Table of Contents

The Basenji traces its roots to Central Africa, with ancient depictions found in Egyptian art and artifacts. Historically, tribes from regions like the Congo have utilized the Basenji for its exceptional hunting abilities, primarily because of its acute sense of sight and smell. While the breed has been around for millennia, it wasn’t introduced to the Western world until the 19th and 20th centuries.

The Basenji is a medium-sized dog with an athletic build that hints at its agility and speed. They have a short, sleek coat that’s fine to the touch. Their coloration can vary, with chestnut red, black, tricolor, or brindle being the most common, always combined with white markings on the feet, chest, and tail tip. One of the most notable features is their tightly curled tail, reminiscent of certain spitz breeds. Their almond-shaped eyes and wrinkled forehead give them an alert and inquisitive expression.

Basenjis are known for their intelligence, curiosity, and independence. They’re often described as cat-like in behavior due to their cleanliness and tendency to be reserved with strangers. While they are affectionate with their families, they may not always be overtly demonstrative. Their strong prey drive and hunting instincts can make them a challenge in households with smaller pets unless they’ve been raised together.

One of the Basenji’s most defining characteristics is its lack of a traditional bark. Instead of barking, they produce a unique yodel-like sound referred to as a “barroo.” This doesn’t mean they’re silent; they are capable of producing a variety of vocalizations to communicate. Additionally, their short coat and grooming habits mean that they don’t have the typical “doggy odor.”

While the Basenji’s short coat is relatively low-maintenance, regular check-ups, especially of the ears and nails, are essential. They are an active breed and require daily exercise to keep them mentally and physically stimulated. Their intelligence and curiosity can sometimes lead them into mischief, so early training and socialization are crucial. Due to their origins in a tropical climate, they can be sensitive to cold and might need protection in chillier conditions.

In essence, the Basenji is a captivating blend of history, unique characteristics, and a lively temperament that requires an understanding and patient owner.

Breed Snapshot

Life Expectancy:

13 to 14 years



Maintenance Level:


Shed Level


Best For

The Basenji, with its unique characteristics and temperament, is best suited for:

  • Experienced Dog Owners: Due to their independent nature and occasional stubbornness, Basenjis can be a challenge for first-time dog owners. Those with prior dog training experience will likely find it easier to manage and understand the breed’s nuances.

  • Active Individuals or Families: The Basenji is an energetic breed that requires regular exercise. They thrive in households where they can engage in daily play, walks, or even agility activities.

  • Households without Small Pets: Given their strong prey drive, Basenjis might not be the best choice for households with small animals like hamsters or birds. However, with proper introduction and training, they can coexist with cats and other dogs.

  • Allergy Sufferers: Their short, fine coat and lack of typical doggy odor make Basenjis a better option for those with mild pet allergies. However, no breed is entirely hypoallergenic.

  • Those Seeking a Low-Maintenance Grooming Routine: The Basenji’s coat requires minimal grooming, with only occasional brushing needed to remove loose hairs and maintain their sleek appearance.

  • Individuals Looking for a Unique Companion: With their yodel-like “barroo” and cat-like behaviors, Basenjis offer a distinctive pet experience compared to other dog breeds.

However, it’s essential to remember that every Basenji is an individual. While these generalizations may apply to the breed, each dog will have its own personality, needs, and quirks. Potential Basenji owners should spend time with the breed and do thorough research to ensure a good fit.

Basenji Traits

Breed Characteristics

Here are the qualities you can expect when raising an Affenpinscher on a scale of 1 paw (low) to 5 paws (high). These attributes were rated by several pet experts, including a dog trainer, veterinarian and behaviorist. Remember that dogs are individuals, and not all dogs, even of the same breed, will fit the mold.


Exercise Needs
Health Issues
Barking Tendencies
Grooming Needs
Shedding Level
Training Needs
Good With Kids
Good With Cats
Good As A Service Dog
Good For Apartments & Small Homes
Biting Tendencies
Energy Level
Good With Other Dogs
Sensitive to Cold Weather
Sensitive to Warm Weather
Good For First Time Pet Parents

Breed Characteristics

Your Affenpinscher dog may be small in size (maybe you can relate), but they make up for it in confidence (again, relatable). With their bright eyes, smooshy faces, alert gaze and a wiry, bristling coat, these brachycephalic dogs may make “Star Wars” fans do a double-take, as these small pups really do resemble Ewoks. Their wiry coats range from black to beige, but they also come in ruddy browns and salt-and-pepper blends.

