Basenjis have many traits that seem really appealing:

  • Moderate size which is convenient
  • Require little grooming
  • They don’t bark
  • They don’t have a doggie odour
  • They clean themselves like cats
  • Don’t shed much
  • Pack oriented, love their family
  • Generally easy to house train
  • Striking to look at
  • Cute with quizzical wrinkled brow
  • Generally long lived and healthy
  • Fun loving and comical

Looking for the right dogs breed for your lifestyle? One of the first considerations It is to research what the breed was originally bred for. This will give you some clues as to what temperament, exercise and training needs can be expected.

So what was the Basenji bred for? The Basenji is a breed that have evolved rather than being ‘created’ by man. The Basenji is a hunting dog. It would have hunted for its own food and survival. Its brain has evolved to be a ‘self thinker’ and to be one step ahead of any animal that might consider a Basenji its next meal and to out whit the animals it preyed upon. Basenjis would scavenge for rodents and any leftovers around the villages of the Indigenous people of its homelands, the Congo and areas of Equatorial Africa. Tribes such as the Azande of Southern Sudan and Congo and the Pygmies of the Ituri Rain Forest realised that the Basenjis would be excellent to assist them hunting.They noticed their hunting ability, their agility and their fearless determination. These peoples would train the dogs to flush and chase game into nets. The huntsmen would spear the game. The Basenjis would also chase and catch fowl bringing the bird back to his mater to dispatch. The following instincts should be considered when thinking of a Basenji. These traits translate into the breeds ‘built-in’ behaviour patterns:

  • Strong prey drive
  • Fearless determination
  • Independent ‘self thinker’

The hunting instinct and high prey drive of a Basenji will give you clues to its temperament and behaviour which may or may not suit your lifestyle and living arrangements.

Q&A – Is a Basenji suitable for me?

  • I want a dog that will walk with me off lead?

    Chasing is a natural instinct for a Basenji. Therefore, Basenjis are not good off lead anywhere near roads – generally they do not have any road sense. They have incredible eye sight, hearing and scenting ability. Their prey drive and hunting instinct will often ‘switch off’ rational thoughts and will cross a road without thought for oncoming traffic.

    Unfortunately, many Basenjis are killed or badly injured on roads.

    If walking to the park with your dog off lead is a criteria for your next dog then a Basenji is not the breed for you.

  • I’ve heard Basenjis can climb trees?

    Yes, this is true. Basenjis are extremely agile and can climb trees. Cyclone or chain mesh fences are extremely easy for a Basenji to climb if it has the aspiration to escape. Generally a Basenji will try to escape if

    • it is bored;
    • it is lonely;
    • if the ‘grass is greener’ on the other side of the fence – perhaps there is a dog to play with or its owner is away for very long periods and the humans next door are its surrogate family;
    • it enjoys the challenge.


    A bored, lonely and mentally impoverished Basenji is likely to try to find it’s own fund perhaps by trying to find a way out.

  • I’ve heard they are always highly active?

    This is not quite the case. A Basenji can be highly active normally at dawn, dusk or at times when its pack (family) arrive home. Very often they will sleep through most of a warm summer’s day. During the winter they are hard pressed to surface from a nice warm bed! They will often do a ‘Basenji 500’ around the house especially when they are allowed inside when their family come home. This enthusiasm is not, like some breeds, a ‘puppy thing’ rather it can last for many years until the Basenji is quite elderly.

    Like any dog breed a Basenji should be given a daily walk to ensure it’s physical and mental needs are fulfilled. A bored Basenji (or other dog breed) left with all its energy may become bored. This may lead to it using up its energy in other ways such as trying to escape or being destructive.  

  • How much exercise does a Basenji need?

    Like all dog breeds Basenjis need physical exercise and mental stimulation. Both can be achieved with a regular walk – preferably once a day; a walk offers the dog an opportunity to investigate and is mentally stimulating. Things to keep the occupied during the day if their owner is away at work that encompass physical and mental exercise such as some toys where food is hidden. It is also important to continually socialise and train you Basenji.

    A bored Basenji, like many breeds can be very destructive or will try to escape.

  • Basenjis do not bark?

    basenjis do not barkSo is it true that Basenjis do not bark? To some degree yes this is true. The larynx of a Basenji is shallower than other breeds. As air is pushed out the sound that forms is a variety of interesting and amusing sounds; howls, melodic yodels or a loud baroooo amongst other noises. Basenjis can make a noise rather like a cough that sounds like a one-off ‘bark’. This is normally a sound of alarm or of being wary or unsure. It is not a repeated bark.

    Because they do not bark does not mean they are quiet. Some Basenjis are very quiet and don’t yodel although they might make growling noises and whimper if unhappy. Others however can be very noisy when they want to be. There are records of police being called by neighbours who believed that they was a murder occurring in the house next door. On arrival the police found no one at home. Except that is, for one rather bored and lonely Basenji. A Basenji who was letting the whole neighbourhood know of its displeasure.


    Basenjis may not bark but the can make a lot of noise when bored or lonely – just like any other breed.

  • I’ve read that they are not good with children?

    This is, in the experience of our breeders, a complete misnomer. You would really need to question a breeder that is not prepared to educate you as a puppy buyer on the pros and cons of introducing a puppy to your young family. You really have to question a breeder that advises you that they will not sell you a puppy because you have a young child. At some stage in its life it is likely that this Basenji will come across children. A Basenji who has been bred from parents with stable temperaments – more and more research indicates that genetics plays an extremely important part in the temperament of puppies. A Basenji that has been correctly socialised as a puppy and a Basenji that is introduced to your family with care and due diligence will be one that loves its young family. Some Basenjis are extremely tolerant of children. However, a young child and a Basenji (or for that matter any dog breed) should never be left alone together – for the safety of both parties.

    A well bred and socialised Basenji will generally be great with kids – but for the safety of both dog and child never leave a Basenji (or for that matter any dog breed) alone unsupervised together.

    Here are some photos of our members’ Basenjis meeting children at the Royal Melbourne Show 2014 – they have never met these kids before. They were happy to accept their pats and hugs. One disrespectful child in a push chair decided to kick one of the dogs whose reaction was only to take a step back. After his parents took charge the Basenji walked up to say hello to the child only to be kicked again – no reaction other than a puzzled look. The child was not allowed to get closer until he was more respectful. This is a perfect example as to why it is so important that kids and dogs are never left alone together – one can only assume what might have happened with a less tolerant dog – who would be at fault?

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  • I’ve heard Basenjis are aloof what does that mean?

    Basenjis can be aloof – this is a breed characteristic. Aloof does not mean aggressive. Rather it means that they are wary of strangers and can be standoffish. They are ‘in tune’ with people and have fantastic perceptive ‘powers’. A Basenji will quickly work out those that are worthy of their attention and those that are not. They might not rush up to everyone with tail wagging to greet them. Basenjis have a way of ‘looking right through’ you. They might even turn their back to some people they consider ‘below them’ all of these characteristics can be very disconcerting to some people.