Basenji: Ancient African hunting dog
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:
have tightly curled tail
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