Basenji – The Ultimate Guide To The African Barkless Dog

Written by: Bojana Radulovic
Basenji is a highly intelligent and active dog that can climb trees. Yes, climb trees! This dog is known as the "barkless" dog, originally from Africa. Basenji is known for keen eyesight and excellent sense of smell. Discover everything there’s to know about this interesting hunting dog and read on!
Dog Breed Group:
Hound Dogs
16 to 17 inches tall at the shoulder
22 to 24 pounds
Life Span:
10 to 12 years

Breed Characteristics:

Apartment Friendly


How well will this breed adapt to apartment living? Is the apartment size the most important factor when it comes to proper living conditions? Is the breed suitable for apartment living?

Good For First-Time Owners


Some dogs aren't suitable for first-time dog owners. Is this breed a good match for someone with no dog experience? Can training help them be on their best behavior with owners with no dog experience? Are they suitable to be handled by someone who is just entering the canine world?

Overall Sensitivity


Some dogs are sensitive. Certain breeds are rough on the outside, while having the softest heart on the inside. In other words, some dogs are 'thick-skinned' while some are 'easygoing.' Is this breed prone to sensitivity?

Tolerates Being Alone


Separation anxiety in dogs is a serious condition that can affect a dog's life quality. Is this breed prone to this condition? Can you leave him alone for hours? How destructive this breed can become when bored, neglected, or not loved enough?

Affectionate With Family


How affectionate this breed will be around his humans? Will he welcome new family friends easily or he will choose to be shy? Some breeds can be clingy with owners, while others don't attach a lot. Will this breed act as the family's best friend?



Some dogs will tolerate children, while others will adore well-behaved ones. Dogs and children should always be supervised, no matter how well trained the dog might be. Will this breed act as a nanny dog or he will stay away from children?

Friendly Toward Other Dogs


Some dog breeds cannot wait to run to the dog park and run with others. Others prefer to be with their humans, and not to be a part of a multi-pet household. Is this breed dog lover or not? How friendly this breed will be toward other dogs?

Friendly Toward Strangers


Some dog breeds tend to be reserved toward strangers and highly suspicious. Others are fast to walk away with them easily. How welcoming this breed is toward strangers?

Drooling Level


If you love to clean all the time drooling level in dogs is a trait that you should mind. Is this breed less likely to drool, or you will always need a towel on hand?

Easy To Groom


Heavier shedding during the shedding season is something that every dog needs to go through. However, some dogs shed just a bit all year round. Is this breed one of them? How often should you groom this dog?

Overall Health


What can you expect from this breed in terms of health? Are there any genetic conditions to vary about? Is obesity a major issue in this breed? By knowing more about the dog's health, you are learning how to help him live a longer and healthier life.

Prone To Obesity


Treats are a great addition to training sessions. Dogs love sweet bites of dog treats but they should be served in moderation. Treats can lead to obesity, next to poor nutrition. Can this breed gain extra weight from treats? How prone to obesity this breed actually is?

Trainability Level


Training some dogs is easier than others. How easy this dog will be to train? What can you expect? Some dogs are huge people pleasers and they will master commands easily, while others will try to outsmart you.

Intelligence Level


Dogs are smart beings. We do our best to train them, but they do still end up training us to adapt to their needs. How intelligent is this breed? Will he try to outsmart you? Or he will need multiple training sessions to master basic commands?

Prey Drive


Dogs were bred for a specific purpose. Those who were bred to hunt have natural instincts to hunt, even today. This is why many dogs, like Terriers, will chase other animals. They will also have a hard time concentrating on your commands when there is something small moving. Is this breed prone to following his prey instincts?

Barking Level


How vocal this breed is? Can you expect neighbors to ring you often to calm your dog? Or you can sleep without worries of hearing your Fido bark? Some breeds are highly vocal, others have unusual sounds, and some are silent. Is this breed prone to barking?

Energy Level


Low-energy dogs are happy with regular walks and indoor chill times. High-energy dogs are always ready for action. Is this breed a couch potato, energetic dog, or somewhere in between?

Exercise Needs


Some dogs are more than happy with a slow stroll down the street. Others need hours of active time to stay happy and fit. Is this breed demanding in terms of exercise? How much exercise this breed needs to stay happy and healthy?

Playfulness Level


Some dogs never lose that puppy spirit, not even in their senior years. Others are more serious and prefer having a job to do. Is this breed demanding in terms of playfulness? Can you expect playfulness in their senior years as well?

A Basenji, also known as a “barkless” dog, is a dog with a short coat, a small and muscular body, and a tail curled tightly over one hip. He is an in-house dog, with high intelligence that requires a lot of your time and exercises. But, is this dog breed for everyone? Can it be with other pets and left alone?

Learn more about this interesting bread and discover if a Basenji is the right dog for you!

