The first traces of a dog similar to the Basenji are found in Egyptian tombs and wall drawings of five thousand years ago.

Basenji standing on grass

This primitive breed together with Pygmy hunters was discovered in the African Congo by European explorers in 1895. These dogs were then named after the tribe they came from such as Zande dogs or Congo terriers.

In Africa the dog was used by the natives as a guide in the forest, to warn against the approach of dangerous animals, to hunt lions, for pointing and retrieving small game and driving game into nets.

It was first introduced to England in 1937 where the foundation of the breed was successfully established.

Early attempts to bring them to England were unsuccessful because these dogs eventually suffer distemper.

Later on, Henry Trefflich imported the breed to the United States. As years went by, English breeders refined it and exported it all over the world.

The name Basenji was chosen, which means “bush thing”. Several Basenjis were brought from Africa in an attempt to broaden the gene pool and fight some widespread genetic health problems. English breeders developed it and exported it all over the world.

The breed was officially accepted into the American Kennel Club in the year 1943.

Traits and Behavior

As often as not, the Basenji has some cat-like mannerisms such as being clever, inquisitive, stubborn, independent and reserved.

Basenji looking up

These dogs are popularly known as the ‘barkless’ dogs because of their inability to bark.

Instead, they make a sort of yodel, howl or shriek. Due to their strong hunting instincts, they love to run, chase small animals and do some trail.

The Basenji is somewhat aloof with strangers, however; they are very loyal and affectionate towards their master and the rest of the family members.

Basenjis who have meek or passive owners, or owners who are not consistent with the rules will become demanding. The dog will assume the role of pack leader and behavior problems will arise, especially when left alone.

An owner who understands canine behaviors and treats the dog accordingly will find them to be wonderful pets.

Pet Care and Diseases

This breed is generally healthy; however, they are at risk for some health problems such as:

Basenji playing with owner
  • PRA or progressive retinal atrophy (which causes blindness)
  • Fanconi syndrome (which can cause kidney failure)
  • Hypothyroidism
  • IPSID (immunoproliferative systemic intestinal disease)
  • HA (Hemolytic Anemia)
  • Sensitivity to environmental and household chemicals (which may cause liver problems)

The basenji is an active dog that needs daily mental and physical exercise. Its needs can be met by a long walk followed by a vigorous game, or by running freely in a safe, enclosed area.

It can live outdoors only in warm climates and generally does best as an indoor dog with access to a yard. Coat care is minimal, consisting of only occasional brushing to remove dead hair.


Basenjis are smooth, muscular athletic dogs that typically weigh about 24 pounds and stand 16 inches at the shoulder. The head is wrinkled around the forehead. The basenji is square-proportioned and high on the leg.

It is far more slightly built and longer-legged than most other primitive breeds, giving it a good amount of speed and the ability to perform the double-suspension gallop. Its erect ears are small and straight which help locate prey in thick bush and may help dissipate heat. Its short coat also aids in dealing with the hot climate of Africa.

Basenji jumping

The color of the coat comes in pure black, copper, red, chestnut red, or mixed black, tan and white, or black, brindle and white.

General Information

The average life expectancy of the Basenji is about 12-16 years. The estimated litter size is approximately 4-6 puppies. Other names include African Bush Dog, African Barkless Dog, Ango Angari, Congo Dog, and Zande Dog.

Breed Club

Visit these dog club websites dedicated to Basenjis. Click this link: