About Basenji

African Bush Dog
African Barkless Dog
Ango Angari
Congo Dog
Zande Dog
The Jumping Up And Down Dog
Basenjis - The Silent Hunters of Africa

Basenji voices
Basenjis are generally quiet dogs and do not bark. However, they produce a wide variety of other vocalizations including yodels, crows, chortles, howls, growls, and some which are simply beyond description. Each dog has it's own repertoire and it is rare to find two that sound alike. The following are just a few of the many different sounds they make.

Some Basenji sounds:
(male baroo) (male yodel 1) (male yodel 2) (female baroo) (female bur 1) (female bur 2)

What are Basenjis and where do they come from? Is it the right breed for you? Your questions are answered below... 

The Basenji came to the western world from Africa, mainly from the Congo and the Sudan but there are accounts of them in most of the other African areas, although nowadays there are very few pockets of pure bred dogs remaining. In Sierra Leone the Basenji is known as the talking dog because they yodel instead of barking. They are also known as the witches dog or familiars, the more powerful the witch doctor the more dogs he owns. Tanganyikan natives removed the tails from their dogs and used them to hunt apes, this made it harder for the ape to seize the dog and kill it. In Liberia, if the dog was not a good hunter he ended up as a tasty snack! The Basenji’s sense of sight and smell is amazing. It is marvellous to see one jump up and down in five foot high elephant grass, he almost seems to hover in the air at the top of his jump while he has a quick look round and scents the air: hence one of the African names, m’bwa m’kube m’bwaamwitu - the jumping up and down dog.

When you own a Basenji you own a unique dog, one that is terrier-sized and comes in four colour variations - red and white; black and white; a combination of these colours, known as tricolour; and brindle and white. All have white feet, tail-tip and some white on the chest. They may also have a certain amount of white markings on the face and neck. The Basenji has alert pricked ears with the characteristic puzzled frown, and a tail which curls tightly over the hip. He does not bark but is very far from mute, making all the usual doggy noises plus his own very special yodel when he is excited or happy. He is cat-like in that he hates the wet and cold. If by chance he should get wet or muddy he will lick himself clean, as well as helping any other dog or human who is in the same state. He uses his front paws a great deal in play, and to rub his ears and face. He also has the cat habit of sitting in the best chairs or on a sunny windowsill watching the world go by. He is the ultimate in sun-worshippers, very seldom seeking a shady spot and always being found in the warmest place in the house. Basenji bitches normally come in to season only once a year, the majority of them in the Autumn. As a result, most of the fairly small number of puppies each year are born between November and January, and the likelihood is that you will have to wait a while for a puppy, especially if enquiring in the spring and summer months. 

In his native habitat the Basenji is used as a hunting dog, rounding up the game and circling it, thus keeping it penned until the hunter arrives to dispatch it. Because of their silence when hunting the dogs are very often belled around the neck or loin. In England and America they have been used with some success as gundogs, pointing and flushing the game. As they are very fast and agile they can catch and kill hares with ease. With patience they can be taught to retrieve. Some puppies do this naturally, others will have no idea what is required. The greatest problem in training them for the gun is to get them to hunt within range instead of disappearing to circle a wide radius in their natural style. They have a strong tendency to look up into the branches while hunting, perhaps from the prevalence of monkeys in their jungle home, and this makes them excellent bird dogs.

The history of the Basenji has been traced back to the Stone Age but they are more generally connected with Egypt and the Pharaohs who valued them very highly. In the Egyptian tomb engravings, dated before 3000 BC, this dog is shown as the house dog, sitting under the master’s chair. One of them even has his name “Xalmes” mentioned Possibly the Pharaohs were responsible for giving this dog his taste for the good life: Cleopatra and Nefertiti may have used them as bedwarmers. Certainly the Basenji loves that job today, also resting on the best chairs in the warmest places, and in fact being treated like royalty!

The breed was first known in the modern world as the Congo Terrier. There is a picture of three dogs named “Bosc”, “Dibue” and “Mowa” in the Paris Zoological Gardens c.1880, with a description very similar to the present day standard. After many disappointments they were finally established in Britain in 1937 by Mrs. Burn of the Blean Basenjis. Now they are popular in most countries where pedigree dog shows are held.

The native background of this breed means that they are not everyone’s idea of the ideal breed. They are incurably inquisitive and everything out of the ordinary, or ordinary for that matter, must be inspected and assessed. They have a sublime disregard for traffic and their road sense is
non-existent. They are not by nature instantly obedient and see no point in abandoning an interesting ploy the minute they are summoned, although it is only fair to mention that many have now been trained to the highest level of obedience work, mostly in America. If you want a dog that is servile and obeys your every command the Basenji is not for you. On the other hand, if you lean towards a proud, faithful, teasing, playful, talking dog that can outsmart you nine times out of ten you will never consider any other breed.In most cases a Basenji is very easy to feed: they


The Basenji is without doubt, a “people” dog, trained by thousands of years around native camp fires to be part of the family. He is miserable if confined to a kennel and will do his utmost to return to the bosom of his family, and his utmost can be very powerful indeed. For this reason it is a good idea to accustom the dog to his own cage or box while he is still a young puppy: in this way he gets used to the idea that the box is his own special place where he can keep his treasures and be safe from baby fingers or older children who want to play when he would much rather sleep. It is also much safer all round for the dog to travel in his cage when in a car.