Quick Facts

Real name: Basenji
Other names: Barkless Dog
Origin: Congo
Breed type: Hound Dogs
Weight: 9-11 kg (22 to 24 pounds)
Height: female 16 inches, male 17 inches
Lifespan: 10 – 12 years
Litter Size: 4 – 6 puppies
Color: Chestnut red, pure black, tricolour (pure black and chestnut red), or brindle
Coat: Short, soft coat

Contents [Hide]


This excellent watchdog was discovered in the region of Congo, somewhere in the 19th century. Basenjis were used to helping, to carry goods, the flush game into nets, and to warn people on other animals.

As a hunting breed, they were extremely independent and active. Interestingly, some tribes across Africa valued Basenji more than a wife, pointing out their hunting skills and ingenuity and resourcefulness.

Originally, the first Basenjis were red and white, tricolor, and black and white. They were bed to fight off lions, a skill that is seen in another breed as well – Boerboel.

People who loved the traits of this breed back in the 19th century wanted to take the breed to Europe and the United States. However, many attempts failed mostly because imported dogs died shortly after arrival. Finally, after numerous attempts, the first successful importation happened in the 1930s in both, England and the United States.

Like a hound dog, they learned how to be quiet as early people preferred quiet dogs during the hunt. Although this bread is well known as a barkless dog, it doesn’t mean that they do not bark. Barkless part means that, just like their far and distant relative wild wolf, Basenji barks only once and then is silent.

There is also a firm belief that Basenji is only partially domesticated, due to their live nature. Also, Basenji is one of the oldest breeds of domesticated dogs and it may be one of the reasons why they are so quiet.

This African breed got its first club in America in 1942, named The Basenji Club of America, while the American Kennel Club (AKC) acknowledged the breed in 1943 and registered the first Basenji in 1944. Basenji hound remains beloved but rare, ranking 84th among 155 breeds that are recognized by AKC.

Physical Appearance

Basenji may be a small breed in size, but don’t be fooled by his, because what Basenji lacks in size, he makes up for in unique personality!

On average Basenji, weight ranges from 22 to 24 pounds while the height is around 16 to 17 inches. They are known for extremely expressive face and compact body, making the run smooth and fast. Famous curled tail is their recognizable sign.

Apart from the obvious resemblance to the wolf and wolfdogs, these dogs have some physical traits similar to other hunting dogs, with a strong and muscular body. They are bigger than Basset Hound and smaller than an Azawakh.

What sets these dogs apart in their hunting breed family is their keen eyesight and extraordinary sense of smell. Furthermore, their bodies are muscle and well-developed.

Their ears are vertical, and softly wrinkled forehead makes them look worried all the time, although they’re really not. Most of Basenjis come in shades of red, black, brown or brindle.

Temperament and Personality

Before everything else, you need to understand that Basenji is a hound st first place. What does it mean actually? It means that your dog is highly intelligent and independent above every average.

However, intelligence in a combo with independence means that Basenji is a highly alert dog. He will chase whatever he sees that moves – from rabbits to cats. This is not the kind of dog who will obey you instantly. He needs to think what’s in it for him to obey you, and to decide it wants to do what you want.

Although you may not hear him barking often, when it happens you will be surprised every time to their yodel sound. This often funny noise with Basenjis cat-like traces and behaviors is one of the unique traits of their personality.

This dog is truly a cat-like when it comes to maintaining its coat, and you will have occasionally a feeling that you have a feline friend and not a haunt breed.

Basenjis are truly stubborn so proper socialization on time with this breed is crucial. This dog is extremely loving with family members and children which makes him a very friendly and playful family dog.

Well-socialized Basenji should get nicely with other household dogs, but you still should keep your dog on sight when its with other dogs and especially strangers. Furthermore, Basenji may not get on well in unfamiliar and adverse environments if he’s not properly socialized.

Humour is a must if your furry friend is Basenji, because he will chew up or slightly eat everything you leave around, and he is indeed capable of creating a plan of how to re-decorate your place. And if you keep doggie treats in a jar on the counter, he will think hard on the best way to grab them – either to jump on the kitchen counter or something else.

If you have other dogs they should get along nicely, but if you have a cat or other small animals your Basenji shouldn’t be trusted and left alone with them unless he’s raised with them and sees them as family members. Bear in mind that the same rules do not apply to small animals and cats seen outdoors.

Fast fact: Did you know that canine experts believe that Basenji, just like Malamutes, existed before the modern dogs?


Some breeds and brush-and-go-dogs, and luckily for your Basenji is one of them. Basenjis hair is fine, soft, short and odorless that doesn’t shed much. Basenjis breeders often refer to these dogs as cat-like, as they do a great deal of cleaning by them self. This traits only adds to their reputation of being dogs that don’t smell. That self-maintenance moments include a great deal of licking and silence. He barely needs a bath.

