Ellie and Alex smiling for the cameraBasenjis - the African
barkless dogs

NewThis page will answer some general questions about Basenjis.

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Basenji FAQ's

Click on one of the links below to jump to a specific section or just read down the page.

Why don't basenjis bark?
The voice box of a basenji is narrower and more uniform in diameter than most dogs, so basenjis will make noise but they don't usually force it out all at once as a bark.  They do make many other sounds such as howling, whining and growling.

Where do basenjis come from?
Cave drawings in north Africa indicate basenjis have been around since prior to 6000 BC, that is more than 8000 years ago.  Artifacts of a dog like a basenji that I saw in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, indicate that during the "Old Kingdom" of Egyptian civilization, basenjis were used to hunt wild game.  Many fewer artifacts of basenjis have be found that date back to the Middle or New Kingdom of Egyptian civilization. To me, this suggests that, as Egyptian society evolved an agricultural economy, the people no longer needed hunting dogs.  From the Middle Kingdom to the New Kingdom, dogs represented in sculptures, paintings and other artifacts are physically bigger than basenjis. 

Were the basenjis replaced by larger dogs to guard property? Certainly, as Egyptian civilization advanced, their need for a small adept hunting dog diminished. In fact as a basenji owner who has seen his dogs harass cattle, it is not unreasonable to imagine basenjis interfering with rather than supporting livestock husbandry. 

Where did they go?
In any event, evidence of basenjis vanishes from Egyptian history by the end of the New Kingdom and conquest by the Romans.  Apparently basenjis moved south into the heart of the African continent. Actually, for all we know, basenjis may have originated in central Africa and might have been brought to North Africa. But as far as I know, no evidence exists to support such a theory.  In any case, western European accounts of a jungle dog that doesn't bark were first reported in the mid-18th century.  During the colonial period of the 19th century, a few basenjis were taken out of Africa and brought to England.  Unfortunately, the effort resulted in the dogs' deaths probably from distemper or parvo or any number of diseases for which basenjis had no immunity. 

How did Basenjis come to the US?
It wasn't until the interwar period of the late 1930's when a distemper vaccine was developed that English colonists returning to the UK from Africa, successfully introduced basenjis.  An English woman by the name of Veronica Tudor Williams is credited with keeping basenjis alive in England during the Second World War and promoting the breed.  About the same time, basenjis were introduced in the United States by Americans traveling to England and have been recognized by the American Kennel Club since 1943. 

Basenjis must be great pets!

Well, they don't shed much and don't need much grooming. A bath once in a while is fine.  But their independent temperament and hunting instincts frequently get them into trouble.  They are masters of escape and some can even jump a six foot fence.  Once they get loose, they are fast and will roam for miles.  Most basenjis live in homes where they get a chance to run around during the day and really need a fenced yard.

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