Basenji Dog Breed, Temperament and Health information

Known as one of the clever and energetic dog breed, the Basenji is an elegant breed that originated in the Dominic Republic of Congo. If compared with the ancient breeds, the Basenji dog breed is considered among the oldest breed on earth. Pictures of these dogs have been seen in carvings that date back to 6000 BC which confirms that the breed has survived many years in Africa

The Basenji dog breed has a high wrinkled face with a tail curled on itself. They were able to get through thousands of years in Africa due to their hunting instinct. Besides being intelligent dogs, they are also categorized as hunting dogs. You will be surprised at the personality and characteristics they uphold. With time, these dogs can also evolve into the best family dogs that you can ever imagine.

Distinguishing features of Basenji

Like every dog breed, the Basenji dog breed has differences in their appearance. They can be easily segregated, given that their build-up is not like any ancient dog breed. A fun fact about the Basenji dog breed is that they do not bark. This makes them a “barkless dog”. However, they can make a yodelling sound when very excited or anxious. 

Basenji Dog breed
(Source: DogTime)
SizeThe size of this breed is small – 1 to 25 lbs.
Height and weightThis breed has a height of 16-18 inches. The male Basenji has a height of 17-18 inches while the female has a ranging height of 16 inches.The approximate weight of the Basenji Dog breed is 22-26 pounds (10-13 kilograms). The male dog is heavier, weighing about 24 pounds, while the female dog weighs about 22 pounds.
Coat type and colourThis dog breed has a short coat. Their coat is shiny and fine. This coat type helps them to cope up with the humid climate of Africa. The American Kennel Club recognizes the coat colour of this breed into four different shades. These are namely:Chestnut redBlackA tricolour shade of chestnut red and blackBrindle (having black stripes on a chestnut base)
LifespanThese dogs mostly live for up to 12-14 years
PriceIn the US, this breed has a starting price of $1,900. This price can rise to $5,000 if bought from a superior breeder.  The cost of a Purebred Basenji is £790-£970 in the UK.

Appearance of a Basenji:

This breed has erect ears, especially when they are on high alert. However, their body is not as sturdy as other primaeval dogs. They have almond-shaped eyes which are mostly dark-brown in colour. The chest, feet and tail tip of the Basenjis are delineated. If they are worried or concerned about something, small wrinkles can appear on their forehead. They also have longer legs compared to other breeds. This way, they can conduct a double-suspension gallop without much difficulty.

Temperament and Personality of a Basenji:

The Basenji dog breed is partially reserved for itself. However, it can be very affectionate when it comes to family. In old times, these dogs used to hunt in groups. Therefore, they might require more time to socialize with strangers. These small canines can also be grouped under the title of ‘Most Aggressive Dog Breed’. This is a genetic feature of this breed. It can also be a result of their hunter instincts that makes them aggressive.

Surprisingly, this breed is a Hound. This means that besides being alert and adorable, they are also smart and self-dependent. Even for the mischievous and stubborn actions, they act as independent thinkers. As a sighthound, they will chase anything that catches their eye. They could have been capable guard dogs because of their alertness, but their size bars them from being so.

Basenji Dog Breed Temperament
(Source: American Kennel Club)

People consider Basenji to resemble the nature and mannerism of its terrier. Some have also defined the behaviour of this breed to be inquisitive and cat-like. But they also inhabit friendly traits. They always prefer company and are playful most of the time. However, if left alone, they can grow destructive and noisy. This breed does not bark, but the yodelling sound they make can also disturb its owner.

Common Health issues of Basenji:

The Basenji dog breed is a healthy dog. Therefore, there are fewer chances for them to fall sick. But sometimes, this breed can exhibit health issues. The Basenji Club of America registers the basic problems that a Basenji can undergo. These are:

  • Hip dysplasia: About 2.3% of this breed is affected by this disease. This can be a result of improper growth at the hip joint.
  • Autoimmune thyroiditis: This can be a genetic disorder resulting from an autoimmuno destruction of the thyroid gland. Sometimes, the vaccinations provided to the dogs can also be a result of this disease. 
  • IPSID: The Immunoproliferative Small Intestinal Disease (IPSID) is an inflammatory bowel disease that can lead to vomiting and diarrhoea.
  • Corneal Dystrophy: About 2.6% of this breed is affected by this disease. This disorder usually arises when the cornea of the eye starts getting clouded.
  • Patellar luxation: Being active dogs, the Basenji can have a misplaced kneecap (patella). When the symptoms are severe, immediate surgery is recommended.  
  • Basenji enteropathy: This is one of the most dangerous diseases among the Basenji dog breed. It is resulted out of malabsorption and protein loss.  

These health issues might be common in Basenjis, but not all will be a victim to such disease. While adopting this breed, the breeders should enlighten you with any of the skin diseases that the dog is going through. Also as an owner, you must regularly check the eyes of your dog for signs of progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA). Make sure you brush his teeth four times a week. If you want to learn about the health issues that your breed might be encountering, you can consult your veterinarian. The vet will conduct DNA, thyroid and eye tests to confirm them. 

