The Basenji is a native hunting dog from Central Africa used by tribesmen as hunting companions and is known as one of the oldest dog breeds in existence today.Their history pre-dates the ancient Egyptians.The Pharaohs kept Basenjis as companions as well as for their hunting skills; evidenced by the various artforms depicting Basenji like dogs with the curly tails and upright ears from the Ancient Egyptian Period.
The Great Pyramid of Khufu (also known as Cheops) has paintings of basenji type dogs seated at the feet of their owners. This pyramid was constructed about 2700 BCE. Basenji type dogs are depicted on wall engravings and in paintings on tombs from as early as 3000 B.C. There have also been cave and rock drawings dating from about 6000 BCE found in the are now known as Libya. These paintings depict hunting scenes that include dogs that look very similar to Basenjis. European explorers first began describing basenjis around 1870. Originally distributed over most of Africa and used for hunting purposes by the African tribesmen, now the pure Basenji is only found in such regions as the Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Liberia.
Their distinctive gait, which adds to their appeal, is a straight-legged lope, which enables them to run at a steady pace for hours. When flushing their quarry in the tall elephant grass, their hunting strategy is to leap straight up in the air, and take a quick look around for their prey when airborne. Thus one of the names they are known by to the natives is M'bwa m'kube M'bwa wamwitu which translates as the jumping up and down dog. As they do not bark like most hounds when hunting, their owners can locate them by the rattling made by the pebbles which have been placed inside a gourd which is hung around the neck or is sometimes tied around the loins.
The first few attempts at importing Basenjis to England were unsuccessful as the dogs had no natural immunity to distemper and died shortly after their arrival. The first successful pair were imported in 1936 and were named “Bokoto” and “Bongo” and they were the parents of the first English Basenji litter. They were exhibited for the first time in 1937 at Crufts Dog Show. These non barking dogs caused such a big stir that special security forces had to be employed to keep the crowds moving past the Basenji cages. They were recognised as a purebred dog in the United States in 1943 and shortly thereafter by the International Purebred Dog Federation (FCI).
There are similarities in appearance between the Australian native Dingo and the African Basenji
Every Basenji has his own individual personality but they all have certain characteristics in common, such as washing themselves and each other in a catlike manner. Basenjis use their paws to play as cats do, they can be efficient climbers and they also crop grass likes horses. They love to dig up the new spring roots of plants and eat them - which can be annoying if you are proud of your garden.
Their combination of remarkable speed, sense of smell, sight and intelligence makes the Basenji a special dog. A naturally developed dog, he was not bred by man for a particular purpose as other breeds, thus they can be a challenge to live with at times. However their many endearing qualities such as their cleanliness, playfulness, independence, high intelligence and affectionate nature make them a charming, interesting and lovable companion.