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Basenji: The Ultimate Guide

By Kerry
Updated on

There are so many things to consider when you are bringing a dog into your home, and there is so much to learn about the Basenji breed. If this is the dog you are seriously considering getting, then you will need to research to find out if it is the right breed for you.

The Basenji breed is known for being a breed with hunting origins, and they actually originated in South Africa. They are Spitz-type dogs that are able to produce a yodelling-like sound, and they can make wonderful furry companions. They are well-suited to various families and people and make great family dogs.


We can understand how frustrating it can be to find the information that you are looking for when it comes to a specific breed, which is why we have created this ultimate guide to the Basenji breed. You can find out everything you need to know in one place, so you don’t have to search the internet for hours at a time.

Basenji Key Facts

Before we get into the Basenji breed in greater detail, there are some important key facts that we are going to share with you about them first. These are some things that you will need to think about when considering this breed seriously.

Average Lifespan

On average, the Basenji dog breed will live between 12 and 16 years of age, which is a long time to commit to a dog. 

Minimum Exercise (Per Day)

Basenji dogs are known for having high levels of energy, but due to their size, they will only require around an hour of exercise per day. Although, they will be more than happy to accompany you on a longer walk if you are planning one. 

Something else that you should know about these dogs is that they have a high prey drive, and they can sometimes get distracted on walks and chase after the scent of a squirrel or other animal. This can sometimes make them challenging when it comes to off the lead walking, but it is possible with the right training.

Coat Length

These dogs have short coats that are easy to groom. Their coat color can be red, black, or white, and their coat usually looks very shiny when properly groomed.

Minimum Cost (Per Month)

You can expect to pay a minimum of $85 a month when it comes to caring for your Basenji. This will cover things like food, insurance, accessories, and more. You will need to ensure that you can afford this monthly cost before you decide on this breed.


These dogs are lightly built, finely boned animals that are high on leg compared with their length. They are always poised and alert and have wrinkled heads with pricked ears that are proudly carried on a well-arched neck. These dogs have almond shaped eyes that convey various depths of emotion,

The Basenji has a short and fine coat that will be either a rich chestnut red, black, tricolor, or brindle, and they will have white feet, chests, and tail tips. The Basenji always look clean as they have cat-like grooming habits.


Basenji dogs are typically small in size.

Average Height

Male Basenjis will stand at around 17 inches at the shoulder, and females are usually around 16 inches tall.

Average Weight

Regarding the Basenji breed, males usually weigh around 24 pounds, whereas females typically weigh around 22 pounds.

Temperament Of The Basenji

The Basenji is a house, which means that they are both intelligent and independent, but they are also very affectionate and extremely alert. They are sighthounds, which means that motion easily catches their eye, and they will chase almost anything they see moving.

This will usually involve small animals, and when their hunting instincts kick in, this may not always end well.

The Basenji is not the kind of dogs that will obey commands in an instant, and they like to take some time to think about what you are asking of them. They will then decide whether this is something they want to do or not.You will need to be a patient person with an excellent sense of humor to look after this breed. 

These dogs will go ahead and chew anything that is left within their reach, and they are more than capable of devising plans to achieve what they want.

This could be that they want to get up on the kitchen counter, or they may simply want to break into your cupboard and steal some food.Either way, they can achieve almost anything when they put their minds to it.

Something that is important to know about this breed is that they can sometimes be aloof with strangers, and they should never be trusted around cats or other small animals.

This is because their hunting instincts will tell them that smaller animals are prey. They may get along well with cats if they have been raised with them, but otherwise, they are not well-suited to households with small pets. Any cats or small animals that your dog sees outdoors will be considered fair game.

These are dogs that need lots of early socialization and training, and just like any other dog, they can become timid without proper socialization. This involves exposing them to as many different people, sounds, sights, and experiences as possible when they are still young.

Apartment Living

Basenjis can live in apartments as they are small, quiet dogs that need very little maintenance. Even though they are playful, fun, and high-spirited, they don’t need much space to run around as long as they are provided with enough daily exercise.

Good for Novice Owners

Basenji dogs are not typically recommended for first-time dog owners. They can be difficult to train if you do not have any previous dog experience, and this is a dog that requires some extensive training.

They are better suited towards experienced dog owners. However, if you are bringing in an expert when it comes to training and willing to learn, then it is possible.

Sensitivity Level

These dogs are very sensitive, especially when it comes to harsh tones of voice. You will need to use positive reinforcement in their training if you want to achieve the best results possible.

Tolerates Being Alone

Basenjis are family-oriented dogs that much prefer to be in your company than left alone. However, you can leave them alone for up to eight hours at a time as long as you are still providing them with the right amount of daily exercise.

Some Basenjis will become destructive when left alone, which is why it might be a good idea to invest some time into crate training.

Tolerates Cold Weather

Even though the Basenji breed loves to spend time outside, they should never be left outside when it is cold. While Basenjis are tolerant of hot weather, they do not do well in cold weather and they may need booties and a dog jacket to help to keep them warm when the temperature drops.

Tolerates Hot Weather

Basenjis will tolerate the warm weather really well as they originated in hot climates, which is what they are used to. They also have short coats that make it less likely for them to overheat.

Affectionate With Family

The Basenji are highly affectionate towards their families and just love to be in your company for as long as possible. You can also expect them to follow you around the house and cuddle up on your lap at times.


Basenjis are not known for being especially fond of children. However, their high energy levels can make them great companions for older children. If they are going to be around children, it is best that they are raised with them from puppyhood.

