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Pet Road Tests > Dogs


Breed: Basenji
Temperament: independent, not easily trained
Maintenance: low
Lifespan: 12-14 years
Recommended for: dedicated dog owners


The history of the breed dates back to the early 1930s, when hunting dogs which were the forerunners of the breed were found in the central African state of Zaire (then the Belgian Congo) and imported to England and later America. The owner of the first Basenji shown at the leading London dog show, Crufts, named them 'Basenji' after an African word meaning 'bush thing'. Dogs similar to Basenjis can probably still be found in Africa, where native hunters traditionally used them to flush out small game, guided by the sound of a rattle (a gourd containing small stones) tied around the dog's neck.

Basenjis were first brought to Australia in 1946. Their popularity grew slowly in this country, but by 1970 they had become part of the Australian show scene and were being bred and shown in almost every state.


Basenjis are graceful, lightly built dogs with short backs. They have crested necks, dark brown, almond-shaped eyes and wrinkles on the forehead and cheeks. They have a classic 'ring' tail with a single or double curl which sits over the back, and a short, sleek coat with pliant skin.

Coat colours include red and white, black and white, tricolour and brindle. The white should be on the feet, chest and tip of the tail. They can also have white legs, a white blaze and a white collar.


Ideal height: Dogs 43 cm (17") at withers. Bitches 40cm (16") at withers
Ideal weight: Dogs 11 kg (24 lbs). Bitches 9.5 kg (21 lbs)


Basenjis are playful and mischievous and have an alert, happy nature. However, they are a primitive breed and are not particularly people orientated. They tend to be dominant dogs that are less than obedient, and so they are difficult to train. In fact, a book published in recent years listed the Basenji second only to the Afghan as least trainable.

Some people are attracted to Basenjis because they do not bark. However, they are far from silent. They make a variety of noises including yodels, growls, chortles and howls.

Health and lifespan

Overseas, particularly in America, the breed is afflicted by a kidney disorder called Fanconi Syndrome. Other problems include Haemolytic Anaemia (a disease where the dog's own body attacks its red cells), hypothyroidism, hip dysplasia and eye disorders.

In Australia the breed is very sound. However, all breeding stock can be traced back to a small group of foundation animals, so it is important that breeders are aware of health problems and watch out for them.

The average lifespan of a Basenji is 12-14 years.

Care and maintenance

Basenjis groom themselves regularly in a cat-like manner and rarely have a 'doggy' smell. They do not require much grooming other than an occasional brush. Their skin is sensitive, so avoid the use of harsh shampoos and flea preparations.

Space and exercise

Basenjis need regular exercise and activity. If left alone in the backyard for too long they will become bored. They are accomplished escape artists and have been known to climb trees and high fences. Basenjis should be walked on a lead (if you let them off the lead they probably won't come back!).


The breed has no whelping or breeding problems with an average litter of five puppies. As with other native dogs, such as the Dingo, Basenji bitches only come into season once a year. The puppies are all born about the same time - June in Australia and December in the Northern Hemisphere.


Puppies cost from $500. Remember that puppies are only born once a year, so there may be a waiting list. If you'd like a pup contact a breeder and place an order early to avoid disappointment.

Ideal owner

Basenjis are not easy-going pets. They are best suited to dedicated dog owners who understand dog behaviour and dominance, and have the patience to train a strong-willed, assertive animal with a mind of its own.

National contacts

To find up-to-date contacts for breeders, contact the following organisations.
The Australian National Kennel Council (ANKC)

Dogs NSW
Phone: 1300 728 022 (NSW only) or (02) 9834 3022
Fax: (02) 9834 3872

Dogs Victoria
Phone: (03) 9788 2500
Fax: (03) 9788 2599

Dogs ACT
Phone: (02) 6241 4404 - Fax: (02) 6241 1129.

Dogs West
Phone: (08) 9455 1188
Fax: (08) 9455 1190

Dogs SA
Phone: (08) 8349 4797

Canine Control Council of Queensland
Phone: (07) 3252 2661
Fax: (07) 3252 3864

Tasmanian Canine Association
Phone: (03) 6272 9443
Fax: (03) 6273 0844

Dogs NT
Phone: (08) 8984 3570
Fax: (08) 8984 3409
The Australian National Kennel Council (ANKC)

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