How and when
the Basenji arrived in the Western World
Basenjis were first mentioned by explorers in the African Continent in the 1800´s as small, sandy/red, prick-eared, curly tailed native hunting dogs, which did not bark; instead they wore a wooden bell around their necks.
Basenji “look-a-likes” were also depicted on the wall paintings in the tombs of the Pharaohs.
The first “Congo Terrier” was exhibited at Cruft´s Dog Show in 1895, followed in 1912 by a “Sudanese Dog” and then in 1913 by Avongara Budwe, a “Nyam Nyam” dog. Also in the 1890´s a Congo Terrier was to be seen in the Paris Zoological Park. These dogs were all Basenjis.
In 1923 Lady Helen Nutting transported six native Basenjis from an area west of Meridi in Central Africa - unfortunately none survived the distemper they contracted on arrival.
1936 saw the first successful importation and the start of a breeding program when Mrs. Olivia Burn brought six native dogs from an area around Kwenge in the then Belgian Congo. Five of these dogs, namely Bongo (M), Bereke (F), Bashele (M), Bokoto (F), and Bungwa (M), all carrying the “of Blean” affix constitute the initial gene pool for all Basenjis in the western world. Basanga was deemed to be untypical. The pups from her only litter were found good homes - “Not to be bred from”.
Bakuma was sent to America in 1937 on finishing his time in quarantine
He dissapeard later to be found and renamed Phemister´s Bois
February 1938 - Basenjis at Westminster Kennel Club, NY
1939 - Miss Tudor Williams imported Simolo (M) and Choti (F) from the Sudan/Uganda border. Choti proved to be a barker and also went to a good home! Simolo, a large, heavy coated dog, only sired one litter - from which a bitch puppy, Wunda of the Congo - features in the pedigrees of some of the Andersley Basenjis
In 1939 some "Blean" dogs were imported to America and Dr. A. R. B. Richmond of Toronto, Canada, kennel "of Windsrush" purchased a pair. Both died and in 1940 he bought two more pairs, namely Kwillo of the Congo, Koodoo of the Congo (males) and Kiteve of the Congo and Kikuyu of the Congo (bitches)
In 1940, Mr. And Mrs. Arthur Byron were presented with a small red/white bitch by the chief of the Zande tribe. (It is interesting to note that this bitch had a tricolor sibling). Amatangazig was later owned by Veronica Tudor Williams and produced two litters under “of the Congo” affix.
Also in 1940, a freighter carrying a cargo of coffee beans for West Africa docked in Boston, USA. Found aboard was a small white dog with prick ears, a docked tail and brindle patches on one ear and on her side. Mr. Phemister certified that she was a Basenji and registered her with the American Kennel Club as
Similarly, a year later, 1941, Kindu (M) and Kasenyi (F) arrived in America among a cargo of Gorillas shipped from the French Congo. These two Basenjis were eventually to produce AmCh Kingolo, a dog who was to have a significant impact in the breed on both sides of the Atlantic.
In 1943, the American Kennel Club accepted the Basenji for registration in the Stud Book, and approved the standard.
1952 Wau of the Congo (M) was imported from the Sudan/Congo border to England
In 1959, Veronica Tudor Williams, Michael Hughes Halls and John Rybot journeyed to the Southern Sudan in search of new stock to augment the gene pool. They returned with Fula, a red/white bitch and a brindle male, Binza of Laughing Brook. Fula was to have a great influence on future breed type and temperaments. Binza returned to South Africa with Michael Hughes Halls, becoming SA Champion. A bitch from his only litter, M’Bunga of Laughing Brook, a red/white was sent back to Veronica Tudor Williams and may be found generations back in some of today’s winners.
In 1965 there were two separate importations of black/white Basenjis. Mrs. J. Wilson Stringer brought in Satin and Sheen of Horsley - the result of American breeding from a Liberian born bitch and Mrs. E. Ford returned to Britain from Northern Rhodesia with SACh. Taysenji Tahzu, a dog born in Liberia from native-bred parents. There were no further additions to the gene pool until the American expeditions to the Uele District on the Zaire/Sudan border late 80´s
In 1990 thirteen African-bred Basenjis were accepted in the American Stud Book. These were brindle males: Diagba and Gangura. Brindle females: Mazingbi and M’Bliki. Tricolour males: Wele and Nabodio. A red male: Benzi and 5 red females: Zamee, N’Gondi, Kposi, Goldi and Elly. Entered in the Stud Book at the same time was a red/white pygmy bred bitch - Esenjo - owned by Margaret Somers. To date this bitch has been selectively bred in a controlled breeding program and has not contributed significantly to the general gene pool.
