Basenji: Breed Characteristics, Training, Care & Nutrition

The Basenji is an ancient dog breed from Central Africa. The Congo Terrier, as the Basenji is also known, is officially recognized by the FCI. He is assigned to FCI group 5, the group of spitz and dogs of the archetype, as well as section 6, the section of the archetype. He is listed in the FCI register under the standard number 43 and among the dogs without a working trial. In addition, the handsome terrier is on the list of domestic dogs.

Basenji Dog Breed Information

Height: males: 43 cm, females: 40 cm
Weight: Males: 11 kg, females: 9.5 kg
FCI group: 5: Spitz and archetypal dogs
Section: 6: archetype
Country of origin: Central African Republic
Colors: black, brown, brindle, red, black, and white
Life expectancy: 10-16 years
Suitable as: hunting, companion, tracker, and family dog
Sports: –
Personality: Intelligent, Full, Eager
Exercise requirements: rather high
Drooling Potential –
The thickness of hair –
Maintenance effort: rather low
Fur structure: short, close-fitting, not too fine
Child friendly: yes
Family dog: yes
Social: –

Origin and Breed History

The Basenji is considered a very old breed of dog. The primeval dogs could already be discovered in Stone Age paintings and Egyptian tombs. The existence of the Basenji goes back many thousands of years. It is believed that one of his ancestors is the Egyptian Tesem. The tesem is considered to be an image handed down from the fourth millennium BC. This does not mean a specific breed of dog, but a type of dog in general.

The Basenji basically comes from Central Africa. Britons came across the dog breed living in village communities there in 1870. She was not bred up to this point, nor did the dogs have a close bond with the villagers. The Basenji served as pied pipers for the villagers and sometimes accompanied the villagers on hunts. The name of the Basenji, which translated means something like “small wild bush animal”, also comes from this time.

At the end of the 19th century, researchers brought some of the dogs to Europe. Around 30 to 40 years later, the selective breeding of the primeval dogs began. In 1935, British breeders began selective breeding, which is why Great Britain has patronage over the Basenji to this day.

After breeding began, the small dog spread throughout Europe over time. While the dogs are kept as companions and family dogs in Europe, they still live with some tribes in the rainforest. For example, the pygmies use the Basenjis to drive the game into the nets they stretch. The spitz-like dog was recognized by the FCI in March 1964. The final standard was established in November 1999 and finally published in January 2000.

Essence & Temperament of the Basenji

The nature of the Basenji is characterized by independence and friendliness. Due to its centuries-long, passive way of life with humans, the breed has a high sense of personal responsibility. The Basenji obviously finds it difficult to subordinate itself, which is why consistent training is essential.

Basically, the dogs are considered to be very clever and learn quickly, but have no “will to please”, which means something like “to satisfy one’s will needs”. Skeptical of strangers, the Basenji is enterprising and sunny when it comes to familiar people.

Due to its breed history, the Basenji tends to behave shyly, which is why it is important that the dog is introduced to people and new situations early enough. However, he forms a very close bond with his caregiver, but never loses his free spirit and adventurous spirit.

The Basenji is characterized by its attentive nature and its above-average hunting instinct. Although the little hunter has an elegant and proud demeanor, he looks a little shy at the world and tends to behave anxiously. When Basenji meets Basenji, the situation can get dangerous. The same goes for an encounter with very dominant dogs. Otherwise, the Central African dog gets along well with other dogs and animals. However, early and correct socialization is essential.

The Appearance of the Basenji

The spitz-like dog reaches a height of between 40 and 43 cm and weighs around eleven kilos. Bitches never get taller than 40 cm, while males have about 3 cm more at the withers. Weight also depends on the size and therefore gender. The weight difference between male and female Basenjis can be as much as two kilos.

The clever dog’s coat is short, finely structured, and lies close to the body. The thick coat tends to have a beautiful sheen, which can be further encouraged by giving the dog the right diet. Basenjis can come in black, white, reddish-brown, or tan colors. The dogs either have a single-colored coat or they have markings over their eyes. These are mostly tan-colored.

In addition, Basenjis can also have brindle fur, with a reddish-brown base color and black stripes. Each Basenji has white markings running from neck to chest. The smart terrier’s tail is usually curled up and the tip of the tail is invariably white.

