Screening Breeders

You’ve researched the Basenji breed in books and on the Internet...

...perhaps even visited adult Basenjis and their breeders in your area. You’re ready to move to the next step - finding the Basenji puppy that is right for your household.

The following questions will help you determine if a breeder is a responsible, dedicated, knowledgeable guardian of the breed or someone who produces puppies indiscriminately or for profit. Your goal is to find a healthy, well-tempered Basenji puppy from a breeder who will provide you with accurate information, support and assistance throughout your Basenji’s lifetime. The breeder you select should be a person you trust = a person of integrity who strives to maintain sound temperaments, good health, correct conformation, and longevity in every Basenji they produce.

None of these questions, standing alone, should be the sole basis for determining whether or not to purchase a puppy from a particular breeder. These questions are intended to provide a framework for conversations with breeders, and as a springboard for acquiring additional information about a breeder’s practices.

By selecting a reputable breeder, you maximize your chances of getting a healthy, happy puppy. They will also be a support network for the life of your dog. Basenjis can present unexpected challenges to the first-time owner so it’s important to select a breeder who is both willing to help you and knowledgeable enough to do so effectively.

An Important Note

Responsible breeders never sell their puppies to pet shops or commercial brokers. Basenji pups that are for sale in pet shops are produced for profit, and without regard to health or temperament. The breeders of these puppies are not available as a resource for new owners, and responsible breeders can usually provide better and more accurate breed-specific advice than the staff of a pet shop. Also, a Basenji puppy from a pet shop often costs far more than a companion puppy from a responsible breeder.

The Questions

1 How long have you been involved with Basenjis?

2 Do you belong to any dog clubs, and if so why is it important to you?

3 Do you show your dogs in conformation?

4 Do you health test the Basenjis you’re breeding?

5 What specific health concerns are behind the sire and dam?

6 How do you select a sire or dam for a litter?

7 How many litters do you breed per year?

8 Do you have a waiting list for your upcoming litter?

9 How long do you keep pups with their dam and siblings?

10 How do you socialize your puppies?

11 Do you screen prospective buyers?

12 What are your spay or neuter requirements?

13 Do you sell all of your puppies on written contracts?

14 How much do you charge for a puppy?

15 Can you provide me with references?  

1 How long have you been involved with Basenjis?

A person who begins to breed Basenjis immediately after acquiring their first dogs may not have the background knowledge to evaluate pedigrees for health and temperament issues, and may lack sufficient experience with the breed to provide accurate, on-going advice to puppy buyers.

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2 Do you belong to any dog clubs, and if so why is it important to you?

Belonging to the AKC parent club, Basenji Club of America (BCOA) or a regional Basenji club indicates that a breeder maintains some degree of contact with other people who are committed to the breed. As members, they receive publications that contain information about health testing, and other issues that impact the welfare of the breed.

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3 Do you show your dogs in conformation or participate in other activities (lure coursing, agility, obedience) with your dog?

Breeders who show or participate in performance events have many opportunities to compare Basenjis of their breeding with Basenjis bred by others. They are more likely to be in the loop regarding important health information, and to be serious, life-long students of the breed.

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4 Do you health test the Basenjis you’re breeding?

Responsible breeders are aware of all health problems affecting Basenjis, and strive not to produce these problems in their pups. They utilize the best health testing methods available to screen their breeding stock, and can provide evidence to back up their testing claims. Hip and eye results can be verified on the OFA web site, www., but a responsible breeder volunteers documented evidence of the health tests they perform. Health testing on a routine basis can be expensive—some breeders who produce pups primarily for profit cut corners on health testing to save money. A breeder who is concerned about the long-term welfare of the breed will health test for the conditions mentioned on the BCOA Health page, and be especially concerned with the following before breeding: Hip dysplasia—dogs will have an OFA certification of fair, good or excellent) Inherited eye diseases—dogs will have CERF certification Fanconi Syndrome—a direct Fanconi DNA test is now available, all responsible breeder should be testing their Basenjis before breeding. All results will be listed at PRA—a DNA test is now available for one form of PRA. All responsible breeder should be testing their Basenjis before breeding. All results will be listed at Thyroid disease—thyroid blood panel to determine if thyroid function is low, or normal. There is more detailed information at the Basenji Health link

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5 What specific health concerns are behind the sire and dam of your litter?

What can you tell me about the siblings and other relatives? Serious breeders talk openly about health issues they've encountered in their years of breeding, and will be able to tell you how they are working to avoid problems in the future. Back to questions Two major health problems affecting Basenjis-Fanconi and PRA-occur later in life (after four years of age) - and even careful, knowledgeable breeders may encounter problems. HOWEVER, there are now DNA test for one form of PRA and Fanconi and all breeders should testing before breeding. The best chance to avoid hereditary health problems like Fanconi and PRA is to purchase a puppy from a breeder who health tests the dogs they are breeding for common Basenji ailments, and has a good working knowledge of the family health history behind their dogs (not just the sire and dam, but the grand sire, grand dam, and other relatives as well). Buyer should inquire as to the results of the DNA Test Results of the Sire and Dam of any puppies.

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6 How do you select a sire or dam for a litter?

Do you consider Basenjis from other breeders, or Basenjis that do not reside with you? Breeders will occasionally breed a male Basenji that resides with them to a female that resides with them. But if a breeder never selects mates other than those that reside in their household, it is possible that the breeder is: Trying to avoid paying stud fees – doesn't understand the importance of selecting mates that are a good match genetically and physically – not well-regarded by other breeders and therefore doesn’t have access to a broader range of breeding choice

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7 How many litters do you breed per year?

There are a few special circumstances when responsible breeders may produce two or more litters per year. Properly caring for and socializing a litter of Basenji puppies is time consuming work and a breeder who routinely produces multiple litters per year in their own home may need to cut costs on veterinary care, nutrition, or socialization. In some cases, these breeders produce puppies for profit rather than to improve the breed. A responsible breeder who is producing multiple litters will be willing to discuss their breeding strategy with you.

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8 Do you have a waiting list for your upcoming litter?

Breeders begin looking for good homes for their puppies as soon as they decide to produce a litter. It takes time to interview prospective owners (they need to check you out, just as you need to evaluate them). Many breeders begin adding names to their waiting lists in Spring for a Fall breeding. A breeder who does not have a waiting list, or who waits until the pups are born to begin looking for homes, may not be taking the responsibilities of breeding seriously, or may not be putting enough time and effort into selecting good homes.

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9 How long do you keep puppies with their siblings and dam?

Basenji puppies are not ready to go home with their new owners until they are eight weeks of age, or older. Breeders who send puppies home prior to age eight weeks may not be aware of the importance—for Basenji pups in particular—of spending time with siblings and dam, learning canine communication skills, and appropriate ways to interact with people. Puppies that are separated from their dam and siblings too soon can develop behavior problems later in life, can be difficult to house train, and may lack bite inhibition.

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10 How do you socialize your puppies?

Basenjis require a lot of early, positive experiences with new people, places and animals in order to be well-adjusted adults. The breeder should be able to tell you, in detail, how they socialize their puppies, and what you can do to continue the socialization process once you take your puppy home.

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11 Do you screen prospective buyers?

Will my entire family/household need to visit before we can be added to your waiting list? Most breeders who care about their Basenjis, and the breed, will not place a puppy with a person they have never met, or at least corresponded with extensively. Expect to be asked for references—including from your landlord if you rent. Expect to be asked to visit the breeder’s home if you are within a reasonable distance, and anticipate that all members of your household (children, anyone else residing in the household) will be asked to attend. A face-to-face meeting, where practical, helps the breeder find the best possible match for pups they produce and in the end is for the benefit of you and the puppy. When a personal visit isn’t possible, expect that a breeder will want to speak/correspond with you at length to ensure that you and your puppy will be a good match. A breeder who will sell/ship a puppy without references and a thorough screening process should be cause for concern.

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12 What are your spay or neuter requirements?

Responsible breeders realize that breeding Basenjis properly takes a great deal of time, effort and experience. They do not want dogs they’ve produced to be bred indiscriminately, adding to the pet over-population problem. Requiring companion pups to be spayed or neutered indicates that a breeder is conscientious, dedicated to maintaining the integrity of the breed, and concerned about the welfare of each puppy they produce. Responsible breeders also have first hand experience with some of the demands of living with intact Basenjis—they understand that a person who is looking for a Basenji as a companion isn’t likely to want to face these challenges.

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13 Do you sell all of your puppies on written contracts, with AKC registration?

