basenji has a slight build, and with its high legs appearing longer than its torso. It’s build makes for a swift gait with a double-suspension gallop. Its head is wrinkled and proudly carried. Its ears are located on the top of its head, which is helpful in hunting. Its short, wiry coat can be copper or chestnut red, black, tan, brindle (black stripes on a background of chestnut red). It has a white-tip tail, white underbelly, and white feet.

Basenji Breed Temperament

The basenji breed is catlike in that it is inquisitive, stubborn, and intelligent. They even clean their coats like cats do. This affectionate dog breed loves to chase and trail, a result of their hunting heritage. Known as a barkless breed, these dogs are not mute, but rather yodel, howl, and even shriek. Basenjis are odorless dogs that are light shedders, making them perfect companions for those with allergies.

Basenji Breed Maintenance

The basenji requires regular exercise – both mentally and physically – or it becomes bored, which may result in destructive behavior. An evening walk following by a high activity game, such as fetch, would suit this dog well. These dogs prefer living with two or three other basenjis and will not fight with its own kind. An occasional combing is recommended to remove loose hair from the coat.

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