by Doris Donnerman
(last updated April 3, 2009)
Comparatively new to America, but rapidly growing in popularity and destined for still further prominence is the Basenji, an ancient breed. Companions of the Pharaohs, the Basenji faded into obscurity when the civilization of Ancient Egypt declined. Originating in Central Africa, the breed is still valued in its native land and its bloodlines kept pure. It is understandable that the breed should survive through the centuries, for it is highly intelligent and possesses a great hunting instinct.
The Basenji is known as "the barkless dog," but is not entirely noiseless as it gives a peculiar and appealing sound when happy or extremely pleased, and growls and snarls on occasion. The "happy" sound has been described as somewhere between a chortle and a yodel and is pleasant to hear.
A dog of extremely proud bearing, the Basenji is highly intelligent, anxious to please, and can be easily trained. In his native country, he is used in pointing game, retrieving, and is of particular value in hunting small game where silence is especially desired.
In addition to the quality of silence, the unusual characteristics of the breed are a broad forehead deeply furrowed with wrinkles, prick ears standing straight up from the head and dark, intelligent, far-seeing eyes. Their habits are somewhat unusual, as the Basenji is extremely fastidious, cleans himself all over in the manner of a cat, and his lack of doggy odors make him ideal as a house pet.
This unusual dog has a splendid disposition and makes an ideal companion for children. Extremely playful, his happiness seems contagious. When more dog lovers become acquainted with his characteristics he will most likely be in greater demand as a companion for the house and the field.
The coat of the Basenji is quite distinctive both in texture and color. The texture, in keeping with the tropical climate of its native land, is fine and somewhat silky, with an extremely attractive sheen. The coat becomes coarser in colder climates, but never loses its brilliance. The most desired color is red, although shadings of red and fawn are seen, and occasionally a chestnut as well as black and tan. The dog's coat always has white points with a white tip to the tightly curled tail which is carried over one side of the back.
It was in 1895 that the first pair of Basenjis was brought to England. They fell victim to the dread disease, distemper, and died shortly after. It was not until 1937 that the breed was successfully introduced into the British Isles. It was about this time when the dog was introduced to the United States.
As a sprightly, graceful, intelligent companion of happy disposition, the Basenji is ideal, particularly for fanciers who are city dwellers.
In England the Basenji has been used most successfully on the birds, where their speed is an advantage. They reputedly have a soft mouth with retrieved birds.
The General characteristic of the Basenjis is that they do not bark. Their appearance is one of a springy poise and alertness that great resembles that of an antelope. When running they resemble that of a racehorse trotting full out in a swift tireless running gait. Their coat is short and silky. The male dog stands seventeen inches while the female stands about sixteen inches.
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