Basenji – Full Owner’s Guide

Reviewed By Julie •  Updated: 01/09/21 •  11 min read
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Have you heard about the Basenji? Would you like more information about this amazing dog breed? If so, then you’ve come to the right place!

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No matter which dog you’re thinking about adopting, knowing as much about the breed as possible is essential. Understanding the breed makes it easier to determine whether the dog is a good fit for you and your family.

We’ve put together information about the Basenji here! So, read on to learn more about these wonderful dogs!

What is a Basenji?

The Basenji is known for being a smart, active, and wonderful dog! While they’re said to be barkless, that’s not precisely true. These dogs are also known for being fastidious; some pet parents have said their dogs will quickly teach you to keep the house cleaned up!

If anything is left out, the dog will surely find it and have some fun! By having fun, it usually means the dog will chew up or eat whatever he finds!

History of the Basenji

Believe it or not, Basenjis are one of the oldest dog breeds around. Pictures of dogs that look like Basenjis have been found in caves paintings in Libya that date back to 6000 BC. The Egyptians knew this dog breed from as early as 3000 BC. You can see the dogs’ curled tails and upright ears in Egyptian paintings, wearing hunting bells used in ancient times.

These dogs were documented in Africa back in 1868 by Dr. Schweinfurth. The dogs were also found living with the Pygmy tribes in the Belgian Congo. The dogs seemed to be mostly used for hunting, as they were in ancient times.

It’s thought the dogs were prized for hunting because they were quiet rather than barking. They tend to only bark once, and that’s it! In the Congo, the dogs were used to flush game into waiting nets, carry things, and warn dangerous animals on the trail. It’s said that some African tribes prized the Basenji as more valuable than a wife due to the dog’s hunting skills and his intelligence.

The first Basenjis eventually made their way to Europe in the late 1800s. At the time, they were called Congo Terriers. However, these dogs didn’t survive due to catching distemper in England. Later, in 1936, more dogs were imported to England and were successfully bred. By the time of WWII, the dogs were no longer imported from Africa.

By 1937, the Basenji made its way to the US. By the 1940s, the dogs were being directly imported from Africa. Two dogs, Kindu & Kasenyi, were imported to America and were used for breeding Basenjis in the US.

The Basenji Club of America was established in 1942, and the AKC recognized the breed in 1943. To this day, Basenjis are rare and not that easy to find. 


Basenjis are very cute and are just the right size; however, they’re also highly intelligent, mischievous, and destructive fur babies! It’s said to be an adventure when your life with a Basenji!

Basenji’s are very playful, gentle, and anxious to please. However, they’re also very independent dogs. They also love to explore and climb! So, these dogs are very apt to look for and find adventures just about anywhere. Do you have a kitchen wastebasket with leftover food?

Expect your Basenji to have fun digging everything out of the garbage to look for that tasty snack! But it doesn’t stop there! These dogs will have fun with and chew up everything and anything. Leave your iPhone on the floor? Expect it to be gone when you search for it! You may find parts of the phone strewn through the house. Basenji pet parents must be extremely patient and have a great sense of humor to live with one of these dogs.

Basenjis are also great watchdogs. They are extremely alert and don’t bark at every little noise they hear. While some Basenjis may allow an intruder into the house, others will growl and warn strangers away. The ones who let the intruder in may watch as the person steals valuables! You just never know with these dogs.

This dog breed can also be quite affectionate, and they don’t cling to their pet parents. However, they will keep tabs on you! He won’t be demanding attention, though.

Are Basenjis Barkless?

Basenjis are not truly barkless dogs; they just don’t bark as much as other dog breeds. Having said that, these dogs will communicate with their pet parents. They use various yowls, screams, yodels, and yips to get their point across.

These dogs also make small sounds when they’re happy; however, if the dog has hunted down prey, he will make a sound that makes you shudder when he’s finished eating it.

Do Basenjis Get Along with Family & Other Pets?

Basenjis can get along with other pets; however, they are hunting dogs. This means they have a strong prey drive. If the dog has been raised with cats and other small pets, then they may probably be OK. However, if the dogs see anything outside, such as cats, rabbits, and other animals, the Basenji’s prey drive will kick in. These dogs will not fetch; they tend to chase.

What about kids? Basenjis don’t do that well around young children. However, they can do well with older kids who know how to treat them. Older kids need to be taught how to treat and interact with these dogs properly. And it’s advisable to never leave the Basenji (or any other dog breed) alone with your kids.

Training a Basenji

These smart dogs require training and socialization to make them safe, happy companions. Basenjis don’t respond well to harsh training. Instead, they do best with positive reinforcement training methods. They thrive in an environment that is encouraging and offers rewards. They do especially well with the clicker training method.

