Considered as one of the oldest dog breeds, the Basenji had its portrait painted in the Egyptian pyramids 5000 years ago. The great pyramid Cheops has paintings of this dog at the feet of their masters. It has been theorized that the Pharaohs got this dog from central Africa.
Deep in the forests of Zaire, it can still be found hunting with its masters, wearing a rattle around its neck. This is because this dog does not bark, but can make a sound that no other dog on earth can, yodeling. That's because its vocal cords are different from those of other dogs. As this dog helps bring food to these African families, it has reportedly been bred to Jackals to try to increase its speed and leg-length.
English explorers found this breed and imported it to England in 1937. It was then taken to America, where it has become a well-loved pet. Around 1987, people started getting concerned about the limited gene pool of the American and English Basenjis. A group of Americans went to Zaire and brought 14 of these dogs home. These 14 dogs were accepted by the American Kennel Club, and were used to bring down the risk of genetic problems in the breed.
In the U.S., selective breeding of this dog began in 1941, but the AKC didn't accept it for registration in the Stud Book and approve the standard until 1943. This dog stole the 'Best in Show' award at a famous dog show in Great Britain. That was the first time a Basenji got that award.
This breed has a square-shaped head and erect ears. It stands at 16-17 inches at the shoulder and weighs around 24 lbs. A tightly wrinkled forehead and a tireless gait are common to the breed. The whole demeanor is one of elegance, poise, and alertness. It is said to have gazelle-like grace, is smart, lovable, frisky, and disobedient. It has also been known as one of the two quintessential 'brat breeds'.
This is a good watch dog even though it does not bark. It is wary of strangers, and when you first meet one, it will appear aloof. It is easy to housetrain but that is about it. If it is not crated when the owner is away, it will destroy the house, chew up the furniture, bring down the curtains, and anything else that it can think of.
One explanation of this attitude is: "A domesticated dog knows that his food and safety come from learning how to please his master. Wild dogs provide food and safety for themselves and really don't care about their masters' opinion of them''.
This dog is never trustworthy off a leash because when you call it, it can suddenly go deaf if exploring something new. Never put a chain-link fence around your yard because your dog may climb over and go outside. This breed is able to race with greyhounds, loves lying in the sun, loves fighting with other dogs, and is obsessed with keeping itself clean.
This breed can be affected by Progressive Retinal Atrophy which can lead to complete blindness, or Fanconi syndrome which can lead to kidney failure. Besides this, it can also be affected by Hemolytic Anemia or immunoproliferative systemic intestinal disease. It may also be allergic to chemicals.
If you want a dog that can out-think you, outrun you, that digs, climbs, trashes the house, and does it all with a happy gleam in its eyes, the Basenji is the perfect choice.