AKC Hound Group


Photo copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

Photo copyright © All rights reserved.

The Basenji is an ancient and primitive breed, according to DNA evidence. It bears some resemblance to dogs depicted on the walls of pharaohs’ tombs in Egypt, but that might be coincidence. Explorers later discovered the breed in Zaire, hunting wild game for his native masters, usually by finding and then driving the game into nets. These dogs were first introduced to the United States in 1941. Currently, Basenjis are primarily companion dogs.


The Basenji is a small, elegant, athletic dog, about the size of a Fox Terrier, with a smooth, shiny coat of copper, red, black and tan, black, or brindle, all with white feet, chest, and tail tip, and sometimes white legs, collar, and blaze. The dog is lightly built, with fairly square proportions. The back is level, the legs are long and the forehead is furrowed with wrinkles. The ears are pricked and the tail curls tightly up over and slightly to either side of the back. The breed has a swift, tireless trot.

Key Facts

  • Height: 17 in. (male); 16 in. (female)
  • Size: Small
  • Weight: 24 lbs. (male); 22 lbs. (female)
  • Availability: May take some effort to find.
  • Talents: Hunting by sight, watchdog, agility, tracking, and lure coursing


The Basenji doesn’t bark, but does have a lot of other unusual vocalizations. He may yodel, howl, growl, or crow, depending on his mood. A very clean dog, the Basenji grooms himself like a cat, washing his face with his paws after meals. The coat doesn’t smell, even when it is wet. The Basenji is good choice for allergic people. He can be destructive when left alone and is a veritable escape artist, climbing fences and even trees. Basenjis are very fast and hard to catch. They were bred to seek game in the jungles of Africa, and do not tend to come when called. Don’t let this dog off lead unless the area is securely fenced! Owners should accustom a Basenji to a crate or secure enclosure early in life to prevent accidental loss.


Very alert, active, playful, and demanding. Highly independent and somewhat aloof, but also can form strong bonds with people. Should be extensively socialized. Can be quite willful, but also can be trained.


  • Children: Best with older, considerate children
  • Friendliness: Reserved with strangers
  • Trainability: Very difficult to train
  • Independence: Very independent
  • Dominance: Moderate
  • Other Pets: Not always good with other dogs; do not trust with non-canine pets
  • Combativeness: Fairly dog-aggressive
  • Noise: Not a barker, but makes other noises
  • Indoors: Very active indoors
  • Owner: Not recommended for novice owners


  • Grooming: Very little grooming needed
  • Trimming and Stripping: No trimming or stripping needed
  • Coat: Short coat
  • Shedding: Very light
  • Exercise: Moderate exercise needed
  • Jogging: An excellent jogging companion
  • Apartments: Will be OK in an apartment if sufficiently exercised, but does much better with a fenced yard
  • Outdoor Space: A small yard is sufficient
  • Climate: Does well in most climates
  • Longevity: Average (10 to 12 years)

Useful Links

AKC® Basenji Breed Standard

Basenji Breed Club

Search for a Breeder

Rescue Organizations

Books about the Basenji

Basenji Gifts