Basenji: A Hound Fit for a Pharaoh

February 17, 2019
As a dog owner with over 25 years of experience, I can attest that having a dog is one of the most wonderful things that has ever happened in my life. The companionship and joy they bring is incomparable.

Portraits inside the Egyptian pyramids immortalize the early Basenji as companions for the Egyptian Pharaohs. From Egypt this breed moved to Central Africa where dogs acted as guides in the forest and alerted against predators.

As a hunting dog, the Basenji helped protect livestock by killing long-toothed and reed rats. This high energy breed aided Central African hunters during the quest for antelope, birds and pachyderms. This sighthound could point and track wounded prey. They also chased prey into the hunter's net. An account in the 1930s described that the Basenji wore gourds filled with small pebbles that rattled and alerted hunters to follow in the tall grasses.

In 1895 a pair of Basenji arrived in England, but died of distemper. In 1936, Bongo of Blean and Bokoto of Blean survived and bred future generations. Breeders locate stock in southern Sudan, the eastern Central African Republic and the Congo regions.

Physical Characteristics

The compact Basenji is small to medium with fine bones. Females stand 40 cm (16 in); males stand 43 cm (17 in). Weight ranges from 9 - 10 kg (20 lbs) for females and 11 kg (22 lbs) for males. This muscular breed has a level back and straight legs. The Basenji has small, narrow feet and a graceful gait.

The Basenji sports a smooth, glossy coat with colours of chestnut red, black or tri-colour. White markings may appear on the chest, tail tip, feet and forehead. This breed is a moderate shedder.

The Basenji has a flat skull and a wedge-shaped face framed by a wrinkled forehead. Hazel almond-shaped eyes are set obliquely. The small, erect ears are set forward. The characteristic tail is curled once or twice.

The Basenji does not bark. This breed, however,is known to sing or yodel. Other dog sounds include howling and growling.

This breed has a lifespan of 10 - 12 years.


The graceful Basenji has a temperament like a cat. This affectionate breed will even climb trees and scale chain wire fences like its feline counterpart. This intelligent dog is eager to please and responds to training. Basenji are known to do things their own way. Owners should handle their puppies early and show leadership. This hound likes to chew and should receive toys to satisfy this habit. This high energy dog needs 60 - 80 minutes of exercise every day, plus mental stimulation. Owners need to be consistent or face the consequences of owning an obese dog with behaviour problems when left alone.

Roles of the Basenji

Because the Basenji is silent, this breed has a limited role as a guard dog. As a companion, this breed is eager to serve. With a history of hunting rodents, this dog is not compatible with small pets. The alert and intelligent Basenji can excel in lure-coursing and racing.

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