A short-haired, black and white dog, wearing a green and reflective doggy coat, is sat proudly on a wooden border which surrounds a rainbow of colourful flowers. Set back a couple hundred metres and out of focus stands tall tower buildings.


13 July 2023

Let’s talk about… Basenjis: What are they?

  • Basenji-like dogs can be seen in paintings and engravings in Pharaoh tombs in Ancient Egypt, suggesting that their history goes back a long way. Although Basenji-like dogs are found all across the African continent, it is understood that the breed originates from the Congo basin in central Africa.
  • They were commonly used as hunting and scent dogs and were well adapted to the thick forest environment.
  • After several failed efforts to bring the breed to the UK, their introduction was finally successful in the mid-1930s. Basenjis are still used as hunting dogs in Africa but they have become a popular family dog in the UK due to their temperament and their tendency not to bark.
  • They tend to not grow beyond 43cm in height.
  • They weigh up to about 11kg.
  • Their life expectancy is up to 14 years.

Basenji  Exercise Needs 3/5 Grooming Ease 2/5 Trainability 2/5

What is the temperament of Basenjis like?

  • Basenjis are known to be very friendly, affectionate and protective of their families. They can be shy with new people at first but can warm to them once they get to know them.
  • They tend to prefer older children to younger ones. Make sure to socialise them early with children if you plan them to be around kids.
  • Typically, the breed will have an independent character, but When it suits them, they’ll be back by your side for lots of cuddles.
  • We assume they love all members of their family - but they do tend to form a stronger bond with one person which will likely grow even stronger over time. Borrowers, take note - these pups will make it worth your while if you’re able to visit them regularly.
  • They are often known as ‘barkless’, but still like to make other noises like yodelling and squealing.
Elektra, the Basenji

What kind of exercise do Basenjis need?

  • Basenjis do have lots of energy but they are usually content with about an hour of exercise per day. They are more than happy to be given more if you are planning a longer walk though!
  • Basenjis have a high prey drive so will often be running off on walks following scents or chasing squirrels, so be sure to let them off lead in enclosed areas only.
  • They like to be kept busy so having lots of attention and mental stimulation throughout the day is essential for them to be happy, relaxed dogs.
Enzo, the Basenji

Do Basenjis need a lot of grooming?

  • Basenjis can come in a variety of colours including chestnut red, black, tricolor, or brindle. They also have white feet, chest, and tail tips.
  • They have very short hair and don’t shed or slobber much at all - this means they are a good breed for sensitive types and they are often labelled as a ‘hypoallergenic’ breed.  Some people can be allergic to the dog’s skin as opposed to the hair though, so you should always check if you could be allergic before getting your own.
  • They are a very clean breed and will spend hours grooming themselves after a walk. They are more cat-like than any other breed of dog and just like their feline friends, they clean themselves using their paws.
  • You should give them a regular brush to reduce shedding.
  • Like any dog, regular tooth brushing with a dog-specific toothpaste twice daily is ideal.  If you can’t manage that often, just do it as often as you can.
Fenix, the Basenji

Are Basenjis easy to train?

  • Basenjis are an intelligent breed but can be a little independent - which can make it a bit tricky to train them.  They are also known for being a bit stubborn, which can make training a challenge.
  • You should start to train then early, continue consistently and be very patient.
  • Some people describe training a Basenji, like training a cat!
  • If the Basenji is part of a big family, it is recommended that just one person focuses on training. This is because of the strong bond that Basenjis tend to form with one person - you’ll have more success if you’re the ‘chosen one’ in your dog’s eyes!
  • When other members of the family (or borrowers) are looking after the pup, they should try to copy the commands given by the main trainer exactly.
  • Recall should be a top priority in Basenji training. As their prey drive is high, it is important for your dog to know to come back when called. Also make sure your garden is escape-proof or your Basenji might go on its own adventures!

Spartacus, the Basenji

What do Basenjis eat?

  • Basenjis should eat a good quality dog food twice daily when they are adults.
  • They should be given puppy food until they are about 9 months old, although your food brand can give you advice on this as all foods are a bit different.
  • Basenjis have a slight frame, so it’s important they aren’t allowed to get overweight, so be sure to limit the treats.

Are Basenjis healthy?

Basenjis are generally pretty hardy dogs, but like any breed are more prone to some conditions than others. These can include:

Bones and Joints

  • Hip Dysplasia - a condition where the thigh bone and pelvis do not sit together properly at the hip joint
  • Luxating patella - this is when a dog’s kneecap moves out of where it should normally be

Circulatory System

  • Anaemia – an abnormally low amount of red blood cells


  • Corneal dystrophy - is a clouding of the cornea of the eye, which can over time cause blindness
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy - over time the back of the eye becomes damaged which can reduce your dog’s vision, eventually leading to blindness


  • Fanconi Syndrome - a hereditary issue with the tubes of the kidneys that don’t allow normal absorption of important molecules in the kidney


  • Bladder Stones  - Stones form in the bladder which can be uncomfortable and cause a blockage

Always make sure to have your dog insured, so you don’t get caught out with any unexpected vet bills.

This list is by no means comprehensive, so if you have any concerns about the health of your Basenji or if you want to discuss further if a Basenji is right for you, consult with your vet.

Our vet top tip

“Basenjis are great characters, and love cuddles, but they can be quite stubborn at times, but if you are super patient with them, they can be your best friend!”

BorrowMyDoggy loves Basenjis

BorrowMyDoggy has 72 Basenji members

The most popular name for a Basenji on BorrowMyDoggy is Benji.

Information on this page should never replace advice given by your veterinarian.  Potential health issues presented are given as a guide only and are not meant to be comprehensive. If you ever have any concerns about your dog’s health contact your local vet.

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