Basenjis love obedience training classes. They tend to learn quickly and behave well when they understand what’s expected. Without training, a Basenji will quickly develop bad habits. Even so, pet parents need to be patient and consistent with the dog’s training. In addition, training times need to be short. Experts recommend keeping training sessions to about five to ten minutes.

Basenjis respond well to treats when they do the right thing! The treats should be high-value for the dog and should be eaten before moving on to the next training lesson.


Basenjis are usually healthy dogs; however, they can suffer from certain health issues like other dog breeds. Basenjis can develop the following health issues:

Not all Basenjis will develop these health problems; however, it’s good to be aware of these issues if you’d like to adopt one of these wonderful dogs.

The best way to avoid a dog that could develop some major health issues is to find a reputable breeder. Reputable breeders must hold to certain requirements when it comes to which dogs to breed, the health of the breeding dogs, and more.

How to Care for a Basenji

Basenjis are hunting dogs, which means they’re extremely active dogs. They require plenty of exercise every day. Some Basenjis may be happy with walks, while others may require more strenuous exercise. Each dog is different.

Some people might believe it’s OK to leave a Basenji out in the yard and let them run. However, that’s simply not the case. For one thing, these dogs can be excellent at escaping the yard. You could say these are great Houdini dogs! If a dog is on his own in the yard, expect he will not be there when you check on him.

For this reason, Basenjis need a fenced-in yard that’s dog-proof. These dogs will climb a chain-link fence or even a wooden fence! So, what type of fence is best? One that’s smooth and topped off with an electric wire. We’re not joking.

When out for a walk with your dog, always keep him on the leash. These dogs have a tendency to see other animals and want to chase after them. So, keep your dog on the leash at all times. Never let him run free.

Something that may be curious to many pet parents is that these dogs don’t like rain! They’re more like a cat in this way. If it’s raining, your canine companion probably won’t want to go out. About the only time, he may want to get wet is in the summer, when it’s warmer outside.

A Basenji requires about an hour of exercise daily, which can be divided into a 30-minute walk in the morning and another in the afternoon. These dogs will also love to play—if you have kids, the dog and the kids will wear each other out!

Grooming & Coat Color

Basenjis have a short, fine coat that comes in various colors, including red, black, tricolor (black and red), or brindle. Their feet, chest, tail tip will all be white. There may also be white on the dog’s legs and a white blaze in the center of his face.

Basenjis have another cat-like similarity with their grooming habits. These dogs tend to stay very clean, which means they only require a bath once in a great while. The dogs do shed; however, the hair is short and fine. It’s not as noticeable as the fur of other dog breeds.

When it comes to brushing a Basenji, experts recommend using a dog grooming glove rather than a brush. This is enough to keep the dog clean and get rid of dead hair.

Feeding Basenjis

Like other active dog breeds, Basenjis require high-quality, protein-rich dog food. They can eat commercially prepared food or homemade dog food (as long as the diet is balanced and contains the proper nutrients). Pet parents who decide to feed their Basenji a homemade diet should be sure to check with the vet on the best foods and provide the right nutrients for the dog.

In addition, the dog’s food should be appropriate to the dog’s life stage. Puppies can safely eat puppy food, while adults can eat food that’s formulated for all life stages (including pregnancy and lactation).

Basenjis do the best eating about one to two cups of food a day, divided into two meals (check with the vet on the right amounts and frequency of feeding for puppies).

How Much Does a Basenji Cost?

There are various factors that determine how much a Basenji costs to adopt. For instance, puppies may be less expensive, depending on their age and pedigree. Adult female dogs may be more expensive because they can be used for breeding.

What’s more, dogs adopted from a reputable breeder tend to cost more than dogs from a shelter. And dogs adopted in the city are usually more expensive than dogs adopted in smaller towns and rural areas.

In general, adopting a Basenji from a reputable breeder may cost between $1250 and $2000 or more. Remember, these dogs are rare, so it may be necessary to get on a breeder’s list to adopt a puppy. Depending on how many pet parents are on the waiting list ahead of you, it can take some time to get your puppy.

It’s also possible to find Basenjis at a rescue or shelter. At these facilities, the adoption cost can run between $100 and $300.

Summing It Up

As you can see, Basenjis are amazing, intelligent dogs! They’re known for being cute, mischievous, playful, and more. These independent dogs can make wonderful family companions for the right pet parents. These dogs require pet parents who are dedicated to consistent training and socialization of their fur babies.

We hope this article provides the information that helps you make the decision on whether these dogs are right for you and your family!

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Julie is a graduate of the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, where she studied Animal science. Though contrary to the opinion of her parents she was meant to study pharmacy, but she was in love with animals especially cats. Julie currently works in an animal research institute (NGO) in California and loves spending quality time with her little cat. She has the passion for making research about animals, how they survive, their way of life among others and publishes it. Julie is also happily married with two kids.