Basenji: Ancient African hunting dog

Portrait of Basenji puppy showing breeds distinctive wrinkled forehead.
Portrait of Basenji puppy showing breeds distinctive wrinkled forehead. | Source Jiving Jasper Jiving Jasper | Source

DNA evidence has given strong evidence that modern domestic dogs originated with the gray wolf. In 1993 according to the website “History and Evolution of dogs,“ the reference “Mammal Species of the World” has reclassified dogs in 1993 from Canis Familiaris to Canis Lupus. Basically this is the scientific definition of the dog being of common DNA to the Grey Wolf, thus recognizing that dogs are related genetically to wolves. Possibly one of the most ancient dog breeds is the basenji, an African hunting dog. Dogs can be traced back as far as 10 or 15 thousands of years through remains that have been found. Wolfs hunted in packs as did early humans. The first domestic dogs appear to have been hunting dogs, such as the basenji, which originated in central Africa and is classified as a hound type by major English speaking kennel clubs. More specifically they are what is known as sighthounds or gazehounds. They look for game by looking or gazing on the horizon and find game by sight rather than scent. Naturally they would have good vision with a long jaw and neck to help sight game. According to Wikipedia the ancestor of the basenji would have come from Eastern Asia and evolved from Chinese or Southeast Asian wolves.

Cave paintings dating back to about 6000 B.C. In Libya show pariah dogs similar to the basenji. As early as 6000 B.C. Egyptians basenji like relics appear to be wearing hunting bells which are still used in Africa.

Around 1868 Dr. Schweinfurth traveled Africa and wrote about domestic animals. One of these appears to be a basenji. They were found among hunters and not pastoral people.. The dogs were often found among the Pygmies who are one of the oldest people and cultures in Africa.


It is unknown which breed of dog is the oldest but fourteen breeds have been identified as ancient breeds, one of which is the basenji. They have been called the “bark less dog.” because it's a larynx causes the dog to make a yodeling kind of sound instead of a barking sound. It is possible that the barking was deliberately bred out of these dogs since barking could have attracted enemies. Rows of wrinkles on their cheeks and foreheads giving them sort of a puzzled look.

These dogs are:




erect ears,

have tightly curled tail

graceful neck

typically 24lbs

16 in. at withers

square, length and height being the same

athletic and powerful

graceful with confident gait

have double extension gallop

colors-red, black, tri-color, and brindle.






reserved with strangers

The breed was originally from an old growth forest region of the Congo basin and adapted to the environment they lived in becoming a type of dog. They evolved and survived as a constant type because they were good hunting dogs, useful to their masters. Due to the kind of hunting done they had to be able to think without constant commands as they would hunt outside of the sight of their owners, driving game into nets for their owners.

Articles were published in the early 21st Century concerning the DNA evidence relating to various breeds. This dog was determined to be an early canine development. They are a highly intelligent dog that survived for its usefulness as an all purpose hunting dog. In my opinion, they are intelligent dogs because they are able to make decisions without a command from a human. This, however, can make a dog hard to train because they may not understand a problem the same way the human does. Siberian Huskies, for example, were bred to be independent because they may see a problem like thin ice that the master does not recognize. Thus the dog would not go out on the dangerous ice, even if the master wants him to. A Border Collie, as a herding dog, also has to make decisions outside the sight of the owner.

Dogs similar to basenji were brought to England and were called Congo Terriers. They were not ideal basenji type by today’s standards. Some of them were shown in 1895 as “African Bush dogs” or Congo Terriers. These dogs died from the distemper shots received in quarantine.. More imports followed in 1838 and 1839. Development of the breed was interrupted by World War II. In 1937 the breed started to develop more in the U.S. and Canada.

Basenji are smart, sighthound hunting dogs that originated in Africa. They are one of several breeds that are the oldest known breeds of dogs and descended from the gray wolf. They are alert, affectionate, energetic, curious but reserved with strangers.

Sources of information: Wikipedia

Basenji University Website

Copyright 2012 Don Hoglund

© 2012 Don A. Hoglund

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Comments 30 comments

carolinemd21 profile image

carolinemd21 4 years ago from Close to Heaven

I had to comment on your hub once I saw that picture of the beautiful dog! He is so cute. Very interesting and informative hub on these dogs. Voted up!

dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thanks for being first to comment, carolinemd. The basenji does have an interesting history.

