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Dog Files Fact: Basenji


The Basenji, the famous bark-less dog, comes from Africa and is a sight hound. This dog is also known as a Zande dog, Congo dog or Congo terrier. The Basenji was bred to drive game up trees. They were also used to also chase prey such as small antelopes into hunting nets or out into the open where their quarry could be shot with a gun or a bow and arrow. It’s origins can be dated back at least 5000 years.

The Pharaohs of Egypt kept Basenji Hounds and references to the Basenji’s ancestors appear as hieroglyphics and are also found engraved in cuneiform ( written in wedge-shaped characters) on ancient pillars and tablets. The breed was discovered, however, by the Western civilisation on the African Congo with the Pygmy tribe of hunters in the Zande area of Africa. This explains the other names of Zande dog, Congo dog or Congo terrier that the Basenji was known by. The name Basenji, or “bush thing,” was eventually chosen reflecting their African heritage. The pygmies and other African natives used the Basenji as a pack dog. As the dogs were ‘ bark-less’ they often wore large bells around their necks which assisted in the task of driving quarry into nets.

Famous for being barkless but this does not mean that the African Basenji has no voice! These dogs are definitely not mute and make an amazing variety of noises which can sound like a mixture between a chortle, howl, shriek and yodel! Just to dispel the illusion even further the Basenji will occasionally bark – similar to a fox bark but just one or two at a time.

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10 years ago

Just a quick note, Basenjis are actually a sight/hearing dogs. One of the few breeds that use 2 senses. The dog is even “banned” in some country’s dogsports due to this…it’s viewed upon as cheating.

Kenn at Dog Files
10 years ago
Reply to  Nick

Thanks for the info, Nick!


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