They are nature's "barkless dogs," known for their silent, curious nature. They also are called "Congo dogs." Basenjis small, alert, playful pets - come from the heart of Africa near the headwaters of the continent's two greatest rivers, the Congo and Nile. In African tongues, their name is translated to mean "dog of the village" or "dog of the bush."
Basenjis were acclimated in Great Britain in 1937 and in Canada and the United States the following year.
Cave art more than 2,000 years old in Libya and other countries depicts dogs that resemble Basenjis. Based on archaeological evidence, some dog historians suggest the Basenji's ancestors may have lived during the Stone Age.
Ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian stone and bronze art depict Basenji-like dogs. Some researchers believe Basenjis were royal pets of the pharaohs.
The modern-era Basenji comes from central Africa. In the 1860s, naturalist Georg August Schweinfurth described a small dog breed he saw there.
It had short, sleek hair, "ears that are large and always erect, and a short curly tail." Because it did not bark, the Nyan-Nyam tribe who had domesticated it collared it with small bells so it wouldn't become lost in the tall grass.
Marked features include the Basenji's rumpled forehead and tightly curled tail. It has short fur, fine and shiny. The skull is flat, the neck extended, the back level. The animal's ears are perpetually pricked and open toward the front. It has slanted eyes, brown or hazel.
Basenjis are of different colors. The most common are brown, black or red coats with white breasts, feet and tail tips. Coats also may be copper, chestnut, tan or brindle.
Male Basenjis grow to an average height of 17 inches at the shoulder top, females to 16 inches. Males weigh about 24 pounds and females slightly less.
Basenjis are intelligent, inquisitive, athletic and tireless. African tribes long have valued Basenjis as hunting and watch dogs, and award them great respect. In western cultures, they usually are classified as hounds. Basenjis excel at scent field trailing and lure coursing.
They are possessive and, when living with other pets in a household, persist in being first and favored. With a singular charm and an uncanny skill of knowing how to deploy it, they frequently get their own way.
Chew toys are favorite distractions for Basenjis. Energetic to the point of acrobatic, Basenjis are adroit at slipping collars and scaling fences. They love to go on long daily walks and explorations.
Basenjis are affectionate pets. They are noted for their love of theft, playful disobedience and other mischief, and for their almost human sense of humor.
While they love to play pranks, stealing a sock from a clothes basket and hiding with it under a bed they also desire to please their owners. When scolded, they show remorse and seem to beseech forgiveness.
Although Basenjis are noted for their silence, they do have vocal chords. Some growl and snarl ferociously. They also howl, yodel (a "barroo" sound), whine, "crow" playfully and shriek when hurt.
Basenjis exhibit an almost catlike attention to cleanliness, regularly grooming their feet and coat. They have little or no odor.
Owners quickly learn that Basenjis are finicky about conditions around them. For example, they do not like to go outside on rainy days.