The Basenji is a breed of hunting dog that was bred from stock originating in central Africa. Most of the major kennel clubs in the English-speaking world place the breed in the Hound Group; more specifically, it may be classified as belonging to the sighthound type. The Fédération Cynologique Internationale places the breed in Group 5, Spitz and Primitive types, and the United Kennel Club (US) places the breed in the Sighthound & Pariah Group.
The Basenji produces an unusual yodel-like sound commonly called a “barroo”, due to its unusually shaped larynx. This trait also gives the Basenji the nickname “Barkless Dog”.
Basenjis share many unique traits with Pariah dog types. Basenjis, like dingoes and some other breeds of dog, come into estrus only once annually, as compared to other dog breeds which may have two or more breeding seasons every year. Both dingoes and basenji lack a distinctive odor, and are prone to howls, yodels, and other undulated vocalizations over the characteristic bark of modern dog breeds. One theory holds that the latter trait is the result of the selective killing of ‘barkier’ dogs in the traditional Central African context because barking could lead enemies to humans’ forest encampments. While dogs that resemble the basenji in some respects are commonplace over much of Africa, the breed’s original foundation stock came from the old growth forest regions of the Congo Basin, where its structure and type were fixed by adaptation to its habitat, as well as use (primarily net hunting in extremely dense old-growth forest vegetation).
Basenjis are small, elegant-looking, short-haired dogs with erect ears, a tightly curled tail and a graceful neck. A basenji’s forehead is wrinkled, even more so when they are young or extremely young. A basenji’s eyes are typically almond-shaped, which often gives the dogs the appearance of squinting. Basenjis typically weigh about 11 kg (24 lb) and stand 41 cm (16 in) at the shoulder. They are a square breed, which means they are as long as they are tall. Basenjis are athletic dogs, and are actually deceptively powerful for their size. They have a graceful, confident gait like a trotting horse, and skim the ground in a double suspension gallop, with their characteristic curled tail straightened out for greater balance when running flat out at their top speed. Basenjis come in a few different colorations: red, black, tricolor, and brindle, and they all have white chests and stomachs. They can also come in trindle, which is a tricolor with brindle points, a rare combination.
The Basenji is alert, energetic, curious and reserved with strangers. The Basenji is somewhat aloof with strangers, and tends to become emotionally attached to a single human. Basenjis may not get along with non-canine pets. Basenjis dislike wet weather, like to climb, can easily get over chain wire fences. Most Basenji problems involve a mismatch between owner and pet.
Basenjis often stand on their hind legs, somewhat like a meerkat, by themselves or leaning on something; this behavior is often observed when the dog is curious about something. Basenjis have a strong prey drive. According to the book The Intelligence of Dogs, they are the second least trainable dog. However, Basenjis are extremely intelligent and respond to training that is consistent and positive with plenty of treats. Basenjis do not respond well to punishment, such as yelling and hitting, which can cause them to utter a warning growl.
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