Thus it may be seem that the Basenji gene pool worldwide is very restricted - and with a large part of the African Continent suffering from wars and civil unrest it is very doubtful indeed if any more Basenjis will ever come from Zaire or the Sudan
The above article was originally published in the 1995/1996 B.O.B.A. Handbook.
In 1999 two basenjis were imported to Italy, Mawi and Zulu
The Basenji came to the western world from Africa, mainly from the Congo and the Sudan but there are accounts of them in most of the other African areas, although nowadays there are very few pockets of pure bred dogs remaining. In Sierra Leone the Basenji is known as the talking dog because they yodel instead of barking. They are also known as the witches dog or familiars, the more powerful the witch doctor the more dogs he owns.
Tanganyikan natives removed the tails from their dogs and used them to hunt apes, this made it harder for the ape to seize the dog and kill it. In Liberia, if the dog was not a good hunter he ended up as a tasty snack! The Basenji’s sense of sight and smell is amazing. It is marvelous to see one jump up and down in five foot high elephant grass, he almost seems to hover in the air at the top of his jump while he has a quick look round and scents the air: hence one of the African names, m’bwa m’kube m’bwa wamwitu - the jumping up and down dog.
The history of the Basenji has been traced back to the Stone Age but they are more generally connected with Egypt and the Pharaohs who valued them very highly. In the Egyptian tomb engravings, dated before 3000 BC, this dog is shown as the house dog, sitting under the master’s chair. One of them even has his name “Xalmes” mentioned Possibly the Pharaohs were responsible for giving this dog his taste for the good life: Cleopatra and Nefertiti may have used them as bedwarmers. Certainly the Basenji loves that job today, also resting on the best chairs in the warmest places, and in fact being treated like royalty!
The aristocratic Basenji is a small, elegant, gazelle-like dog originally used for hunting in his native central Africa.
Renowned for the fact that he does not bark, the Basenji nevertheless makes a variety of sounds, ranging from yodels to chortles to growls. The breed is also unique because Basenji bitches only come into season once a year, and nearly all at the same time. This means that puppies as a rule, are born in May or June.
Sensitive and playful, a Basenji may require a firm hand from time to time, as he can be disobedient. It's not that he means to be, but he has a curious, enquiring mind which demands that everything must be examined and explored, taking nothing for granted. This makes for a highly entertaining and intelligent pet, although not necessarily the ideal subject for obedience training.
The Basenji loves children even though he may not be as openly demonstrative or lavish in his affection as some other breeds. He needs plenty of exercise and does not take kindly to enclosed spaces. A fully fenced yard is essential, as is being on a lead at all times when out in the street, as he does not have much traffic sense.
Free of any
doggy odor, and with a fine, short, silky coat which he grooms like a cat, the
fascinating Basenji keeps himself so clean he seldom needs a bath.
The Charm of the Basenji
Possibly no one could be better qualified to describe the many charms of the Basenji than Veronica Tudor-Williams, who wrote in her book, "Basenjis, The Barkless Dogs":
" Much of the charm of Basenjis lies in their individuality and in their extreme intelligence and one would need a whole book to do justice to them. At times, no dog can be naughtier than a Basenji, but no dog has brought apology to a finer art. How can one be cross with an animal which lies on its back with both hands folded over its eyes, or stands on its head turning somersaults, or peeps round the door watching the reactions of an indignant owner, yodeling loudly when it finds the moment of retribution can no longer be averted?
Their own particular noise is best described as a mixture of a chortle and a yodel, not unlike a young cockerel's first attempt at crowing. Basenjis use this unique gift as a form of speech, and as one new owner put it, 'they do not bark, they talk' - different intonations of yodel being used to express different reactions.
They are very sensitive as a breed, responding to love and kindness, and they should never be shouted at or treated roughly. Voice is far more effective in shaming them over a wrong-doing than the use of a whip.
Their extreme cleanliness, ease of house training and total lack of doggy odor makes them hard to beat as house pets. They are known to wash themselves like cats, and will dry each other and their owner's clothes after a walk in the rain, whilst a human having a bath holds endless fascination, the washing and drying being helped and hindered all the time.
After a few days, they are no longer dogs around the house, but a fascinating lovely part of a home. In fact, they are dogs, cats, children and the essence of the wild all in the form of a little imp."