1. Ears
Pointed, small, and always erect.
2. Eyes
Almond-shaped, with colors ranging from dark hazel to dark brown.
3. Nose
Typically black, but can vary in liver or brindle Basenjis.
4. Height

Males: 16-17 inches, Females: 15-16 inches.

5. Coat
Short and fine with a glossy appearance. Common colors include chestnut red, black, tricolor, or brindle, always with white markings.
6. Head
  • Skull: Flat with a medium width.
  • Muzzle: Finely tapered.
7. Tail
Tightly curled, resembling a corkscrew, and carried over to one side.
8. Weight
Males: 24-26 lbs, Females: 22-24 lbs.

Basenji Temperament

The Basenji’s temperament is a unique blend of traits that reflect its ancient lineage and hunting background. Here’s an overview:

  • Independent: Basenjis have a strong sense of independence. They often make decisions on their own and can be somewhat aloof, making them seem cat-like to some owners.

  • Intelligent: They are sharp and quick learners. However, their intelligence combined with their independence can sometimes manifest as stubbornness. They might not always obey commands, especially if they don’t see the point.

  • Curious: Basenjis are naturally inquisitive. They love to explore their surroundings and can be quite investigative, often leading to mischievous behaviors if not given appropriate outlets or supervision.

  • Reserved with Strangers: Typically, Basenjis are wary or indifferent towards strangers. While they’re not overly aggressive, they might not be the most welcoming to unfamiliar people initially.

  • Affectionate with Family: Despite their independent streak, Basenjis are loyal and can be quite affectionate with their immediate family members. They often form strong bonds with their primary caregivers.

  • Playful: They have a playful side and enjoy engaging in games with their families. Their hunting background gives them a pronounced prey drive, so they love chasing toys or participating in play that mimics hunting behaviors.

  • Alert: Their keen senses, especially sight and hearing, make them very alert to their surroundings. This alertness, combined with their natural wariness of strangers, can make them good watchdogs.

  • Quiet: One of the most notable characteristics of the Basenji is its lack of a traditional bark. Instead, they make a unique yodel-like sound, known as a “barroo.” However, they can still make other noises like growls or whines.

  • Adaptable: Basenjis can adapt well to various living conditions. Whether it’s an apartment or a house with a yard, as long as they receive adequate exercise and mental stimulation, they’ll adjust.

while the Basenji can be a challenge due to its independent and sometimes stubborn nature, with proper training, socialization, and understanding, they can be wonderful companions that offer a unique pet ownership experience. Potential Basenji owners should be prepared for an intelligent, curious, and sometimes mischievous companion.

How to Care for a Basenji

Caring for a Basenji requires a balanced diet, consistent training, and regular exercise to cater to their moderate energy levels. Their short coat demands minimal grooming, but attention to ears, nails, and teeth is essential. Early socialization and training, using positive reinforcement, are crucial given their independent nature. Providing mental stimulation through toys and activities is vital due to their intelligence, and a secure environment is a must to prevent escapes, given their agility and curiosity. Detail analysis of “How to care your favorite pet” below:

The Basenji’s sleek coat is low-maintenance, mirroring cat-like self-cleaning tendencies. While they naturally lack the typical doggy odor, regular basic grooming ensures their health and refined appearance.