Responsible breeders sell their puppies on written contracts. A contract will protect you, the puppy buyer, and clearly state the seller’s expectations. A responsible breeder’s contract will contain health guarantees and include a provision to take the puppy back at anytime during its life (even in old age) if you can no longer care for it. Basenjis are an AKC-registered breed. U.S. breeders do not need to use other U.S.-based registries. Many of these alternative registries were created to provide papers for dogs that are not eligible for AKC registration. The integrity of some alternative registries is suspect—particularly if the breed is recognized by the AKC - and the pedigree you’re given may not be accurate.

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14 How much do you charge for a puppy?

The prices Basenji breeders charge for a puppy varies from area to area. There can be legitimate reasons for charging more or less than is usual. However, a breeder who is selling companion puppies for significantly more or less in your geographic area than is common should have good reasons for doing so. A breeder whose fee is significantly below market rate may be producing too many litters and needs to sell quickly. A breeder who sells at an inflated price may be seeking to line his/her pocketbook at your expense.

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15 Can you provide me with references from other puppy buyers and Basenji breeders?

A responsible breeder will have a long list of puppy buyers and fellow breeders who can vouch for their credibility, sincerity, and knowledge. They will not hesitate to provide you with references and will encourage you to contact them. Follow up on the references you receive—a disreputable person may give out names of well-known breeders in the hope that you will never bother to contact those individuals. Take the time to call or e-mail every reference you receive.

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Group of Pups 

They're Cute!

And their short coats, moderate size, stunning appearance as adults only add to their appeal. Plus they don’t bark. But, they’re little dickens! The Basenji may be the only breed where their owners brag about the destruction they wreak. New owners quickly learn to put dirty clothes in the hamper, the remote in a drawer, and the garbage behind a closed door. They also learn that a tired dog is a good dog. And that a Basenji raised with love and patience is a joy unmatched by any other. Explore these pages to find out why Basenji enthusiasts prefer this breed above others.  Basenjis are not hypoallergenic.  Some people are allergic and some people with problems tolerate them well. 

Two pups

Really, they don't bark, but they do barooo!

Basenjis do not yap incessantly, but they are not mute. They can growl, whimper, and whine with the best of them. They have a hair raising scream as well as a delightful sound some owners describe as a yodel. These are not the only characteristics that set Basenjis apart from other breeds. They are often described as cat-like, and depending on how much you like cats, this might be appealing. If possible, spend some time with adult Basenjis. You may realize that you want a more dog-like dog, or you may fall in love with this special breed. 

Tri color puppy

They're Irrepressible!

And if all goes well, you'll be able to enjoy their antics for many years. As is true for all breeds, Basenjis can have inheritable health problems. Among the diseases to be aware of are Fanconi Syndrome, Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), IPSID, Hypothryroidism, and Hip Dysplasia. To find out more about these diseases, visit the Health Information link above. While no breeder can be 100% certain that a puppy will be free from disease, some breeders will guarantee the health of their pups. Breeders who are concerned about the welfare of the breed do their best to produce healthy Basenjis by using all available health testing before they breed. Know what to ask, and ask before you buy!

Group of Pups

They're smart, not necessarily obedient!

And they will out smart and out-train you if you’re not careful. Enrollment in puppy kindergarten and basic household obedience is strongly encouraged. A good obedience class will help you learn to communicate with your Basenji and improve the quality of life for all. Basenjis have a reputation for being untrainable but they learn quickly using positive reinforcement techniques. Avoid trainers who use harsh techniques—there is never a reason to hit or harm a dog during training.

Puppy playing

They're energetic!

But they won’t grow up to be a frisbee dog and you’ll be hard pressed to get most Basenjis to fetch a stick with any reliability. What they will do is chase every squirrel, cat, and rabbit they see, so it’s essential to keep them on leash unless they are in a secure area. There are activities you can enjoy with your Basenji. Visit the Sites of Interest link below to learn about lure coursing, tracking, conformation, obedience, and agility. Basenji Club of America (BCOA) members look forward to meeting you and your new pup at the next event!

Puppy playing

They're a handful!

If you are not up for the nonstop demands of a Basenji puppy, or don’t want to subject your carpets to the trials of house training, not to mention the general mayhem, you might consider a young adult or an older dog. Most Basenjis adapt to a new family quite well and form a bond that is just as strong as if you had raised him/her from puppyhood. An adult dog may already be well-socialized, know some basic commands, and be past the stage when all household objects are considered chew toys. Visit the Basenji Club of America for a Rescue-Adoption contact in your area. Or ask to be put in touch with a breeder in your area--they may be looking for the perfect home for an older dog.

Brindle Pup

They're looking for the right home!

Although Basenjis usually come into season only once a year (in the fall), it's never too early to start interviewing breeders, for this year or next. You may have to travel a bit and, when you find a breeder you like, be prepared to wait for your puppy. Basenjis bred in the fall will deliver their puppies in late fall, early winter. The pups won't be ready to leave their mom and litter mates until they are at least eight weeks old and have their first set of shots. But your research and patience will pay off. The link above, Screening Breeders, will give you pointers on what to look for in a breeder and questions to ask.

Pup and Child Cuddle


This information is provided by the Basenji Club of America, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the well-being of the Basenji. This can be a challenging breed and the Basenji temperament may not be what some people expect in a dog. We hope you will find this information on Basenjis useful in making an informed decision when you purchase your new pup, regardless of the breed you ultimately choose.


Brindle Basenji face

Introducing Basenjis

This section offers tools to help you to decide if a Basenji is the right breed for you and if so, how to find one.

The Basenji breed is one that people tend to think is perfect for a pet or totally impossible.  They seem to be one of the smartest or one of the dumbest breeds depending on your outlook.

We love the breed, but we want to be sure that you are the right sort of person; your family is the right sort of family for Basenjis before you begin the adventure of living with a Basenji or two!

Basenji Rescue

Many folks may think dogs that end up in rescue are in some way inferior.  Most are dogs that were simply the wrong choice for a family. 

Continue Reading

Basenjis coursingBasenji Fun

Basenjis just being themselves offer endless entertainment.  You might also enjoy taking up some activities with your basenji.  The College of Basenji Activities describes how to start taking part in coursing, agility, rally, obedience and more with your basenji.

Have a young person in your home, here is a downloadable basenji oriented Coloring Book.  Each page also offers some useful information about being a basenji owner.

People have sent in some very cute photos of their basenjis and we have put them together in this gallery for you to enjoy.


Nature's Masterpiece

Author Unknown

This article was one of the first pamphlets distributed by BCOA to those wishing to know more about Basenjis. The information it contains is still as valuable now as it was in the 1950's.  We've included links within the article for your information.

Egyptian Statue


The Dogs of the Stone Age were small foxy fellows, who gathered around the first campfires. As ancient man went from place to place about his business, they followed at a respectful distance, probably attracted by occasional handouts, possibly because they felt an affinity to him. The first dogs, according to paleontologists, were very much like the Basenji, and there are scientific reasons for supposing that the Basenji was this dog of prehistoric times.

Living in long isolation from the outer world for countless thousands of years in the heart of Africa, the Basenji has not been altered by the demands and whims of man. Nothing about him has been changed - neither his size, his shape, the color and texture of his coat, nor his temperament. The Basenji is a well-defined natural breed and is one of Nature's Masterpieces.

The Basenji made an appearance in civilization at the dawn of history as a palace dog of the Pharaohs, so long ago that he watched the Pyramids being built. Pictured in bas-relief and sculptured in stone as far back as 4000 B.C., the Basenji even lent his ears to the dog-headed god Anubis. He was found in Mesopotamia many centuries later. The Metropolitan Museum of Arts owns a bronze statue of a man and his Basenji-like dog, including curled tail and wrinkled forehead. This is identified as Babylonian.

Ancient empires, crumbling, disappeared. So did the Basenji - and without a trace. The explorer Merolla, whom Edward C. Ash quotes in "Dogs and Their Development" caught a glimpse of him in the Congo in 1682. "These dogs, notwithstanding their wildness, do little or no damage to the inhabitants. They are red-haired, have small slender bodies and their tails turned upon their backs." Only as recently as the latter half of the 19th century were Basenjis re-discovered in their original habitat - the headwaters of both the Nile and the Congo, in the heart of Africa. There, they are the hunting dogs of native tribes, and so highly esteemed are they that they are regarded as having equal rights with their masters.

The purebred Basenji is a small dog, the male measuring approximately 17 inches from the ground to the top of the shoulders; the female, 16 inches. The preferred weight for the male is about 24 pounds; for the female, 22. His legs must be slender and long; his toes highly arched. His movement lends distinction to the man who owns and walks one.

