The Basenji is a member of the sub-group of hounds known as ‘sighthounds’. It is
small and agile, and adapts well to most living conditions. It is a small, short-haired,
lightly-built dog with prick ears and a curly tail. He gives the impression of being
either inquisitive or worried because of his wrinkled brow and his puzzled expression.
He is immaculate in his grooming, cleaning himself much like a cat, and rarely requiring
a bath. He is also odorless.
Said to be of ancient origin, this hunting breed was valued for its speed,
intelligence, and silent workmanship. Basenjis have very pliant skin that allows them to
navigate the dense underbrush without injury. They have a tight foot with a thick pad to
help in travelling over rough terrain. They have excellent sight, very mobile ears, and
an outstanding sense of smell. The Basenji is often called the “African Barkless” dog,
but it is not mute. It can howl, growl and snarl. In addition it can make a yodeling
noise and puppies can crow like roosters.
Foundation stock was successfully imported into England in 1936 from Africa, and
the Kennel Club of Great Britain officially recognized the breed in 1941. And from the
U.K., it migrated to the United States and Canada.
Basenji males should be 17 inches high at the shoulder and weigh 24 pounds.
Bitches are slightly smaller at 16 inches and 22 pounds. They come in four colour groups:
red and white, black and white, brindle and white, and ‘tri’ (black, tan, and white).
All have white feet, chest and tail tip. White collars and white blazes on the face are
Most Basenji bitches come into heat once a year in the fall, with puppies born in
December or January. Some Basenjis will come into season twice a year, but it is not
Canadian Kennel Club Standard (1993)
The Basenji is a small, lightly-built, short-backed dog, giving the impression of being high on
the leg compared to its length. The wrinkled head must be proudly carried, and the whole
demeanor should be one of poise and alertness. The Basenji should not bark, but is not mute.
The wrinkled forehead and the swift, tireless running gait (resembling a race horse trotting
full out) are typical of the breed.
Bitches 16 inches (41 cm) and dogs 17 inches (43 cm) from the ground to the top of the
shoulder. Bitches 16 inches (41 cm) and dogs 17 inches (43 cm) from the front of the
chest to the farthest point of the hindquarters.
Dogs 24 lbs. (10.886 kg.); Bitches 22 lbs. (9.979 kg.).
Coat and Colour
Coat short and silky. Skin very pliant. Colour: chestnut red, or pure black, or tricolour
(pure black and chestnut red), or brindle (black stripes on a background of chestnut red); all
with white feet, chest, and tail tip. White legs, blaze and collar optional. The amount of white
should never pre-dominate over primary colour. Colour and markings should be rich, clear and
well-defined, with a distinct line of demarcation between the black and red of tricolours and
the stripes of brindles.
The skull is flat, well chiseled and of medium width, tapering towards the eyes. The
foreface should taper from eye to muzzle and should be shorter than the skull. The
muzzle neither coarse nor snipey but with rounded cushions. Wrinkles should appear upon
the forehead, and be fine and profuse. Side wrinkles are desirable, but should never be
exaggerated into dewlap. Black nose greatly desired. A pinkish tinge should not
penalize an otherwise first-class specimen, but it should be discouraged in breeding.
Teeth must be level with scissors bite. Eyes dark hazel, almond shaped, obliquely
set and far seeing. Ears small, pointed and erect of fine texture, well forward on top
Of good length, well-crested and slightly full at base of throat. It should be well set into
Shoulders flat, laid back. The legs straight with clean fine bone, long forearm and well-defined
sinews. Pasterns should be of good length, straight and flexible.
The body should be short and the back level. The chest should be deep and of medium width. The
ribs well sprung, with plenty of heart room, deep brisket, short-coupled, and ending in a
Should be strong and muscular, with hocks well let down, turned neither in nor out, with long
second thighs. Feet small, narrow, and compact, with well-arched toes.
Should be set on top and curled tightly over to either side.
Coarse skull or muzzle. Domed or peaked skull. Dewlap. Round eyes. Low set ears. Overshot or
undershot mouth. Wide chest. Wide behind. Heavy bone. Creams, shaded or off-colours other than
those defined above, should be heavily penalized.
The following section of this Basenji page is dedicated to Robert Cole, who died March
24, 2004. He was a Life member of the Ottawa Kennel Club, Canada, an International
all-breed judge, and a Canadian and world-wide advocate of the Basenji breed. It is with great
pride that, shortly before his death, the Basenji Club of Canada was given permission by
him to quote his text and his diagrams from his book, The Basenji
Stacked and Moving, an illustrated explanation of the breed standard.