  1. Coat Brushing:

    • The Basenji has a short, fine coat that is relatively low-maintenance.
    • Brush the coat once a week using a soft-bristle brush or a grooming mitt. This helps remove loose hairs, distributes natural oils, and keeps the coat shiny.
  2. Bathing:

    • Basenjis are often likened to cats in their grooming habits and lack of typical dog odor.
    • Bathe them only when necessary, such as when they get into mud or something smelly. Overbathing can strip their coat of essential oils.
    • Use a mild dog shampoo, ensuring it’s thoroughly rinsed out, followed by a conditioner if needed.
  3. Ears:

    • Check their ears weekly for dirt, redness, or signs of infection.
    • Clean the ears using a vet-approved ear cleaner and cotton balls or pads. Avoid using cotton swabs, as they can push debris further into the ear or damage the eardrum.
  4. Teeth:

    • Dental health is crucial for overall health.
    • Brush the Basenji’s teeth several times a week with a dog-specific toothbrush and toothpaste.
    • Providing dental chews and toys can also help in maintaining good dental hygiene.
  5. Nails:

    • Trim the nails every 3-4 weeks or as needed. If you can hear the nails clicking on the floor, they’re too long.
    • Use a dog-specific nail clipper, and be careful not to cut into the quick (the pink part inside the nail), as it can be painful and bleed.
  6. Eyes:

    • Wipe the area around the eyes with a soft, damp cloth to remove any dirt or discharge.
    • Always use a separate cloth or a different part of the cloth for each eye to prevent any potential spread of infection.
  7. Tail:

    • The Basenji’s tightly curled tail generally doesn’t need specific grooming, but ensure it’s clean, especially around the base.

Regular grooming not only ensures the Basenji looks its best but also provides an opportunity to check for signs of health issues, like skin infections, tumors, or issues with the nails, teeth, or ears. Always use grooming as a bonding time and reward your Basenji with treats or praise for good behavior during the process.

Training a Basenji can be both a rewarding and challenging endeavor. Known for their intelligence and independent nature, Basenjis often display a curious mix of eagerness to learn and a streak of stubbornness. Early socialization and consistent, positive reinforcement-based training are essential. Using treats, praise, and play as rewards can be effective. It’s vital to establish leadership and set boundaries early on, ensuring the Basenji understands expected behaviors. While they might sometimes exhibit selective hearing, persistence and patience are key. Remember, short, frequent training sessions are more effective than prolonged ones, keeping the Basenji engaged and motivated.

  1. Start Early:
    Begin training and socializing your Basenji as a puppy. This early exposure to different people, places, and experiences will shape a well-rounded and adaptable adult dog.

  2. Consistency is Key:
    Basenjis thrive on routine and consistency. Make sure all family members use the same commands and reward behaviors uniformly to avoid confusing the dog.

  3. Positive Reinforcement
    Basenjis respond best to positive reinforcement techniques. Using treats, praise, and toys as rewards will yield better results than punitive methods, which can cause fear or defiance.

  4. Avoid Repetition:
    Their intelligence means they bore easily with repetitive tasks. Ensure training sessions are varied to keep them engaged and challenged.

  5. Short and Sweet Sessions:
    Instead of long training periods, opt for shorter, more frequent sessions. This approach maintains the Basenji’s interest and prevents them from becoming overwhelmed or bored.

  6. Address Stubbornness:
    The breed’s independent nature can sometimes come off as stubbornness. If your Basenji is resistant to a command, redirect its attention and try a different approach or return to it later.

  7. Recall Training:
    Given their hunting background and strong prey drive, recall training (getting your dog to come when called) is crucial. This ensures safety when off-leash in permitted areas.

  8. Socialization:
    Expose your Basenji to various environments, people, and other animals. Positive experiences during their formative months will help prevent timidity or aggression in adulthood.

  9. Obedience Classes:
    Consider enrolling your Basenji in a basic obedience class. This not only helps with training but also provides excellent socialization opportunities.

  10. Behavioral Issues:
    Address any behavioral issues immediately. Whether it’s excessive yodeling, chewing, or resource guarding, timely intervention using appropriate training methods will prevent these behaviors from becoming ingrained habits.

  1. Patience and Understanding:
    Recognize and appreciate the unique characteristics of the Basenji breed. Training might require more patience compared to other breeds, but understanding their history and traits will make the process more rewarding for both owner and dog.

In essence, while training a Basenji requires a bit more effort and patience, the bond formed through understanding and effective communication makes the journey worthwhile. As with all breeds, the goal is a happy, well-adjusted, and obedient companion.

Basenjis thrive on a high-quality, balanced diet that meets their age-specific needs. Whether you opt for commercial dog food or home-cooked meals, ensure meat is a primary ingredient and avoid fillers or toxic foods. Portion control is vital to maintain their optimal weight, and treats should be used sparingly. Always provide fresh water and consult with a vet regarding any special dietary needs or supplements.