Fun fact: Basenjis like climbing up onto high places. Being cat-like and looking upon their kingdom much, no?

Basenji grooming is rather easy. A quick brushing with a soft brush once a week is enough. If you or any of your family members struggle with any sort of allergies, this dog is a great choice for anyone who suffers from any kind of allergies. Basenji is not a hypoallergenic dog, but its breed produces less allergy-inducing dander than numerous breeds.

The rest of the grooming is basic care. Spare a few minutes a week or two to trim the nails, brush the teeth frequently and have regular ear cleaning.


Like any other dog, Basenji needs training and early socialization. Especially when a dog has so determined mind as Basenji has. Early socialization and exposure to different sounds, experiences, sights, and different people when Basenji is young are crucial in making your hound breed a well-rounded dog.
Arm yourself with extra patience because this active dog with tons of energy requires it.

Training tips:

  • Make training sessions short and limit them from 5 to 10 minutes
  • Use praise, play and food rewards. Include your dog’s favourite candy
  • Be consistent
  • Create interesting training sessions, because if your Basenji hears something more interesting he is gone
  • Create a daily routine of long walks, alone or with doggy friends

This is the type of dog that needs a lot of exercise and running. Always bear in mind that Basenji is an extremely active breed, hardly pressing off button, especially in youth. Therefore, regular and plentiful activity is essential to keep your dog from becoming bored or even destructive.

A large fenced backyard would be your best support for your active dog. He would love being outside most of the day and do what doggies do the best. But it doesn’t mean that he would sleep outside, alone and left with a bowl of food and water.

Basenjis are part of a family and they see themselves as a part of your family’s pack, so use that devotion during your training sessions as you shower your Basenji with affection and love. And some exclusive sweets.

If you have kids, let them spend a lot of time together. They will spend that time wearing each other out. Even on hot days.

This dog origins from Africa and it’s in their nature to be fine on hot, while the rain is not seen as a friend and you’ll see a lot of grumpy faces when it rains and you’re walking. The only day to see your dog being happy for being wet is on an extraordinarily hot day.

Your active dog runs fast. Bear in mind that if your Basenji takes off the leash, you will not catch him, be assured.

Important: Do not leave your dog without supervision in a backyard, because this a feline-like spirit may use a chain link as a ladder easily.


Just like humans, dogs have a tendency to develop genetic health problems or to inherit it. Therefore, some daily regular actions should be taken into consideration in order to have a long and healthy life, such as daily and long walks, proper nutrition and preventive measures.

Lifespan for Basenji is between 12 to 14 years. Overall, Basenji is considered a healthy breed. However, there are few inheritable health issues that owners should just be aware of. Some of those issues may be:

  • Liver issues
  • Retinal Atrophy
  • Fanconi Syndrome
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Immunoproliferative systemic intestinal disease
  • Environmental chemical sensitivities

When you’re getting a puppy from a breeder you should be informed about your’s pup health condition. A breeder should also provide you with proper certificates. Also, you can do health screening by yourself. Remember that “vet checked” doesn’t stand for general health testing. The main benefit of early health screening is the avoidance of any inherited issues.

Good to know: You can get immediate insight into your’s puppy health by checking CHIC’s database to see if a breeder run all the tests.

Basenji is an active dog that runs a lot, so having a regular look on his hips is mandatory.

A healthy dog is a 24/7 job and your role is crucial in protecting him from one of the most spread health problems: obesity. Keep your dog weight in the balance as it’s one of the easiest ways to extend his life.

Do as much as you can to prevent what you can and to ensure a healthier life for your dog. Stay informed on possible dogs health problems.

Basenji in a Nutshell

If you’re about to get a Basenji you need to take all stated above and think hard if your lifestyle fits the needs of this breed. Basenji is definitely your type of dog if:

  • You don’t mind having a dog that doesn’t bark a lot, but when it yodels the sound doesn’t bother you
  • You want a dog that is small but at the same time is strong and fast
  • You love taking long walks or jogging
  • You love playing different games with your dog and don’t mind changing them often
  • You love intelligent and independent dogs

Basenjis are in the first place active dogs. Next, to it, they are an intelligent and highly demanding dog. They want your attention for a fair amount of time and your love 24/7.

Furthermore, they are affectionate and loving dogs who will build easily a strong bond with you and your family. Basenji is not a one-person dog so if you have kids he will probably follow them all the time and everywhere.

Basenjis are high alert dogs, not guarding so you will have a warning of someone going around the place in a blink of an eye.

This breed must be trained well and socialized early. They get easily bored and their behaviour in those cases can be quite destructive if left alone. Also, they are a great escape artist, they can even climb the tree, so if you are for fair portion humour and a lot of walking, this is just the right dog for you.

basenji dog breed

Popular Basenji Comparisons

Compare Dog Breeds: