Basenji Overview

Dog Breed:
Breed Group:
Hound group
Tenacious, manipulative, independent, loving, intelligent
Males=17 inches; females=16 inches
Males=24 pounds; females=22 pounds
Life Span:
13-14 years
Coat Colors:
Any of the following shades combined with white: black, tan, brindle, red, blue, cream, mahogany, or sable. The breed can be tri-coloured as well.
Area of Origin:
West Africa
Best For:
First-time owners
Adult Food:
Best Dog Food for Basenjis
Puppy Food:
Best Puppy Food for Basenjis

Basenji Characteristics

Good for First-Time Owners
Good with Children
Easy to Train
Exercise Requirements
Ease of Grooming
Amount of Shedding
Amount of Drooling
Tendency to Bark

About The Basenji

  • Considered to be medium-sized

  • Does not bark but makes its own distinctive sound that is similar to a yodel

  • Very intelligent and manipulative

The Basenji is a medium-sized dog that hails from Africa. Small of stature and elegant in demeanour, the Basenji’s looks are quite distinctive with its tail with a graceful curve and its wrinkly brow. When glimpsed in motion, the breed closely resembles the precision and beauty of a prized thoroughbred horse. 

One of the most unusual traits about the Basenji is that it does not bark. However, the Basenji still has a voice. The breed is well-renowned for its unique howl, a hallmark of this dog type. Basenjis are quite cat-like in their commitment to grooming themselves and are known for being extremely clean. 

A dog breed that is characterized by its immense intelligence, the Basenji is a difficult dog to train due to its penchant for wilfulness. The Basenji loves its people but is highly independent and lacks any interest in complying with the wishes of its owners. Even if a Basenji cooperates in learning obedience commands, it may be unwilling to display learned behaviour when requested to do so. 

Basenjis are extremely manipulative and excel at training their owners. A breed known for chewing, owners must keep valuable items and food under lock and key to keep them safe from the Basenji. 

The Basenji is also a breed with high prey drive and strong tendency to wander.  Masters at finding ways of escape, a secure containment system is an absolute necessity for this breed. It is highly recommended that all time in a fenced yard be supervised since Basenjis view fencing as an opportunity to find creative ways to get out. 

Basenjis are highly energetic and athletic, delighting in active pursuits with their family members. Devoted to their people, the Basenji will alert at the detected presence of unusual activity on their property. If feeling its family is threatened, the Basenji will willingly provide protection. 

The Basenji is a natural sportsman, excelling at many different sports including lure coursing. Unfortunately, the breed is not well-suited to team-based activities such as competitive obedience or Rally. 

Due to the dog’s talent for manipulation, its independent nature, and its talents for escape, the Basenji is best suited to families with dog experience. The Basenji’s small size makes it well-suited to apartment living so long as regular daily activity is provided. 

Basenji Breed History

  • Originated in West Africa

  • Developed to be a hunting dog

  • Considered one of the world’s oldest dog breeds

Considered to be an ancient dog breed, the Basenji traces its roots to West Africa in the Congo. A dog employed as a hunter, the breed’s original purpose was to chase prey into the snares of hunters, to carry loads of supplies, and to alert the hunters to the presence of predatory animals within the vicinity. 

Studies of ancient artwork reveal depictions of dogs that very closely resemble the modern-day Basenji. The breed increased in popularity when they travelled the Nile to the heart of the continent for presentation as presents to the Egyptian pharaohs.  

A breed that was in demand in Europe for its skill as a hunter and natural intelligence, early attempts at importation of the Basenji were unsuccessful due to death by illness. It took until the 1930’s for the first examples of the breed to make their way to England and the United States. 

Basenji Size & Weight

  • Males are 17 inches in height and weigh 24 pounds

  • Females stand 16 inches and weigh 22 pounds

  • Basenjis will challenge their owners regularly


The adult male Basenji stands 17 inches at the shoulder and weighs approximately 24 pounds. Mature females are slightly shorter at 16 inches and weigh a maximum of 22 pounds. 

The Basenji is a dog of extremely high intelligence. The breed uses their natural intellect to help outsmart its owners, making it best suited to families with previous dog experience. In addition to this, Basenjis view a fenced yard as an opportunity to devise an ingenious escape. Potential owners of this breed must be prepared for a dog that will challenge them regularly

Basenji Personality & Temperament

  • A sighthound

  • Uninterested in strangers

  • Loving and affectionate with family


By nature, the Basenji is a typical hound breed. Intensely smart and with a mind of its own, this dog breed also loves its family deeply and is quick to defend them.  A member of the sighthound family, the Basenji has excellent vision and can easily see even the slightest movements of prey, making it an excellent hunter. This tendency to hunt makes the dog extremely prey-driven and prone to wander. 

The Basenji is a highly mischievous dog. Extremely mouthy, the Basenji will chew anything that comes into its path. Devious when it comes to escape attempts, the Basenji is a master at getting into hard to reach places or finding its way out of a properly fenced in yard. Supervision is an absolutely necessity. 

The breed is naturally uninterested in strangers and can be defensive of its family if it is warranted. Since Basenjis will chase anything they consider to be prey, the breed is not well-suited to life with other small animals such as cats, gerbils, guinea pigs, birds, or even small breed dogs. 