JKenny profile image

JKenny 4 years ago from Birmingham, England

What a fascinating dog. You can definitely see the wolf in it. Amazing how they developed a wrinkled forehead when they are such an ancient breed. Voted up.

dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Hi JKenny.My wife recalled seeing one at a time we were looking for a dog in the shelters. She thought the noise they make was less desirable than the barking. Thanks for commenting.

timmathisen profile image

timmathisen 4 years ago from the Land of Lincoln

Cool dog. I like the wrinkles and think it adds character. But I was a bit surprised about the sound of the dog's "yodeling," though. Voted up as well.

dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

timmathisen, Thank you for your comments. For whatever reasons, the early hunters did not find a barking dog useful to them.

Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

I enjoyed this one and have to admit that I have read loads on them I have never actually seen one.

As for the yodelling my beagle Lassie used to do that;it is so comical.

Thanks for sharing;take care and enjoy your day.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thanks Eddy. Except for the one my wife saw at a shelter, I don't believe we have seen any either.Take care.

Gloshei profile image

Gloshei 4 years ago from France

What a lovely dog so cute, hard to believe they were used for hunting.

Did not know much about these thanks for sharing this information.

dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Glosher, thanks for commenting. I believe all or most dogs had a functional job, such as hunting, until recent times.

moonlake profile image

moonlake 4 years ago from America

So cute and such an interesting dog. Enjoyed your hub.

dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Hi moonlake. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

Hi Don,

This was interesting reading about the Basenji dog but I must say...that guy in the video must be crazy! He is just lucky that the dog didn't bite his face. He was certainly teasing the dog! Voted up, interesting and will share.

billips profile image

billips 4 years ago from Central Texas

A very nice article - who could not fall in love with that face - many years ago we nearly got a Basenji - decided against it when we heard that they were hard to train - I think they probably just need a job to do - also I am not famous for my dog training skills - regards - B.

dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Hi Peggy. I appreciate the comment and sharing. You may be right about the video. I'll try another one.

dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Hi billips. You were probably well advised to not get one if you had any doubts about your training ability. Itelligent dogs are hard to train because they have minds of their won In some dogs their instinct might go against the training. Siberian Huskies are hard to train because they have been bred to look out for dangers that their handlers might miss, like driving a sled over thin ice.

John Sarkis profile image

John Sarkis 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

This is such a cute dog. I'd love to own something exotic for a change. I've never had a dog/cat; I've had plenty of aquariums. Thanks for the history lesson.

Voted up


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Hi John. If you decide to get a dog it would be best to spend some time familiarizing yourself with some different breeds and finding which you would find compatibly. Dogs to require some work such as walking and exercising, training and grooming.Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 4 years ago from the short journey

We understand from some owners that the basenji is quite a handful--high maintenance on every level, but I wonder how relative that is. Their vocal abilities are pretty interesting. Thanks for a neat look at an unusual dog. They are cute, but that's just to fool you into thinking they are like other dogs!

dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Hi RTallon, Dogs that are bred for independent thinking and action will be "a handful" Smart dogs can be like prodigy kids with more answers than you thought possible.Thanks for reading and commenting.

prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 4 years ago from malang-indonesia

Great review about Basenji. Brother, your hub is so informative. It's a wonderful dog. I had never seen this dog around me. Thanks for share with us. Good job and rated up!


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

prasetio,thanks for reading this hub about the basenji dog.They are not a real common dog but interesting.I appreciate the rating.

bethperry profile image

bethperry 4 years ago from Tennesee

Aw, what cute dogs! Loved reading about them, thanks for posting.

dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thanks for commenting bethperry. Glad you enjoyed reading about the basenji. they are a bit unusual.

Skarlet profile image

Skarlet 4 years ago from California

I have two basenjis. They are so smart that they often challenge me. I absolutely love how quiet they are. Great hub

dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Skarlet, thanks for commenting. I am learning about dog breeds by researching and writing about them. The basinji was new to me. Enjoy your dog. I don't think I can handle anotehr dog that is smarter than I am.

Skarlet profile image

Skarlet 4 years ago from California

Haha. I know what you mean. They are great dogs though. My female is the smart one that challenges, the male is just a cream puff. He has not given me any trouble or challenge. No chewing, no potty training issues, and of course never barking. One of my friends is allergic to animal dander and my dogs are the only ones she can actually pet without having a reaction.

dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

We used to have a border Collie mix that did things because she was bored, I think. One was putting dog food in my shoes to see how I would react. Another was when she was tied out she would get the lead tangled around the clothes pole. This made it necessary for someone to go out and undo her.We finally figured out that she did it on purpose.

Generally I like most dogs and believe it is a matter of matching the dog to the owner as far as needs on both sides.

SavannahEve profile image

SavannahEve 3 years ago from California

Aaahhhh!!! I grew up with Basenjis. Fantastic hub. Lovely! Thank you!

dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 3 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

SavannaEve, Glad you enjoy them. I've never had one, but I bet they are good dogs.

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