Dog Breeds 101: Basenji

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Dog Breeds 101 - Basenji
Photo – Wikipedia – lic. under CC 2.0

The small and short haired Basenji is a popular hunting dog in its homeland Africa. This elegant and graceful sighthound is lightly built; the back is short; legs are higher compared to its length; head is wrinkled carried on a well-arched neck and tail is set high and curled. It moves with ease and is extremely agile due to its balanced structure and smooth musculature. [1] The Basenji has an unusually shaped larynx and as a result, it produces a yodel-like sound called a “baroo”. Due to this trait, it is nicknamed “soundless dog”. According to one theory, they were selectively bred to be soundless because barking could lead enemies to their owners’ encampments. [2]

It is widely thought that the Basenji is one of the oldest domesticated dog breeds. They were discovered in the Congo region of West Africa in the 19th century. The dogs were used to aid hunters, to carry goods and also served as guard dogs. In some African tribes, a good hunting Basenji is more valued than a wife because of its skills in hunting, resourcefulness and ingenuity. [3] The Azande and Mangbetu people from the northeastern Congo region describe Basenjis, in the local Lingala language, as mbwá na basɛ́nzi. This means “dogs of the savages” or “dogs of the villagers”. [2]

The first attempt to import the breed to Europe failed when the dogs all died from an unknown disease shortly after arrival. The first successful importation occurred in the 1930s in England and also in the United States. The Basenji is known for being intelligent, independent, affectionate and alert. Because they are classified as sighthounds, anything that is in motion catches their eye and they will chase after them especially cats, squirrels and rabbits. They also think twice before obeying a command making them harder to train compared to other dog breeds. [3]


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