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The Basenji
Brief Basenji History

The Basenjis are amongst the oldest dogs of the World and is said to be “as old as the pyramids.”

The name Basenji means "small wild thing from the bush", which sounds in the language of the Pygmies like "Basenji", but it is also known as the African Barkless Dog, the Belgian Congo Dog, the African Bush Dog, the Congo Bush Dog, the Congo Hunting Terrier, the African Dingo, the Ango Angari, the Avuvi, the Congo Dog, the Congo Terrier, the Egyptian Dingo and the Zande dog. Native names for the Basenji include M’bwa M’kubwa M’bwa Wanwitu, which means “the jumping-up-and-down Dog.”

The origin of the Basenji is from Central Africa, that stretched from the heart of the Congo Basin to Southern Sudan.

The Basenjis lived there for thousands of years in a close relationship with the natives, the Pygmy tribes. The dogs lived as an independent social group near to the village and supported themselves as a rule (dependant on the tribe culture). Also reproduction took place for thousands of years without any intervention from humans.
The first drawings of the Basenji were found in the tombs of the Great Pyramid of Khufu (Cheops), built approx. 4700 years BP in the IV Dynasty.
They show small dogs sitting near the feet of their owners or under the chairs. Amongst other tomb furnishings of rich Egyptians and Pharaohs were statues and illustrations of these dogs, which because of its extremely cat like nature (it moves silently, is free from dog smells and washes itself like a cat) was highly prized by this civilised nation. Presumably the first Basenjis reached Egypt as gifts from the Pygmies to the Pharaohs.

With the decline of the Egyptian culture, the knowledge about the Basenji also disappeared.
Originally it was thought that the statues and paintings of dogs in ancient Egypt were of Pharaoh Hounds but, DNA evidence has shown us that this is not the case. The Pharaoh Hound is a much more recent addition to the Canine world with its history perhaps spanning the last two hundred years or so.    

Much Egyptian artwork from statues, which are on display in the Louvre, Paris to hieroglyphs have been devoted to the dog which shows us that they were held in great regard by Egyptian nobility. The God Anubis and his soldiers are often depicted with a dog shaped head dresses.

Like so many of the Pariah Breeds, the Basenji is described as Independent (sometimes called stubborn) Intelligent and quick.  Basenjis are regarded as belonging to the group known as "Schensi-Dogs". This describes dogs that have not been domesticated and that remain wild.

Since the decline of the Egyptian empire little was known about the Basenji until 1870 when African explorers discovered a breed of dog that was small, had long legs, a ringed tail and a short silky fur, the Basenji. One of the first Africa explorers, who also described the dwarf Pygmies with strange dogs, was Dr. Schweinfurth. Fascinated, he decided at the end of one of his studies to take a bitch, that appeared to be particularly intelligent, back to Europe. Unfortunately she died while trying to make a bid for freedom from a second floor hotel window.

In 1894 the first reports about Basenjis appeared, but still not introduced as breed, in Europe. The Basenji has only been recognised as a breed for around sixty years. The first big breeder of Basenjis was Mrs Olivia Burn, who repeatedly acquired dogs from the Pygmies in the Congo basin. After several failures (the dogs died from distemper) she established the breed.

In 1937 she created a sensation at Crufts with the exhibition of her first puppies. The Judge and the breeder were besieged by the crowd and bombarded with questions. In the fifties, another famous breeder, Veronica Tudor-Williams, successfully acquired further Basenjis from Africa to freshen up the European stock.


"The Complete Basenji" by Elspet Ford, ISBN 0 948955 97 X Ringpress Books, England
"The Basenji - Out of Africa to You" by Susan Coe ISBN 0 944875-42-4 Doral Publishing, USA
"Fula - Basenji from the Jungle" by Veronica Tudor-Williams ISBN 0 9513550 0 7 printed by Laserbacks, England
"Basenjis - The barkless dogs" by Veronica Tudor-Williams ISBN 0 7153 7163 0 David & Charles Newton Abbot London
"Dog from the past" by Forrest Bryant Johnson ISBN: 1-882032-00-4 A Thousand Autumns Press,  Las Vegas, Nevada

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