The Barkless Basenji

Also known as the Congo or Zaire Terrier, as well as carrying honors as the Barkless Dog, the Basenji is believed to have originated as far back as 4,000 B.C. and his likeness has been carved into the tombs of the ancient Egyptian kings, most likely where they were used as tribute offerings to the pharaoh. These interesting little canines are believed to have originated in Central Africa’s rain forests and are still used, by native hunters, as a skilled sight hound, wearing wooden bells to alert their owners as to their whereabouts.

Basenji does not mean barkless, as many might think but, instead, means bush thing, pointing back to the dog’s origins, as well as his usefulness as a hunting dog in the bush. Very active, these dogs make excellent coursers and the American Kennel Club (AKC) has made them eligible for coursing events, in addition to conformation classes. A very alert, intelligent and proud dog, they enjoy the show ring and are well-suited to the hustle and bustle of competitive life, though they also make wonderful pets. Loyal and protective, they tend to be a one-family dog so, if you intend to bring a Basenji into your life, itís best to ensure that your lifestyle is such that you will be able to keep him for the entirety of his days. Basenji who are given away, or separated from those they have bonded with, commonly suffer severe bouts of depression and anxiety. It is never a good idea to choose a Basenji, should you have a lifestyle where you must travel and board your dog in a kennel frequently; such a lifestyle is very hard on these russet-coated beauties.

Standing 16-17 inches high at the shoulder, this is a medium-sized dog with a light build and a distinctively wrinkled forehead, giving him an almost comically concerned expression. All-around, he is a unique little dog, from his bright coppery coat, to his tightly curled tail, reminiscent of a corkscrew. Healthy Basenji weigh between 21-24 pounds when fully grown and are not prone to obesity, as a rule, being very active little canines. Their erect ears seem to constantly be perked and looking for something to go darting off after and, for your own petís safety, itís important to always keep them on a leash when they are outside. Coursing hounds are notorious runners and, before they know it, they can become horribly lost or injured while in the midst of chasing down prey. They also have a tendency to chase anything that will run and so careful consideration should be taken before introducing them into a home with cats.

Basenji are extremely clean animals and have quite a few catlike tendencies, including how they will wash themselves. They are virtually odorless, which makes them very pleasant house dogs. Do not be fooled, however, while the Basenji cannot bark, he is not a silent dog either; fully capable of making yodeling and chortling noises, it is best to encourage him not to make a lot of noise when he is put in his crate, or neighbors are sure to wonder what strange bush thing you are keeping next door.

Overall, the Basenji is a generally robust breed of dog, though they have been heavily inbred. Hernias can be problematic, as can their tendencies to be prone to various allergic skin diseases. For more information on this copper-coated dog, be sure to talk to your veterinarian and local breeders; any fan of the Basenji is likely to have a wealth of information to share.

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