Basenji Puppy Facts

Did you just bring home a new Basenji puppy and want to learn more about the breed?

Maybe you are thinking about buying a puppy and want to know if this is the right breed of dog for you and your family?

No matter what your situation may be, you will find the answers to your questions right here!



Breed History

The breed, also known as the African Barkless Dog, African Bush Dog, and Congo Dog, originated in Africa. While the first images of dogs resembling Basenji were discovered in Egyptian tombs dating back to around 3,000 B.C., it's generally accepted that the breed originated in Congo.

According to one legend, Basenjis were brought from Central Africa to Egypt as a gift to a pharaoh. The breed almost went extinct after the decline of Egyptian civilization but was preserved in other parts of Northern and Central Africa.

Basenjis have strong hunting instinct and are independent hunters. While a hunter follows on foot, dogs are allowed to search for prey on their own. One of their most indispensible assets is ability to remain silent. They are effective at pointing, retrieving, hunting wounded quarry, and driving game into nets.

Basenjis are so highly valued by Pygmies and other tribesmen that when traveling great distances through the bush, they are perched around the neck of hunters. They are given equal rights with their masters and are more esteemed than a wife.

The breed was first introduced to Europe in 1895 when first specimens were brought to England. Unfortunately, all dogs died after contracting distemper. It wasn't until 1937 that the breed was finally established in England.

The first Basenji pair was brought to United States in 1937. They produced a litter but only one male puppy named Boris survived. In 1941 a female was imported and paired with Boris. They produced what is considered to be the first American litter of Basenjis.

While the breed is used mainly for companionship in the western world, some primitive tribes in Africa still use it for hunting. 

The breed was recognized by AKC in 1944.

Physical Characteristics of Basenji Puppies

These dogs have the appearance that suggests speed, stamina, and agility.

The Basenji is shorter than it is tall. It has small, muscular body with short back, medium width chest, and well crested, average length neck. The tail is set high, bends forward and lies well curled over to either side.

It has flat head with a muzzle that is shorter than the skull, black nose, and small, erect ears that open in the front. The eyes are almond shaped and range from dark hazel to dark brown. The forehead is wrinkled, especially on young and very old dogs.

The front legs are straight with long forearm and well defined sinews. The hind legs are strong and muscular. The feet are small, with thick pads and well arched toes.

The short, silky coat comes in black, chestnut red, brindle (black stripes on a background of chestnut red), or tricolor (black and chestnut red). The chest, feet, and tail tip are always white but the amount of white should never predominate over primary color.

    Height Weight
  Male 16 to 17 inches 22 - 24 pounds
  Female 16 to 17 inches 22 - 24 pounds


The Basenji is an alert, affectionate, energetic, curious, and self-motivated dog. It's somewhat reserved, especially with strangers, and can't be trusted with non-canine pets, but can still make a wonderful pet if properly socialized. It can also form a strong bond and become emotionally attached to a single person.

It's a very active breed that loves running and chasing fast moving things. For this reason, never let your pet off leash in an unprotected area. Despite its small size, when the dog is curious about something, it can leap 6 feet into air to get a better look. If you live in a private house, make sure you have a fence that is tall enough to prevent your pet from escaping.

Basenjis often stand on their hind legs, somewhat like a meerkat, either on their own or by leaning on something. They also like to climb over things, including fences.

Like other sightounds, the Basenji is an independent dog that likes to think on its own. Because of this, it takes longer to train it for obedience than with some other breeds. Many feel the inability to learn new commands quickly is a reflection of its intelligence. I strongly disagree with it. Yes, it's not the easiest breed to train but that's because of its independent nature, not low intelligence.

Those who own a Basenji will testify not only to the breed's intelligence but also to his curiosity, inventiveness, and a sense of humor.

Most Basenjis have strong dislike for water and get very creative about how not to get wet. Take this into consideration when bathing them.

If you are searching for a non-barking breed, you just found it! While the Basenji doesn't bark, it's not mute either. They have a repertoire of sounds that depend on the dog's mood.

Best Owner / Living Conditions

The breed will do best with an active and patient family, preferably with older children. It also needs an even-tempered owner displaying gentle authority over the dog.

While it can adjust to an apartment lifestyle, it will do best in the suburbs, living on a large, fenced property.

Some Basenji breeders may interview prospective owners to make sure this is the right breed for them.

Activity and Exercise

This is a very active breed that needs a lot of physical and mental stimulation to stay in top shape. Without sufficient exercise it may become fat and sluggish.

It can get plenty of exercise by running off leash, but only in a protected area.

At a minimum, take your pet for several long walks every day.


The Basenji is an extremely clean dog whose grooming habits are not that much different from cats. Its coat is odorless and doesn't shed a lot.

Brush once in a while to remove dead hair. Bathe only when absolutely necessary.

Health Concerns

Like all dog breeds, Basenjis are susceptible to complications caused by internal and external parasites such as ticks, fleas, and worms.

Other health concerns include hip dysplasia, eye problems, anemia, thyroid problems, and a kidney disorder called Fanconi syndrome. For more information about dog diseases and health, visit dog health problems.

Buy only from reputable Basenji breeders to reduce the risk of the above and many other health problems (visit dog breeders to learn how to identify responsible dog breeders).

No matter how small the risk of health problems is, any puppy may get sick or injured. Many health problems will require an immediate attention from your Vet, but there are many others that will not, and you may handle them on your own.

To save time and money, learn how to diagnose and treat dog health problems that don't require your Vet's attention.

Life Expectancy

The average life expectancy for Basenji puppies is 12 to 14 years.

Did you ever consider adopting your next pet?

If this is the breed you are interested in, and adoption appeals to you, consider contacting your local Basenji rescue. There are thousands of pets waiting for a loving home and, yes, it's possible to adopt a purebred dog.

Puppy Training

Not happy with your pet's behavior? Need help with training your dog for obedience? Then check this Basenji Behavior and Obedience Training Guide.

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