  1. Balanced Commercial Food:

    • Opt for high-quality commercial dog food that lists meat (like chicken, beef, fish, or lamb) as the primary ingredient. Ensure it doesn’t have fillers, artificial additives, or low-quality by-products.
  2. Age-Specific Diet:

    • Puppies, adults, and senior Basenjis have different nutritional requirements. Ensure the food you choose is appropriate for your dog’s age.
  3. Home-Cooked Meals:

    • If you’re inclined to provide home-cooked meals, consult with a veterinarian or a pet nutritionist to ensure a balanced diet. Incorporate lean meats, healthy grains, and vegetables, avoiding foods toxic to dogs like onions, grapes, and chocolate.
  4. Controlled Portions:

    • Basenjis are active but can become overweight if overfed. Measure their food and feed them twice a day to maintain a healthy weight. Avoid leaving food out for free access unless specifically advised by your vet.
  5. Healthy Treats:

    • Use treats sparingly, ideally as rewards during training. Opt for healthy options, like pieces of carrot, green beans, or dog-specific treats. Avoid feeding them human snacks or foods high in fat, salt, or sugar.
  6. Fresh Water:

    • Ensure your Basenji always has access to fresh and clean water. Change the water daily and clean the bowl regularly to prevent bacterial growth.
  7. Special Dietary Needs:

    • Some Basenjis may have specific dietary requirements due to health issues. Conditions like allergies or gastrointestinal issues might necessitate special diets. Always consult with a vet if you suspect dietary adjustments are needed.
  8. Bone and Joint Health:

    • Given the Basenji’s active nature, consider foods or supplements fortified with glucosamine and chondroitin to support joint health, especially in older dogs.
  9. Omega Fatty Acids:

    • For a shiny coat and healthy skin, foods rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids can be beneficial. This can come from fish oil, flaxseed, or specifically formulated commercial foods.
  10. Avoid Toxic Foods:
    There are several human foods that are toxic to dogs. These include chocolate, caffeine, grapes, raisins, onions, garlic, xylitol (a sweetener), and alcoholic beverages, among others. Always be cautious and avoid giving your Basenji scraps from the table.

Regular vet check-ups and discussions about your Basenji’s weight and overall health will help in determining the best diet and nutritional plan. Adjustments to their diet might be required based on age, activity level, and health conditions.

Originating from Central Africa, the Basenji is an ancient breed with a lineage tied to hunting and tracking. This energetic and agile dog has exercise needs that, when met, ensure a happy and well-adjusted companion.

  1. Daily Walks:

    • Regular walks are essential for Basenjis. A brisk 30-minute walk twice a day not only caters to their physical needs but also provides ample opportunity for exploration and sensory stimulation.
  2. Playtime:

    • Play is intrinsic to the Basenji’s nature. Engage them in interactive games such as fetch, tug-of-war, and even hide-and-seek. Their hunting background makes toys that mimic prey movements particularly enticing.
  3. Off-Leash Play:

    • Given a safe environment, like a securely fenced yard, a Basenji will relish the opportunity to run freely. However, their innate curiosity and prey drive necessitate caution, ensuring they can’t escape or chase after wildlife.
  4. Mental Exercise:

    • Their sharp intellect demands mental challenges. Puzzle toys, training sessions, and hide-and-seek games can keep their minds active and prevent boredom-induced behaviors.
  5. Social Interaction:

    • Regular interaction with other dogs, whether through playdates or visits to dog parks, can be beneficial for their social skills. However, always supervise to ensure positive interactions.
  6. Training and Agility:

    • Basenjis can excel in agility courses, lure coursing, and other dog sports. These activities provide both physical exertion and mental stimulation, making them a perfect outlet for their energy.

In essence, a well-exercised Basenji is not just a healthy one but also a content and harmonious companion. Balancing physical activity with mental challenges ensures they remain stimulated, satisfied, and bonded with their owners.

The Basenji, with its rich history rooted in Central Africa’s landscapes, has specific environmental needs that, when met, contribute to its well-being and happiness.

