The history of the Basenji

The Basenji is a natural breed whose ancestors date back to Egyptian times, as images of similar types of dogs are depicted on wall engravings and in paintings on tombs from as early as 3000 B.C. Originally distributed over most of Africa and used for hunting purposes by the African tribesmen, now the pure Basenji is only found in such regions as the Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Liberia.

Their distinctive gait, which adds to their appeal, is a straight-legged lope, which enables them to run at a steady pace for hours. When flushing their quarry in the tall elephant grass, their hunting strategy is to leap straight up in the air, and take a quick look around for their prey when airborne. Thus one of the names they are known by to the natives is M'bwa m'kube M'bwa wamwitu which translates as the jumping up and down dog. As they do not give tongue like most hounds when hunting, their position is revealed to their owners by the rattling of a gourd filled with pebbles which is hung around their neck.

Their main purpose when hunting is to drive the game into nets, which are held by the waiting natives. As this hunting instinct is so strong, their immediate reaction is to chase and kill any animal or bird within sight, if not too large.
Therefore care is needed when letting your Basenji run free, making sure no prey such as sheep, goats or even poultry are within sight. Rabbits and hares may be considered fair game, and many Basenjis are used for this purpose.
Also being odourless, the chance of their scent being picked up by their quarry is reduced.

Akin to the dingo, bitches come into season usually only once a year, and puppies are born in the winter time. Like the Dingo, Basenji males also come into season, and will not mate a bitch unless he too, is in season.

The first few attempts at importing Basenjis to England were unsuccessful as the dogs had no natural immunity to distemper and died shortly after their arrival. The first successful pair were imported in 1936 and were named 'Bokoto' and 'Bongo' and they were the parents of the first English Basenji litter. They were exhibited for the first time in 1937 at Crufts Dog Show. These non barking dogs caused such a big stir that special security forces had to be employed to keep the crowds moving past the Basenji cages. They were recognised as a purebred dog in the United States in 1943 and shortly thereafter by the International Purebred Dog Federation (FCI). Dr. Alex Caselberg imported the first Basenjis to Australia in 1948. Their names were Fanfare and Cocotte Of The Congo and were bred by Veronica Tudor Williams in the U.K. The breed almost died out in Australia between the years 1957-1960 without any litters being born at all. After Mrs Beryl Hancock relocated from New Zealand to Australia she began importing some Basenjis from New Zealand in 1960 and so revived the interest in the breed in this country. Since then there have been many importations from the U.K, New Zealand and the U.S.A.

Every Basenji has his own individual personality but they all have some factors in common, such as washing themselves and each other in a catlike manner. They use their paws to play as cats do, they can be efficient climbers and they also crop grass likes horses. They love to dig up the new spring roots of plants and eat them - which can be annoying if you are proud of your garden.

Their combination of remarkable speed, sense of smell, sight and intelligence makes the Basenji a special dog. A naturally developed dog, he was not bred by man for a particular purpose as other breeds, thus they can be a challenge to live with at times. However their many endearing qualities such as their cleanliness, playfulness, independence, high intelligence and very affectionate nature make them a charming, interesting and lovable companion.