The Basenji is typically uninterested in training but still needs to learn the basic obedience commands for its own safety and to be a productive canine member of society. The dog is best motivated by positive reinforcement training. It takes a lot of patience and consistent effort to train a Basenji

Basenjis are friendly and loving with family members and enjoy the company of other dogs and children. All interactions between the dog and kids should be carefully supervised to ensure the safety of both parties. 

To integrate a Basenji into a home with other dogs, it is best to do so in a neutral setting. A dog breed intended to hunt in packs, the Basenji should get along with other dogs.  However, this dog type may view smaller dog breeds as prey. 

The Basenji is very independent and does not mind spending time alone. Still, it is important to ensure this dog breed is kept occupied in the absence of its owner. If the dog is left with time on its hands, it will get up to mischief. 

The Basenji’s short coat is well-suited to warm temperatures, but the breed does not tolerate cold weather well. 

Basenji Health & Grooming

  • Very low grooming requirements

  • Sheds very minimally

  • Weight gain is rarely a concern


A dog breed that typically enjoys good health, there are a few genetic conditions which can befall the Basenji. Appropriate health testing should be performed on all breeding pairs prior to mating to ensure no genetic illness is passed to subsequent generations. Among the health problems which can affect the Basenji are Fanconi syndrome, immunoproliferative systemic intestinal disease, pyruvate kinase deficiency (hemolytic anemia), hypothyroidism, persistent pupillary membrane, colobama, progressive retinal atrophy, umbilical hernia, and hip dysplasia. 

The Basenji is an extremely clean dog that takes care of the majority of its grooming requirements on its own. The breed has a coat comprised of short hair that benefits from the occasional brushing to keep it in good condition. The breed sheds very minimally. Bathing is rarely needed. 

This dog breed’s nails should be trimmed at least once per month to maintain excellent foot health. Ear cleaning and dental care should be performed regularly to ensure proper health and wellness for the Basenji. 

The Basenji is highly active, and thus, weight gain is rarely of concern. However, regular daily exercise is crucial to keeping this dog breed in tip top shape. Carefully measure and monitor all food intake to ensure a healthy weight. 

The Basenji is not a breed known for excessive drooling. 

Basenji Training

  • Very difficult to train

  • Very high prey drive

  • Will actively seek opportunities to roam

The Basenji is a dog breed of exceptional intelligence. However, they tend to use their innate smarts against their owners to get out of doing things they don’t want to do. A mischievous breed that is prone to escapism, training the Basenji is an absolute must. Owners must be aware that this breed will fight learning new things with all that is in them. 

Positive reinforcement training is an absolute necessity for this stubborn dog breed. Choosing to use punitive methods will result in obstinate behaviour. The Basenji can easily learn the basic obedience commands in as little as several weeks. However, it most typically will take several months for the dog to willingly accomplish this task. 

The Basenji is an extremely mouthy breed, so care must be taken to teach the dog to use its mouth appropriately. Should the dog attempt to nip or bite, simply redirect the Basenji to something more suitable such as a toy, bone, or ball. 

A sighthound and hunting breed, the Basenji has a very high prey drive and will actively seek opportunities to roam. A securely fenced yard is not sufficient to keep this dog breed contained. Active supervision is a must. 

The Basenji is not a tremendously vocal dog. A breed that does not bark, the Basenji has its own unique yowl that is reminiscent of a yodel.

Basenji Exercise Requirements

  • Very difficult to train

  • Very high prey drive

  • Will actively seek opportunities to roam


The Basenji has very high activity requirements and must be exercised on a daily basis. Though Basenjis do enjoy going for a walk with their families; typically, a more vigorous type of activity is required to meet this dog’s needs. 

All activity with a Basenji should be done on lead as this dog breed will escape if given any opportunity to do so. Even within a fenced yard, the Basenji must be carefully supervised. 

The Basenji should receive a minimum of 45 to 60 minutes of strenuous exercise on a daily basis to remain content. The breed excels at a number of performance sports including lure coursing, tracking, and agility. 

Basenjis are not tremendously playful, preferring more athletic pursuits with their families instead.

Basenji Diet & Feeding

  • Puppies should eat puppy food

  • Adults should eat adult food

  • Adjustments should be made to support activity level

To ensure the nutritional needs of the Basenji are properly met, it is wise to consult the advice of a veterinarian. Generally speaking, this dog breed excels on a high quality, well-balanced diet that is specific to its age, activity level, and health.  

Puppies should be fed a puppy food to support the needs of their developing bodies. Similarly, adults should be fed an adult formulation that addresses the requirements for their age, health, and activity level. 

Appropriate serving sizes will help owners to achieve and maintain a correct body weight for the Basenji. The bag of food will offer suggested amounts. This is an excellent starting point. Adjustments should be made to reflect the dog’s activity level. The dog’s weight and appetite will help serve as excellent guides in this process.

You may also be interested in:

Basenji Rescue Groups

For more information about Basenjis available for adoption near you, we recommend the following comprehensive resource:


Basenji Club of America