The Basenji is one of the oldest purebred dogs in the world — a “domesticated wild dog” kept pure in blood by natives of the Belgian Congo since well before the Christian era.
The characteristic of all wild dogs
The Basenji still retains the characteristic of all wild dogs — the inability to bark.
Some specimens were brought back from Africa early in the century and were exhibited at the Berlin Zoo, but show people did not take any interest in the breed at all until just before the outbreak of World War II.
Since the war, the breed has been imported in large numbers into Britain, the United States and Germany. The dogs are making quick progress in public favor in those countries and specialist clubs have been formed to foster their interests.
It will be interesting to see whether these dogs will develop a bark under kennel conditions.
They make a peculiar noise with their vocal cords, known as a chortle by breeders.
It is not an unpleasant sound and is considerably less noisy than the bark of a dog of similar size.
Another interesting feature of the Basenji is that he has no dog odor as we know it in other breeds.
This is a distinct advantage from the point of view of people living in flats or who like to have a dog indoors.
Even after having a gallop in the rain, the Basenji can be admitted to the home without causing offense in this respect.
The “barkless, odorless dog” of the Belgian Congo, therefore, has two important selling points from the angle of modern living.
He was bred exclusively for hunting purposes in his native land, his principal game being a small succulent variety of antelope found in the Congo.
Basenjis are rated very highly in the Congo and the young man fortunate enough to own a good hunter can set up a house, including wives, spears and utensils, in exchange for him.
The natives attach small bells to the necks of the dogs, which drive the antelopes to them.
In this way, the natives can hear and note their dogs’ progress through dense jungle.
Another peculiar feature of the Basenji is his springy stride. It is unlike that of any other dog.
Although he seems to bounce along, the movement is quite graceful.
But Australians, who have been used to the orthodox straight-through movement of cattle dogs, Kelpies, long-legged terriers and gundogs, have some difficulty in becoming used to it.
The Basenji is a natural hunter of small game, has plenty of courage, and those which have found homes in this country have proved their ability in this respect.
Basenjis are the most affectionate dogs, clean and attractive in appearance.
They are included in the sporting or hound group at shows and have won best in this section on several occasions.
Best in show awards have been few to date, but this applies to most “new” breeds here.
Most of our imports have been from the best kennels in England and several of the dogs have arrived with excellent overseas records in the show and breeding field.
The Basenji is a short, smooth-coated, lightly-built, Kelpie-type dog, weighing about 24 pounds. His wedge-shaped head, deep-set brown eyes and erect, forward-tilting ears show a slight but decided wrinkle when he is at attention.
This is quite a characteristic of the breed, although a deep “wet” wrinkle is undesirable.
The mouth is even, with clean, strong jaws. The neck is long, well arched and, set into a galloper’s shoulders.
The front is fairly narrow and the ribs deep with sufficient spring to ensure heart and lung room.
The body is moderate in length, showing both grace and strength, and the hindquarters should be well turned, possessing lots of power.
The tail is set high on at the corner and twisted tightly over to one side. A double curl or twist is desirable but, like the Pug’s, not essential.
Color is generally red with white markings or black, tan and white.
The feet are well cushioned and should be strong enough to stand up to hard work for extended periods.
The Basenji has found a place in the U.S. and he can be expected to make greater progress here.