  1. Secure Fencing:

    • Basenjis are agile climbers and can easily scale lower fences. A secure yard with a high fence is crucial to prevent them from escaping and chasing after perceived prey.
  2. Interactive Spaces:

    • Their inquisitive nature means they’ll benefit from a stimulating environment. Spaces with toys, interactive elements, and varied terrains can engage their minds and bodies.
  3. Warmth:

    • Originating from a warm climate, Basenjis are more sensitive to cold. They appreciate a cozy indoor space during colder months, and in especially frigid climates, might benefit from wearing a dog coat when outside.
  4. Indoor Living:

    • While they enjoy outdoor play, Basenjis are indoor dogs at heart. They thrive when they’re part of family activities and should be provided with a comfortable resting space inside the home.
  5. Social Environment:

    • Basenjis are social creatures that bond deeply with their families. An environment where they have regular interactions with their human companions or even other pets is ideal.
  6. Mental Stimulation:

    • Spaces that provide mental challenges, like puzzle toys or hide-and-seek games, will cater to their sharp intellect and prevent boredom.
  7. Safety from Hazards:

    • Their curiosity can sometimes lead them into trouble. Ensure the environment is free from potential hazards like toxic plants, accessible garbage, or small items they might ingest.
  8. Adaptable to Urban Living:

    • While they appreciate open spaces, Basenjis can adapt well to apartment living as long as their exercise and mental stimulation needs are met.

In summary, the ideal environment for a Basenji is one that balances secure physical spaces with mental challenges and provides ample warmth and social interaction. Regular interaction with their human family, combined with a stimulating and safe environment, will ensure a content and well-adjusted Basenji.

Basenji Health

1. Fanconi Syndrome: A condition that stealthily creeps into the kidneys, Fanconi Syndrome disturbs the dog’s renal tubules, affecting the kidneys’ ability to retain essential nutrients.

  • Symptoms: Imagine feeling thirsty constantly. A Basenji with Fanconi often drinks water excessively, resulting in frequent urination.
  • Management: While there’s no magic cure, you can create a manageable routine with dietary adjustments and regular vet visits. Picture the joy when you know those kidney functions and electrolyte levels are stable!

2. Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): The gradual dimming of sight is heart-wrenching. PRA is a slow actor, diminishing the retina’s function over time.

  • Symptoms: If your Basenji starts bumping into furniture at night or appears hesitant in dimly lit areas, it’s a hint.
  • Management: It’s all about comfort and safety. While science hasn’t found a solution, creating a consistent home environment helps them navigate with ease.

3. Hip Dysplasia: When the snug fit of the thigh bone into the hip joint is disrupted, discomfort ensues. It’s a flaw in the architecture, which can sometimes lead to arthritis.

  • Symptoms: A slight limp or reluctance to jump and play are tell-tale signs.
  • Management: Think of it as managing a chronic knee problem in humans. Medications, weight control, and possibly surgery are the pathways to relief.

4. Hypothyroidism: It’s like the thyroid, the body’s thermostat, not working at its full potential.

  • Symptoms: Weight gain without a change in appetite, a lackluster coat, and a love for long naps are signals.
  • Management: It’s manageable with medication. Regular vet visits to adjust doses make a world of difference!

5. Hemolytic Anemia: In a twist of fate, the body sometimes turns against its own, destroying red blood cells faster than producing them.

  • Symptoms: Your energetic Basenji turning sluggish, pale gums, and a rapid heart rate.
  • Management: Swift medical intervention with medications and, in severe instances, transfusions can pull them through.

6. Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency (PKD): In simple terms, an enzyme goof-up affects the lifespan of red blood cells.

  • Symptoms: Your Basenji appearing unusually tired or yellowing of the eyes.
  • Management: Dietary support and occasional transfusions in severe cases can offer a quality life.

7. Umbilical Hernias: Sometimes, a small pouch near the belly button doesn’t close up as it should, leading to a tiny protrusion.

  • Symptoms: A soft lump at the belly button.
  • Management: Often, nature takes its course, and it resolves. If not, a vet might suggest surgery.

While these health issues sound daunting, remember that love, regular check-ups, a nutritious diet, and early detection can ensure your Basenji leads a fulfilling life. Their charming, playful nature combined with your care can make for joyful years together! Always lean on your vet for guidance and support.