Detecting a Basenji:

You can easily be fooled by a false breeder if you lack the knowledge to detect a purebred Basenji dog breed. Therefore one must be very careful while adopting a Basenji. There are several ways to detect a Basenji. Some of them are: 

  • Wrinkled forehead: This wrinkle is a distinctive part of this breed’s face. Basenjis always have a wrinkle on their forehead. Even though they could be anxious all the time, it is a feature of their physical characteristics.
Basenji Dog Breed Features
(Source: Figo Pet Insurance)
  • Large and erect ears: This ancient dog has sharp ears pointing upwards from the skull. The ears help them in hearing the sound of the hunt.
  • Curled tail: A common feature of the Basenji is their tail. Their tail is curled up tightly at the back. While the base appears thick, the tip of the tail is white and pointed.

Grooming and Shedding of a Basenji:

The Basenji dog breed is a low-maintenance breed. It requires very little time to groom a Basenji. Most of its grooming is done by the dog itself because of its cat-like feature. It spends most of its time licking its fur, just how a cat would do it. This breed can spend hours on grooming itself since it is very serious about self-care. However, as an owner, there are few things that you must do while grooming your dog. 

  1. Having a small coat makes it easier for any owner to groom a Basenji. Brush him using a soft bristle brush once a week. You may also use a rubber grooming tool or a Hound glove if you like. Brushing him regularly helps you to check for coat sheen. This can be the result of lack of nutrients.
  2. Trim their nails regularly before they hurt themselves. Once the nails are long, they can be heard tapping on the floor. 
  3. Check the ear canals for bugs or other infections. The ear canal of a Basenji is pale pink. However, it is odourless and has wax on its surface. 

These dogs require less bathing. A bath in a few months should be fine by them. But, the Basenji dog breed also has the problem of shedding. They shed just like most of the dogs. However, on the bright side, their shedding is unnoticeable. The coat is so fine and short that its fallen fur is almost invisible.  

Feeding a Basenji:

The Basenji dog breed may not require a lot of grooming, but their food should be of good quality. This breed has a digestive system that has not been evolved much since ancient times. Therefore, they rely more on diets that are high in protein. Providing raw food to the canine is a part of the species-appropriate nutrition which replicates the actual raw diet.

However, as an owner, you must ensure not to over-feed your Basenji, especially during the puppy stage. This can create fat over the rib cage of the puppy. 1-2 cups of food should be enough for a grown-up Basenji. The Basenji dog breed is prone to gaining weight. Therefore, choose the calorie consumption of your dog wisely. Sticking to a schedule for feeding your Basenji is supposedly a good decision. You can also leave out cooked chicken or pork from their diet. Instead, provide them with bones to chew. For more information on your breed’s feeding, you can contact your vet.

Training and exercise of a Basenji:

For the Basenji dog breed, early socialization is a must. While the dogs are at their puppy stage, they should be trained to confront strangers. Since they are ‘cat-like’, training them might be a problem. However, if exposed to the proper environment, these dogs can turn out to be one of the best family members. Their behaviour is well suited for living with families. An owner should use positive techniques to train his/her dog. But remember; do not extend their training for more than 10 minutes. Being stubborn dogs, they might end up misbehaving. 

Basenji Dog Breed misbehaving
(Source: Cesar’s Way)

Those short dogs are full of energy. If they are not made to exercise properly, they might end up getting bored with will ultimately result in destruction. They are mostly hunting dogs, therefore, a loss on their chain can lead them to run off on a chase. As an owner, you must provide them with a structured schedule to loosen up their excess energy. The Basenji dog breed is also well suited for competitions like obedience and agility championships.

Living with families:

The Basenji dog breed is playful. They love playing with anything and anybody. However, once introduced to a family, they can be very protective of them. A negative factor about Basenji is that they are not very comfortable with small children.  You can teach your kid to behave properly with a Basenji. If he/she is old enough, the dog might be able to co-operate with them. Small children often try to grab the attention of dogs by doing something unusual. Basenjis may not like it.

Basenji Dog Breed living with families
(Source: Hill’s Pet Nutrition)

You are suggested not to own a Basenji and a cat at the same time. This breed is not very friendly with other pets, especially cats around them. Although raising them together can be an exception. The breed would gradually start to accept the other pet as its family member. 

Fun Facts about Basenji:

  • Basenji dog breed exhibit a resemblance with the ancient god of Egypt Anubis. Anubis had large erect ears just like the Basenji dog breed.
Basenji Dog Breed ancient resemblance
(Source: Pet Care Hospital)
  • The female Basenjis have a heat period every year. This occurs mostly between August to November. 
  • Before receiving the name of Basenji, this breed was known as the Congo dog/Congo Terrier. It was after Mrs Burn brought her to England in 1936 when it received the name ‘Basenji”.


There are a few significant facts associated with the Basenji dog breed. This breed was initially imported to England in the 1980s to diminish its hereditary health problems. It also resulted in the formation of brindle coloured Basenji. The breed was recognized as a sighthound by the American Sighthound Field Association. This way the breed could participate in various lure-coursing tests.


Q. What is the price of a Basenji in India?

The average cost of this breed  in India is ₹30,000 to ₹40,000

Q. Do Basenjis exhibit aggressive behaviour?

The Basenji breed was supposedly aggressive back in the days. With growing time, it has developed a more friendly temperament.

Q. Do Basenjis have a wrinkle on their forehead since birth?

The wrinkle on the forehead of the Basenji is more prominent when they are at their puppy stage. But for brindled or tricolour coats, the wrinkles may not be very clear.

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