Basenji breed characteristics, origin and care

Basenji breed characteristics

  • Size: Medium
  • Traits: Intelligent, affectionate, companionable, alert, independent
  • Maintenance: Low maintenance
  • Best Suited To: Families with older children, people at home during the day with fence yard

Affectionate, intelligent and clean, Basenji breed, also known as Lagos Bush Dogs or Congo Terriers, is sure to keep you on your toes! It loves to get plenty of exercise and spend time with its family. Unfortunately if you leave it alone too long though you may find your little mate is missing from the yard when you arrive home!

Where I'm From

The Basenji is arguably one of the oldest domestic dog breeds in the world. It’s believed they were bred as companions for the Pharoahs and you can see pictures of them in the Egyptian Pyramids.

The breed shifted to the Congo region in Central Africa where its sight and smell was put to the test. The dogs were used to drive reed rats from the area that were threatening local livestock.

Despite the Basenji’s longevity, it wasn’t until 1895 that the breed made it to the western world. Two were brought over to England but died from distemper shortly afterwards. This would be a recurring problem for the next 40 years until two dogs were finally bred.

What I Look Like

Basenjis are small to medium sized dogs with a distinctive curled tail. Their little foreheads are wrinkled and the breed is blissfully unaware of the need for botox. They grow to around 40 centimetres in height.

If you’re looking to adopt this breed you’ll be able to get puppies in red, black, tricolour and brindle. They’ll all have a white belly, feet and tip of the tail. Some will also have white on their faces between their eyes and on their necks.

How I Act

Cat lovers will feel an instant kinship with this breed. They like to lick themselves clean like felines and avoid bath time where possible. Interestingly, these dogs don’t like rain so make sure you check the weather forecast before heading out for your daily walk.

Basenjis are intelligent and alert dogs that’s why they’re such good hunters. They don’t make great guard dogs though, not because they don’t have the intelligence or the instinct, but because they can’t bark. Instead they may choose to yodel, whine or scream.

These canines have a lot of energy and can become destructive if they’re not given the chance to burn it off. You should also know they can climb fences like cats and they’re talented escape artists so it’s in your best interests to do right by them!

They’re independent thinkers who can’t be trusted off leash in open spaces. Their instinct to chase small animals will take over so you’re best to only let them run free in a fenced backyard.

Despite their quirks they are an affectionate breed and do love spending time with their owners. These dogs are better suited to older children.

Looking After Me

Basenjis require about 30 minutes of daily exercise which they can get from running around the backyard or going for a walk. If you have older children you can entrust the two to tire each other out providing they’re in an enclosed area.

Training this breed can be an uphill battle. They’re independent and won’t necessarily see the value in listening to people. When you think about it they survived for thousands of years without human intervention so why would they start now? That’s not to say they can’t be trained, but don’t go into it thinking it will be easy.

It’s best to start training and socialising your Basenji when it’s young so it knows who’s boss.

The list of possible health problems in this breed is longer than most breeds but that’s not to say every dog will be affected. Basenjis can develop Fanconi Syndrome which affects the kidneys, Immunoproliferative Systemic Intestinal Disease, Hypothyroidism, Progressive Retinal Atrophy and Hip Dysplasia among other illnesses. You can stay on top of any emerging illnesses or symptoms by taking your dog to the vet for regular check ups.

Am I the pet for you?


  • Will get rodents at bay
  • Affectionate canine suitable for older children
  • Self-groomer


  • Master escape artist
  • May hunt smaller pets if you have rats or mice
  • Is prone to more diseases than most breeds
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