An adult Basenji that is not familiar with children is not suited to a household with younger children. However, they can get along with older children that are mature enough to interact with them properly.

Is A Basenji Dog Friendly?

A Basenji should get along well with other dogs, but this will all depend on whether they have been properly socialized as puppies. Something else that you should know is that Basenjis should never be trusted around cats or other small animals unless they have been raised with them and they recognize them as family members. 

Friendly Toward Strangers

Basenji dogs have always been known to be weary around strangers, especially if they come into your home. This is why it is so important to introduce strangers to your dog in your home slowly and respectfully. Otherwise, your dog might try to get defensive.

Health And Grooming

Basenji ultimate guide

Now that you know pretty much everything there is to know about the temperament and personality of the Basenji breed, it is time to take a look at their health and grooming requirements.


Basenjis do shed, but their hair is much shorter and finer than other breeds, which means that it isn’t as noticeable. They are considered to be a low-shedding breed, but they do shed more during the changes of the seasons. If you are looking for a low-maintenance and low-shedding breed, this could be the right dog for you.


These dogs don’t really drool. If your dog is drooling excessively, it could be a sign of an underlying health condition.


The Basenji are mostly like cats when it comes to their grooming habits, and they tend to keep themselves really clean. They shouldn’t need to be bathed more than once every few months. 

These dogs do shed, but the hair is very short and fine, so it isn’t as noticeable as the shedding of some other breeds. You should brush their coat a few times a week to get rid of excess hair.

You will also need to brush your Basenji’s teeth at least two or three times a week to remove tartar buildup and bacteria. Daily brushing is even better if you want to prevent gum disease and bad breath.

Something else you will need to do is trim their nails regularly if they are not being naturally worn down. If you can hear their nails clicking on the floor, then it is likely that they are too long. Trimmed nails will help to keep your dog’s feet in good condition.

General Health

Generally, Basenjis are healthy dogs. However, just like all other dog breeds, there are some health conditions that they are at a higher likelihood of developing. They are not guaranteed to develop any of these conditions, but it is important to be aware of them if you are considering this breed.

Common Health Problems

Some of the most common health problems for Basenjis to develop are:

  • Fanconi Syndrome
  • Immunoproliferative Systemic Intestinal Disease
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency
  • Coloboma
  • Persistent Pupillary Membrane
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy
  • Umbilical Hernia
  • Hip Dysplasia

Potential For Weight Gain

These dogs are unlikely to gain too much weight unless they are being fed too much food. 


Even though Basenjis are an intelligent breed, they can also be quite nervous and independent at times, which can be challenging when you are trying to train them. When it comes to their training,you will need to start early and ensure that you are consistent throughout. You will also need to be as patient as possible.

Easy To Train

Unfortunately, Basenjis are not the easiest of dogs to train. They will require a patient trainer to try and bring out their best qualities, and they can easily get bored of what you are trying to teach them.

You will need to make their training both engaging and positive, which is why positive reinforcement training usually works the best. 


Basenji dogs are really intelligent, but this can make their training more difficult sometimes. They can pick things up quite easily when you have their full attention. However, they do also have minds of their own, which means that they won’t always do what is expected of them if it doesn’t suit them. 

Potential to Bite

These dogs do have the potential to bite if this type of behavior is not trained out of them while they are still young. However, they are friendly and loving dogs, which makes it unlikely for them to bite their families.

Tendency To Bark Or Howl

Basenjis don’t bark a lot at all, and even when they do it is quiet. However, they are known to be vocal in other ways by whining, screaming, and making yodelling sounds.


The Basenji is likely to be one of the oldest breeds of domesticated dog, which could be one reason they don’t bark much. It is likely that early people would have preferred a quiet dog when they went out hunting. These dogs can bark, but they usually bark quietly, only once, before returning to silence.

There is also a theory that they are only partially domesticated dogs. Their metabolism is unlike that of any other domesticated dogs, and like wild canids, the female Basenji will only cycle once a year. For other domesticated dogs, this would be twice a year.

The Basenjis were discovered by Westerners in the Congo region of West Africa in the 19th century. In this area,  the dogs were used to flush game into nets, to carry goods, and to warn of the approach of dangerous animals when on the trail.

These dogs were valued more than wives by some tribes in Africa, not only for their excellent hunting skills, but for their resourcefulness and ingenuity.

There were some attempts to bring the Basenji to Europe, but these attempts failed because the imported dogs all died of disease shortly after they arrived.

The first successful import occurred in the 1930s both in England and the United States. The Basenji Club of America was formed in 1942, and the American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1943

Basenjis are actually quite rare, and they currently rank 84th among the 155 breeds and varieties that are recognized by the AKC. So, you can expect to spend time on a breeder’s waiting list if you decide this is the dog for you, as they are not widely available.


The average cost of a purebred Great Basenji is somewhere between $1000 and $1500, although they can cost more than this.

Basenji Fun Facts

  • This Might Be the World’s Oldest Dog Breed
  • They May Have Inspired an Egyptian God
  • They Are Hunting Dogs
  • They Don’t Bark
  • They Didn’t Come to the West Until the 1900s
  • They Are Very Independent
  • They Groom Themselves

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About the author


Kerry White is an avid dog lover and writer, knowing all there is to know about our furry friends. Kerry has been writing for PetDT for three years now, wanting to use her knowledge for good and share everything she can with new dog owners.Kerry has two dogs herself - a German shepherd called Banjo and a chocolate labrador called Buttons. Kerry knows more than anyone how adjusting to new life with a puppy can turn your life upside down, and she wants to ease some of the burdens through her articles.