Basenji Dog Breed Information and Personality Traits

An aloof, very affectionate dog, the basenji can be fiercely protective of their families. They get along with other dogs but can be argumentative sometimes.

Basenji At a glance
The Basenji Dog Breed

Basenjis are renowned for their keen eyesight and excellent sense of smell.


Weight Range:

Male: 21-24 lbs.
Female: 21-22 lbs.

Height at Withers:

Male: 17 in.

Female: 16 in.


Upright ears (naturally)


Exercise Requirements: >40 minutes/day
Energy Level: Very energetic
Longevity Range: 12-14 yrs.
Tendency to Drool: Low Tendency to Snore: Low
Tendency to Bark: Low
Tendency to Dig: Low Social/Attention Needs: Moderate

Bred For:



Length: Short
Characteristics: Flat
Colors: Chestnut red, black, black and tan, brindle, all with white feet, chest, and tail tip
Overall Grooming Needs: Low

Club Recognition:

AKC Classification: Hound
UKC Classification: Sighthounds and Pariahs
Prevalence: So-so

Basenjis are one of the smallest hounds, ranging in height from 16 to 17 inches and in weight from 22 to 24 pounds (10 to 11 kilograms).

They have large erect ears and tight forehead wrinkles when alert. Some people feel the large ears may help to dissipate heat. The breed's high head carriage, long legs, short back and tightly curled tail all contribute to the square outline.

The long legs relative to the overall size contribute to the basenji's speed and agility. While known as a barkless dog, the basenji does "yodel" and growl, so it is not mute.

The coat is uniformly short and smooth. Colors can be red, black, black and tan or brindle, all with white markings. White feet and legs are common, often with a blaze and a collar as well.


The basenji can be an aloof dog; very affectionate with his family, but not outgoing to strangers. They originally hunted in packs and are usually good with other dogs if socialized while young. However, some can be argumentative with other basenjis.

Basenjis tend to be clever dogs, but not easy to train. They need creative, patient handling to bring out their best qualities. As mentioned, they do not bark, but the yodeling certainly makes quite a bit of noise. If left to their own devices they can be chewers and diggers.

Basenji breeders and owners often refer to them as "catlike," as they do a great deal of licking to groom and are quiet. They also seem to like climbing up onto high places; perhaps to survey their kingdoms from there.

Living With:

Basenjis are active dogs that need and enjoy a good romp or run every day. They like doing agility and running lure courses. Basenjis are not used for hunting much anymore, but make very nice family dogs and live to about 13 years of age or so.

Basenjis can be fiercely protective of their families. They need plenty of early socialization to other people to be ideal companions. An unusual trait in basenjis is that the females almost always only have one heat period per year and occurring between August and November. And of course, they make their famous "yodeling" sound.

Basenjis are extremely easy to groom and keep clean with a quick swipe with a cloth or brush once or twice weekly. Basenjis will spend much of their time grooming and carefully licking their coats just like a cat.


Basenjis are ancient dogs tracing their lineage from pariah dogs to the Egyptians and then to hunting dogs for the tribes in the Congo. Running in silent packs (they do make noise, but not regular barking), the Basenjis often wore bells to alert their human partners to their whereabouts in the deep jungle. They were, and still are, renowned for their keen eyesight and excellent sense of smell.

The basenji got its name from a Mrs. Burn in England around 1936. Known until then as the Congo dog or Congo derrier, the word "basenji" means "dog of the bush" in that region of Africa. The breed has been placed in the hound category as it is clearly a hunting dog, but whether it truly belongs with the sighthounds or the scenthounds is still being debated. Basenjis are allowed in lure coursing (a sighthound sport) but some people feel they might even belong in the terrier group.

In the 1980s several basenjis were imported to the United States from Zaire and added to the AKC gene pool to help combat some health problems. These new additions also introduced the brindle color pattern to the western basenji. Basenjis are considered rather primitive dogs genetically and developmentally. Unlike most domestic dogs, they have only one estrus season per year.

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