Basenji Breed Comparison and Consideration

1. Basenji vs. Shiba Inu:

  • Temperament: Both breeds are known for their independence. While Basenjis are more reserved, Shiba Inus are more spirited and might exhibit a touch of stubbornness.
  • Size: Shiba Inus are a tad smaller than Basenjis but have a thicker coat.
  • Maintenance: Basenjis self-groom, much like cats, and shed minimally. Shiba Inus, with their double coat, shed more, especially during shedding seasons.
  • Training: Both breeds require patience during training, given their independent natures. Positive reinforcement works best for both.

2. Basenji vs. Whippet:

  • Temperament: While Basenjis are curious and alert, Whippets are more laid-back and gentle. Whippets, however, also have a strong prey drive when outdoors.
  • Size: Whippets are slightly larger and have a more slender, athletic build designed for speed.
  • Maintenance: Both breeds have short coats and are relatively low-maintenance in grooming.
  • Training: Whippets might be a bit more receptive to training compared to the independent Basenji.

3. Basenji vs. Beagle:

  • Temperament: Beagles are friendly and outgoing, whereas Basenjis have a more aloof and reserved nature.
  • Size: Both breeds are similar in size, though Beagles might be a bit sturdier.
  • Maintenance: Beagles shed more than Basenjis and don’t have the same cat-like grooming habits.
  • Training: Beagles can be stubborn and easily distracted, especially by scents, while Basenjis require consistency due to their independence.

Key Considerations for Potential Basenji Owners:

  • Exercise Needs: Basenjis are active and require regular exercise. However, their strong prey drive means they should be exercised in secure areas or on a leash.
  • Training: Basenjis can be a challenge to train due to their independent nature. Early socialization and training are crucial.
  • Grooming: One of the lowest maintenance breeds in terms of grooming, but regular check-ups are essential due to potential breed-specific health issues.
  • Environment: Basenjis are adaptable and can thrive in apartments, given their exercise needs are met. They also have a strong aversion to cold and appreciate warmth.
  • Social Needs: While independent, Basenjis bond closely with their families and prefer not to be left alone for extended periods.

In essence, while Basenjis have unique attributes that set them apart, like any breed, understanding their specific needs and characteristics will ensure a harmonious and fulfilling relationship. Comparing them to other breeds provides a perspective to potential owners, helping them make an informed choice.


Apart from the unique “baroo” sound, Basenjis use a range of vocalizations, body language, and facial expressions to communicate.

Yes, Basenjis can adapt well to apartment living, provided they receive adequate daily exercise and mental stimulation.

It’s a unique trait of the breed. They tend to lick their paws and fur, keeping themselves clean, which also reduces the typical dog odor.

Generally, Basenjis aren’t fond of water and might avoid getting wet. However, individual preferences can vary.

Originating from warm climates, Basenjis are sensitive to cold. In cooler weather, they might require protective clothing and should be kept indoors.

Yes, their agility and intelligence can make them adept at escaping from yards or enclosures. Secure fencing and supervision are essential.

Like most dogs, Basenjis prefer company. If left alone for too long, they might become bored or anxious, leading to undesirable behaviors.

Yes, given their hunting origins, Basenjis possess a strong prey drive and might chase after smaller animals.

Their alert and curious nature combined with their wariness of strangers make them good watchdogs, though they might not bark like other breeds.

Top Takeaways

The Basenji, often labeled as the “barkless dog,” stands out due to its unique yodel-like “baroo” and cat-like grooming habits. Hailing from Central Africa, this breed carries a rich history and an unmistakable aura of independence. While they can adapt well to apartment living, their strong prey drive and inherent curiosity demand secure spaces and regular exercise. Their distinct lack of barking doesn’t make them any less expressive; Basenjis communicate vividly through varied vocalizations and body language. However, their independent streak means training requires patience and consistency. As for health, while they’re generally robust, awareness of specific genetic conditions like Fanconi Syndrome is essential for potential owners.

Top Basenjis Names

These are the top Basenjis names as chosen by Pawstray pet parents!

Female Names


Ginger Adam









Male Names











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