The physique of the Central African dog appears delicate and elegant. Basenjis face the environment with pride and dominance, which is reflected in their appearance. The large ears are erect and there are clear forehead wrinkles on the dog’s head. Overall, the Basenji has an extraordinary and noble look that will be remembered.

What Does a Basenji Look Like?

A Basenji is small to a medium-sized dog that is characterized by its elegant and harmonious physique. He has fine limbs and a slim waist. Its fur is dense, short, and lies close to the body. It can come in tan, black, white, or brindle. Most of the dogs have markings in white or flea colors.

Upbringing & Keeping the Basenji – This is Important to Note

A lot of patience is required when training the Basenji. The dogs have very strong self-will and very dominant nature. They hate being subordinate in the hierarchy. This can be seen in the upbringing of the puppies. While a Basenji puppy loves to explore, their minds are set on anything but following boring commands.

The Central African dogs require a handler who acts consistently and accurately. For this reason, the Basenji is hardly suitable as a beginner dog. The small hunting dog needs clear training structures and fixed guidelines that it can use as a guide. It is particularly important that when training the Basenji, never use pressure or raise your voice against the dog.

Apart from the time-consuming upbringing, keeping the Basenji is very uncomplicated. The small dog requires moderate exercise and can also be kept in smaller apartments. It is important that the clever dog has a retreat where it is undisturbed. The headstrong dogs also like to spend time alone from time to time, which should definitely be respected. This is especially true if the Basenji is kept as a family dog. The dog certainly needs a break from the colorful family life from time to time.

How Much Does a Basenji Cost?

A Basenji costs on average between $1200 and $2500. The actual price depends on the dog’s pedigree and the breeder’s success at shows etc.

Diet of the Basenji

The diet of the clever hunting dog should, if possible, be completely grain-free. This rule applies to dry and wet food, as well as to home-cooked food. Since Basenjis are very delicate, they quickly build up body mass and gain weight quickly.

Important with this breed is keeping an eye on the contents of the bowl and paying attention to the slimline. The Basenji should be weighed at least once a month to monitor the weight. Central African terriers are passionate about food, which is quickly reflected in the extra pounds around their waists. If necessary, excess weight can be counteracted with sufficient exercise and fixed feed rations. In order to make it easier for dogs to feel hungry, it makes sense to provide them with chewing bones. These not only offer employment but are increasingly satisfying the need to buy.

Healthy – Life Expectancy & Common Diseases

Basically, a healthy Basenji has a life expectancy of up to 15 years. The dogs are very hardy and rarely get sick. Unfortunately, as with many dog breeds, there is a genetic predisposition to certain diseases. This is not true for all breed lines, but it is the case for some. Basenjis tend to suffer from kidney diseases.

Most dogs suffer from a disease known as Fanconi Syndrome. Dogs suffering from this syndrome suffer from a malfunction of the kidneys, in which the normal processing of sugar and proteins is disrupted. The proteins that are vital for the dog are therefore simply excreted in the urine, which means that the dog has increased thirst and the urge to urinate. Fanconi Syndrome is easily treatable, but there are currently no tests that can test a dog for the presence of such a condition.

The Basenji’s visual system is also often affected by diseases. The dogs have a genetic predisposition to the diseases PPM, the persistence of the persistent pupillary membrane, coloboma, which causes a gap or hole in the eye structure, or PRA, the progressive retinal atrophy. PRA causes a disease in the retina of the dog’s eye and as the dog ages, it can lose its vision.

In addition, the Basenji is susceptible to a disease of the hip joints – the so-called hip dysplasia. With this disease, the animal’s hip joint and thigh bones do not fit together properly, which can lead to arthritis in old age. Initially, the dogs show little pain, but over the course of their lives, many sufferers begin to become lame and show symptoms of pain. If hip dysplasia is not hereditary, it can also be triggered by external factors such as being overweight, jumping from great heights too often, or falling on slippery floors.

How Old Does a Basenji Get?

A Basenji can live up to 15 years.

