General Description

The Basenji is a small, athletic dog that is unique and elegant in appearance. They have a distinctive gait that is horse-like in quality. They have long limbs, muscular thighs, and a level topline. The breed’s flat head features a forehead that is wrinkled and furrowed, and their almond-shaped eyes are small in size. The Basenji has a high-set tail that curls up over the back and slightly to one side. Their coat exists in a number of colors including copper, red, black-and-tan, and black-and-brindle. White feet and white markings on the chest may or may not be present.

They are in the hound family and like to hunt. This breed may be prone to hunting smaller animals. So be aware of this trait in case you or your neighbors have small dogs, cats or rabbits. This breed is very intelligent and can out smart their owner. New owners should try to think one step ahead. The Basenji rarely barks if at all.

Accepted colors are red (the darker, the better), black, black and tan, and brindle — all with white feet, chest and tail tip; which is officially part of the breed standard for color. White facial and/or neck markings; (ie. blaze, star, white on muzzle near nose, white ring around neck) may or may not be present, and are not considered faults. Freckling in white areas is common, though white in colored coat areas other than previously mentioned is a fault. Coat should be very short, fine and soft. Nose should be black, eyes should be brown. Teeth should meet in an even, or scissor bite. Tail may have a single or double curl, though the tighter curl is preferable. Basenjis are considered ‘square’ dogs – they should be approximately as tall as the body is long.


The Basenji is energetic, alert, and continuously aware of his surroundings. They are affectionate and curious, and they love to play. If treated appropriately and touched regularly from an early age, the Basenji makes a very good pet. They are highly intelligent and respond well to obedience training. They can be leery of strangers and somewhat aloof, but they have a consistent need to please and they form strong bonds with their owners and family. Generally, the Basenji does best with older children. They are full of energy and love to climb, and they are very good at getting their own way. Somewhat demanding and manipulative, the Basenji will charm their owner into submission. The Basenji cleans itself like a cat and makes a low ululation rather than a bark. They are fast, frisky, spunky, and like to tease their owners into playing with them. The Basenji only has behavioral difficulties if their owners are incompatible with them.

Training can be challenging, as they are both intelligent and independent. Training methods must be consistent and sessions should be short, to avoid boredom. It's best to use only positive reinforcement. Most are so food-motivated, they will do many things asked of them in return for training treats, while harsh punishment is likely to create a resentful and unpredictable pet - or a runaway. Their dislike of being wet makes an ordinary squirt bottle a handy and effective deterrent and distraction tool. Crate training is also advised, as this breed can be quite destructive when unsupervised, bored, or under-exercised, in their ongoing efforts to amuse themselves. They have very strong jaws for their size and like to chew, even as adults; so be sure to provide appropriate chew toys.


15 – 17 inches * Males: 16-17 inches Females: 15-16 inches


20 – 26 pounds * Male: 23-26 pounds Female: 20-23 pounds

General Health:

The Basenji is prone to acquiring Fanconi’s syndrome, a type of kidney disorder. If signs of Fanconi’s syndrome are perceived in a Basenji, it’s imperative they be treated immediately. The Basenji is also susceptible to progressive retinal atrophy, other eye problems, and intestinal problems. The Basenji typically lives for 10 to 12 years and averages 4 to 6 puppies per litter.

Some Basenjis dislike water and won't want to go outside when it rains.

Fanconi syndrome is most usually an inherited disease, and there is no known cure -- though excellent results and near-normal life spans have been attained through early detection and treatment. After the age of two or three, monthly testing of basenjis is highly recommended, using simple urine glucose test strips. If the strip reacts, further testing by a veterinarian, including blood gas testing, is indicated. Care must be taken to distinguish an elevated urine glucose reading with normal or near-normal blood glucose (indicative of probable Fanconi) from an elevated urine glucose level accompanied by an elevated blood glucose level, that would signify diabetes. After a correct diagnosis, following the Fanconi-treatment protocol developed by Dr. Steven Gonto of Georgia to replace electrolytes and re-balance body chemicals with supplements has been very effective at restoring and maintaining a good level of health. This protocol can be obtained from The Basenji Health Endowment, links from the Basenji Club of America and other sources, and downloaded at no charge. Reputable breeders now routinely DNA-test for Fanconi, and do not interbreed affected dogs. Additionally, new Fanconi-free foundation stock has been imported from Africa, so incidences of this disorder are quickly becoming less common. Basenjis, in general, are very hardy dogs.


Similar dogs to the Basenji have been found in Egyptian tombs and wall drawing of five thousand years ago. Alternatively called the Congo Dog, the Basenji was brought to Europe in 1934. The breed was refined by English breeders and exported all over the world. The Basenji is utilized as a forest guide in Africa, and it is also used to warn against the approach of dangerous animals.

The Basenji is also known as an African Wolf dog.

Long known as a 'primitive' breed, the basenji has retained ancestral wolf-like characteristics such as annual estrus, rather than the twice-yearly season of most domestic dogs, primary vocalizations of a ululating, or howling type rather than a bark, independent thinking, and others. Since the sequencing of the genome, recent DNA research (2004, 2009, et. al.) has confirmed the basenji as one of the world's most ancient dog breeds, whose DNA still remains closest to wolf. Though small in stature, they are swift and tireless runners who hunt by both sight and smell. As in centuries past, they are still used for small game hunting in today's Democratic Republic of Congo and other African nations.


The Basenji requires very little maintenance or grooming. This breed will clean itself and their coat doesn’t have any odor. The Basenji is considered to be an excellent dog for people with allergies. They shed little to no hair.

Ideal Environment:

Because of the breed’s propensity to become overweight and lazy, the Basenji needs rigorous daily exercise. The Basenji can live happily in a small household or apartment, as long as they are sufficiently and consistently exercised. They are very active indoors, and do best with at least a small yard. The Basenji is happiest with other dogs of its kind.

Dog Training:

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