This small to medium-sized dog has a distinctive tightly curled tail and wrinkled forehead. The smooth, short, glossy coat of the Basenji comes in red and white; black and white; black tan and white; brindle; brindle and white; and tricolour. For full details, see the breed standard. The ideal height for adult dogs is 43cm at the withers (from the foot to the highest point of the shoulder) and 40cm for females. When fully grown, the ideal weight for dogs is 11kg, and for females 9.5kg.
The Basenji dog breed was probably bred to be companion dogs for the Pharaohs and there are portraits of Basenjis in the Egyptian pyramids. With time the breed moved down to Central Africa where it was used to kill the long-toothed and reed rats in the Congo region. These large, vicious rats were a real threat to the native people's livestock and a good hunting dog was essential for survival. The breed wasn't known to the western world until the time of the Victorians when early African explorers remarked on a 'barkless dog'.
These dogs are unique in the fact that they do not bark – but they do yodel when excited! Alert, independent, intelligent, self-grooming and virtually odourless, the Basenji breed is very cat-like and have even been known to climb trees and fences! Affectionate to their loved ones, they tend to be aloof with strangers. Basenjis tend to argue with other dogs, so early socialisation is imperative.
The most widely recognised inherited conditions in the Basenji are a type of kidney disease (Fanconi Syndrome) and a form of anaemia. Genetic tests are available for both of these. Like many breeds hereditary eye disorders can also occur. Eye testing and genetic testing of dogs prior to breeding is therefore important.
Bred to hunt in rough terrain, the Basenji needs at least an hour's exercise daily, and has the stamina for more if you can offer it. While not easy to train, getting the Basenji involved in some sort of dog sport to keep his mind and body healthy could be beneficial. They have less road sense than other breeds, so extra care must be taken if they are exercised near traffic.
Small dogs have a fast metabolism, meaning they burn energy at a high rate, although their small stomachs mean that they must eat little and often. Small-breed foods are specifically designed with appropriate levels of key nutrients and smaller kibble sizes to suit smaller mouths. This also encourages chewing and improves digestion.
The Basenji does most of his own grooming and upkeep. The coat is short, sleek and fine, and can be wiped down with a glove once a week to remove loose hairs. Ears and nails can be checked periodically. Otherwise, little else needs to be done.