In sunlight he is an arresting sight. His coat is short and silky and one has a choice of colors. There is a lustrous golden brown with white feet and white tail-tip, white chest and belly, and in many specimens, a white blaze and collar. There is a striking black and white edition, glossy black with white where it occurs on the red dogs; and a handsome tri-color edition - glossy black with sharp edgings of brilliant tan, tan tri-angular eyebrows and checks, with white of course where it occurs on red dogs. (Editor Update: Brindle basenis, with black stripes over a base red coat, are now included as a recognized Basenji color.)

The Basenji's tail should curl tightly to one side of his back and the more animated the dog, the tighter the curl. The head and expression of the Basenji are his most appealing features. His prick ears give him a constant look of alertness; his brown eyes have an oriental slant; and his wrinkled forehead imparts an anxious expression to his face -  the look of one who, having known man from the beginning, is terribly worried about the outcome.

Since he is silent on the trail, the Congolese, as did the ancients, require him to wear a hunting bell made of wood, or iron, or the shell of a Borassus nut, so that they may trail him to his prey. He will not become hysterical when the doorbell or the telephone rings. He will not become vocal at the sight of other animals, or the approaching stranger.

Although some are almost totally silent, Basenjis possess vocal chords and do have a voice. They have a growl worthy of a dog twice their size; they have a threatening wild-animal snarl, and they have a scream of terror. Some will talk with their masters and with one another in voices like those of Siamese cats. Others are yodelers, with a range comparable to that of a coloratura, and will even perform on command!

Then, there is a call heard generally at night, apparently a pack-call. It is an eerie sound, more reminiscent of a bird than an animal. And, there is the crow, delightfully like a young rooster's initial attempt. The Basenji crows when he greets human friends, when he's surprised, when he's amused, when he's achieved a triumph such as charging into a room forbidden to him, or when he is pleased with the way things in general are going. On such occasions he is at his irresistible best.

Owners will testify to his phenomenal intelligence, his inventiveness, his curiosity, and his clownish sense of humor. But keep in mind that since the Basenji usually has a single devotion to one man, one family, one boy or girl, it is preferable that he make friends among the human race early in life.

He is a staunch believer in personal and property rights. The silent hunter is also a silent watch dog. A sound outside brings him noiselessly to the door, to await an intruder. He will give the housebreaker a rough time.

The Basenji is immaculate, grooming his coat and paying particular attention to his feet, again, like a cat. He takes such good care of himself that he rarely needs a bath. An occasional brisk rub with a rough towel and a daily going-
over with a soft brush will delight him and will cause his coat to glisten.

The Basenji is practically odorless. If there is any scent at all, it is reminiscent of clean, dry grass.

Some Basenji bitches still come into season only once a year, usually in the fall, puppies arriving during the holidays. With an eye on her own, Nature has ordained that in climates where there are definite winters and summers, females ought to come into season in the spring, puppies to arrive when the weather is congenial - in June or July. In the northern United States and Canada as the years pass, more and more litters are arriving in late spring and early summer, so that puppies are now generally available throughout the year.

Although for fifty years the British made many attempts to bring Basenjis into England, they were not successfully acclimated there until 1937. In 1938 they were introduced into the United States and Canada. The Basenji Club of America, Inc., an organization of Basenji owners, admirers of the breed, sportsmen, naturalists, writers, and breeders, is dedicated to the preservation of the Basenji as an aboriginal dog and in the image of its African prototype.

Activities available for the Basenji owner are lure coursing, scent field trailing, and much companionship. The lure coursing and scent field trialing are activities in which you can enjoy watching your Basenji do what comes naturally.

* Original pamphlet cover art was by Bernice Walker, included the text of 1954 AKC Basenji Standard on the back cover, gave a contact name for more information, and welcomed new members to the Basenji Club of America.

This is a reference to Father Jerom Merolla da Sorrento, who authored a book about his early Congo expedition: "A Voyage to Congo, and Several Other Countries, Chiefly in Southern-Africk." London: Awnsham & John Churchill, 1704.

Image Credit -  Image from the IMAGE Royalty Free CD-ROM Volume 4: Art of Ancient Egypt from the Metropolitan Museum of Art


Owners Guide

This Guide will prove invaluable in answering the many questions you have about this fascinating and unique breed. Topics include personality and physical traits as well as the proper training, grooming and health care of the Basenji.  See the Owners Guide at the Basenji University!

Health Information

Basenjis are a natural breed and are relatively healthy.  Like all breeds, there are disorders that may occur more often in this breed than in dogs in general, or that are uncommon but known or suspected to be inherited.

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Three red puppies in sunshine

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