Care of the Basenji

The Basenji is certainly very clean and easy to care for the dog. He is one of the cleanest dog breeds and the care, in general, is not very expensive. Regular brushing is absolutely sufficient for this dog breed. They groom themselves daily and their short coat rarely sheds any hair. Many dog ​​owners compare the Basenji to cats among dogs because of their clean demeanor. They are very good dogs for allergy sufferers as they don’t shed much.

In order to strengthen the contact between dog and human, it is particularly recommended for this breed to use a massage glove. Through direct contact with the animal, the Basenji builds trust more quickly and the bond with its caregiver is strengthened. Aside from regular brushing, the eyes, nose, and genital area should be cleaned of dirt and secretions. A daily routine in which these areas are accounted for is best. The ears of the Basenji should also be cleaned regularly with a damp cloth. But caution is advised here. Penetrating the ear too deeply should be avoided in any case. Only the auricle may be cleaned.

Basenji – Activities and Training

Training with the Basenji is very time-consuming and strenuous. The Basenji has a mind of its own and usually does not like to be submissive. The clever hunting dogs need a handler who gives clear and consistent instructions, as well as a patient and a loving hand.

If you train with the Basenji under pressure or raise your voice against him, you will not reach your goal very quickly. The little dogs have a stubborn head from time to time and like to test their limits. It is important to develop a routine in training and to reward the dog at the right moment. However, caution is advised here.

Since Basenjis tend to be overweight, treats should definitely be deducted from the daily feed ration. Training the Basenji should begin early in puppyhood, as this is when the dog’s basic character and behavior are formed. In addition, the bond between master or mistress and dog can be strengthened right from the start. With a Basenji, it’s important to be patient if something doesn’t work out right away. These clever dogs are sometimes mischievous and like to challenge their owner, but after a while, they tend to be compliant and generally quick learners.

The Basenji is basically a big friend of a lot of exercises. While he’s fine with becoming less active every now and then, as a primitive hunter, he needs at least two hours of exercise a day. He likes to accompany you on bike tours, hiking, or inline skating, but should not be let off the leash. Most Basenjis are difficult to trust. Ideally, a flexi or drag leash is used for walks so that the dog has enough space to explore its surroundings. Regular practice of retrieval and occasional training during walks are important so that the dog learns to pay attention to its owner in every situation.

Dog sports can be practiced with the Basenji, but success is debatable. Agility, mass sports, and mantrailing can definitely be tried, but the Congo Terrier is not suitable for obedience and companion dog training due to its idiosyncratic disposition. A recommended load for the Basenji is hunting simulations, which take place as part of dog racing. So-called coursing offers the Basenji the opportunity to live out their hunting instinct and at the same time to exert themselves.

How Big Does a Basenji Get?

Basenji males reach a maximum height of 43 cm, while females are around three centimeters smaller. At this size, they weigh between 9.5 and 11 kg.

Good to Know: Special Features of the Basenji

A special feature of the Basenji is without a doubt its exceptional run. Contrary to many rumors, the Basenji can bark, but the sound is very melodic and monosyllabic in contrast to the barking of its conspecifics. The bell of the Basenji is more like that of a small wolf.

Another special feature of the clever African is his strong hunting instinct. If the little hunter is let off the leash on a walk and scents a trail, the Congo terrier may well sweep through the forest for the next hour. That is why retrieval training with the Basenji is particularly important. The dog should really only be let off the leash when a safer retrieval is possible.

Cons of the Basenji

A disadvantage of the Basenji is definitely his stubbornness. The education of the Central African dog is very time-consuming and exhausting. This is especially true during the first year the dog moves into a new home, or during puppyhood.

The Basenji is not suitable as a beginner’s dog. It is recommended that you only buy a Basenji if you already have experience in training and keeping a dog and if you have enough time to train and work with the dog.

Is the Basenji Right for Me?

In any case, the Basenji needs an owner who is consistent, experienced, and patient. It is not only the training that demands a lot from the owners, but the daily occupation with the clever terrier is also very time-consuming. In addition to walks and a little grooming, the Basenji should be trained regularly to strengthen or further deepen the bond between master and dog.

The Basenji is suitable both as a companion and as a family dog. He gets along well with children, as long as they learn how to handle the dog and the terrier is given enough freedom. The Congo Terrier gets along with conspecifics to a limited extent, especially if they are strangers.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

Leave a Reply


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *