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All Dog Breeds >>History of Basenji

The basenji is arguably one of the most ancient dog breeds. Originating on the continent of Africa[citation needed], basenji-like dogs have lived with humans for thousands of years. Dogs resembling modern Basenjis can be seen on stelae in the tombs of Egyptian pharaohs, sitting at the feet of their masters, looking just as they do today, with pricked ears and tightly curled tails. Dogs of this type were originally kept for hunting small game by coursing. Europeans first described the type of dog from which the basenji breed was derived in the Congo in 1895. These local dogs, which Europeans identified as a unique breed and called "basenji" were prized by locals for their intelligence, courage, speed, and silence. However an article published called The Intelligence of Dogs by Stanley Coren, Ph.D. questions this. It ranks the breed at #78 out of 79 which is the second to lowest rank in intelligence. Basenjis were assistants to the hunt, chasing wild game into nets for their masters. The Azande and Mangbetu people from the northeastern Congo region describe basenjis, in the local Lingala language, as mbwá na basɛ́nzi. Translated, this means "dogs of the savages", or "dogs of the villagers". In the Congo, the basenji is also known as "dog of the bush."

The dogs are also known to the Azande of southern Sudan as Ango Angari. The word basɛ́nzi itself is the plural form of mosɛ́nzi. In Swahili, another Bantu language, from East Africa, mbwa shenzi translates to “wild dog”. Another local name is m’bwa m’kube m’bwa wamwitu, or “jumping up and down dog”,[dubious – discuss a reference to their tendency to jump straight up to spot their quarry. Several attempts were made to bring the breed to England, but the earliest imports succumbed to disease. In 1923, for example, Lady Helen Nutting brought six basenjis with her from Sudan, but all six died from distemper shots they received in quarantine. It was not until the 1930s that foundation stock was successfully established in England, and then to the United States by animal importer Henry Trefflich. So it is that nearly all the basenjis in the Western world are descended from these few original imports. The breed was officially accepted into the AKC in 1943. In 1990, the AKC stud book was reopened to fourteen new imports at the request of the Basenji Club of America. The stud book was reopened again to selected imported dogs from January 1, 2009 to December 31, 2013. An American led expedition collected breeding stock in villages in the Basankusu area of the Democratic Republic of Congo, in 2010. Basenjis are also registered with the UKC.