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.


Basenjis are known as the “barkless” dog due to the yodelling noise they make - this is not your typical dog! They are definitely a unique breed all round. With striking looks and cat-like personalities, they make excellent companion dogs and love to explore. Read on for key facts about the breed and some unique insights and photos from the BorrowMyDoggy community.

Two short-haired, white and tan dogs wearing fleece coats are standing on grass on a blue sky day. One has a fantastic head tilt.

Miles, who owns Vesta and Sky, has described the breed perfectly through this description:

People say Basenjis are like marmite - if you love them, you will really love them.

"If you want a dog that will listen to every word you say, reliably fetch and want to please you - then Basenjis are not for you. If you want a fun, funny, independent, intelligent, bull-headed, sweet, unique dog then a Basenji will have you captivated.”

What is a Basenji?

Basenji-like dogs can be seen in paintings and engravings in the Pharaoh's tombs in Ancient Egypt, suggesting that their history goes back a long way. Although Basenji-like dogs are found 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 are a small breed, weighing up to about 11kg and only growing up to 43 cm in height. They usually live to up to 14 years. 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 hypoallergenic. If you have allergies, however, it’s always best to check with a medical professional before spending lots of time with new pups.

How much exercise does a Basenji need?

Basenjis do have lots of energy but, because of their size, they usually only require 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. 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.

A white, black and tan, short-haired dog with a curly tail has her front paws up on a tree, looking up into the branches.

Nala the Basenji:

loves long walks, playing with her squeaky toys and cuddles. She can be quite nervous around strangers and other dogs until she gets to know them.

Miles, who owns Vesta and Sky, says his two:

Get a good walk of about 2 miles a day once a day, and then just quick walks around the block.

"They really like to just have a lap to cuddle up on, after they've finished running around the house like mad - we call it the Basenji 500."

What about temperament?

Basenjis are known to be a very friendly and affectionate breed. They can be shy with new people at first but will quickly warm to you once they get to know you.

Typically, the breed will have an independent character so they tend to go out and explore on their own when out for walks. When at home, 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 a very clean breed and will spend hours grooming themselves after a walk. They are more cat-like than any other breed of dog - just like their feline friends, they clean themselves using their paws. This makes them less smelly than most breeds as they are not using their mouths!

Vesta and Sky are in co-ordinating coats, sitting on a mossy forest floor

Sky and Vesta’s owner, Miles, says:

Sky loves everyone and everything, Vesta is a more typical Basenji and can be aloof or loving (she makes up her mind as soon as she meets someone).

Another example of the breed, is doggy member, Benji:

“[Benji is] a quiet dog and sleeps most of the time. He loves people and children but needs to be introduced to them first.

"He is not so good with some other dogs. He has never learnt the "come back" command so he needs to be on a lead all the time when taken for walks.”

Are they easy to train?

Basenjis are an intelligent breed but can be a little nervous and independent - this can make it a bit tricky to train them. Training must start early, continue consistently and contain a heavy dose of patience. Owners in our community would agree that they aren’t the most obedient dogs - imagine training a cat and you might get a good idea of what it might be like.

For example, owner, Miles, reflects on Vesta and Sky’s training:

[they] are well trained for Basenjis, think of them like cats in dog bodies.

"I wouldn't trust either of their recalls with anyone they don't know very well. Sky can have a bit of separation anxiety at times, but that is mainly about leaving me.”

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 you dog to know to come back when called.

A short-haired dog with a white, black and tan coat lies in the shade of a chair on decking

Liz’s Basenji, Zorro is:

a very clean dog. He's hypoallergenic and hardly smells at all. He loves long walks playing with other dogs although recall isn't great as he is a basenji! Zorro is a very affectionate. He loves belly rubs and tickles and dislikes the rain. He is cheeky and has a massive personality.

Thanks to the BorrowMyDoggy community for sharing their wooftastic photos and quotes.

  • Owners - if you’re looking to find your Basenji a new friend for some extra cuddles, why not get in touch with borrowers from the community who would love to help you out?
  • Borrowers - if you’re looking to learn more about the Basenji (or any other breeds) why not reach out to local owners in the community who are looking for a helping hand and to share the love of their dog?

As more owners and borrowers join the community and start messaging, more woofs, walks and waggy tails can be spread to share the love of dogs.

Why not join the BorrowMyDoggy community today?

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