Saturday, December 26, 2009
By Ruthie Bently
The Basenji is a small hunting dog native to Africa (also known as the Congo dog). The African natives used it for driving game into nets and for pointing, as well as retrieving wounded game. It was also used to warn about dangerous animals in the forest and as a guide. These traits helped the dog in the field as they were frequently out of the hunter’s sight. Their silence, adaptability and courage, as well as their speed and power, were prized as an asset in a productive hunt.
The Basenji has a short coat. They are known as a barkless dog, but depending on their mood will crow, howl or growl and when they are excited they “yodel.” They are a member of the AKC’s hound group; they hunt by using both scent and sight and were recognized in 1944. The first Basenjis were given to ancient Pharaohs of Egypt as gifts, and a Basenji-like dog has been seen on wall drawings and in Egyptian tombs dated to five thousand years ago.
The Basenji breed has some habits more reminiscent of a cat than a dog, as they are fastidious and can spend hours cleaning themselves. They have also been seen sitting on the back of furniture to look out a window. They lack a “doggy” odor and are a low shedding dog, which endears them to their fans.
Basenjis were taken to Britain in 1895 but contracted distemper and died. In 1937 they were taken to Britain again, as well as the United States. The pair imported into the US was able to have a litter of puppies, but all except one male died from distemper. A female was imported to Boston, MA in 1941; she was bred with the surviving male and their litter lived. In subsequent years more Basenji dogs were imported from Britain and Canada, which helped further the breed in the United States.
Basenjis usually live between ten and thirteen years although one lived to the age of twenty-two. The weight for a male dog is between 22 and 26 pounds (10 to 12 kg) and their height is between 16 and 17 inches (41 to 43 cm). Females should weigh between 20 to 25 pounds (9 to 11 kg) and their height should be between 15 and 16 inches (38 to 41 cm).
The Basenji is known as an independent, curious, alert, energetic and affectionate breed that loves to play. There are cautions about having them in a household with non-canine pets, but they do well in multiple Basenji households. They need to be socialized from an early age, are very intelligent with a desire to please, and are fairly easy to train. They do well with children and will form a strong bond with their owner though will be naturally reserved and aloof with strangers.
When introducing a Basenji to new people you should let the dog make the first overtures and approach them head on and not from behind. They need exercise daily to release pent up energy and do not easily tire when playing. They are chewers and should be provided with lots of options so as not to chew inappropriate items around the house.
They are known as climbers and are not averse to scaling a chain link fence. When curious, a Basenji will often stand on their hind legs, and they’re known to be able to jump over six feet straight up. Basenjis are very smart and need an owner who knows how to be the “alpha” dog, or they can become unruly and demanding. If they are exercised enough, a Basenji can be kept in an apartment or in a house with a small yard and would do well with a long daily jaunt.
Read more articles by Ruthie Bently