The winner of Crufts 2001 – The Basenji

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The Basenji is a hunting dog originating from central Africa, going back four thousand years. One of the earliest accounts of the breed where they were given as presents to the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt. The breed was first introduced in England in 1937, and the first litter of Basenji puppies raised to maturity in America was in 1941. In Africa, the natives use them for pointing, retrieving and driving game into nets.

Basenji are small, sophisticated looking, short-haired dogs with erect ears, and a tightly curled tail. The forehead is wrinkled, particularly when the animal is young or extremely old, and the eyes are almond shaped.

An athletic dog, the Basenji is deceptively powerful for its size. They have a graceful gait like a gazelle. The Basenji is recognized in the standard colours of red, black, tricolor (black with tan in the traditional pattern), and brindle (black stripes on a background of red), all with white. There are additional variations, such as the “trindle”, which is a tricolor with brindle points, and several other colours exist in the Congo such as liver, shaded reds and sables, and “capped” tricolors (creeping tan).

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There are a few unique aspects to this breed. It cannot bark, but instead has a series of low key sounds. The dog is also odorless and cleans itself by licking its body like a cat. The breed sheds very little hair and is therefore a good choice for people that suffer with allergies. Basenji love to climb and are fully capable of climbing over a chain link fence. As a breed they are extremely playful, curious and energetic with enough personality to keep you well entertained.

Typically they develop a very strong bond with their primary human companion, and they require a firm hand and consistency in training to ensure their dominance is managed. They are fiercely independent and stubborn. Praise, affection, and treats are the training tools that work well. The breed has a very strong hunt/prey drive, and should not be around cats and small animals. They are usually very good with older children and other dogs if raised with them, and are very cautious around strangers, (dog or human).

This is a fascinating breed and truly unique, but not a dog for everyone.

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Animal lover, web geek, and co-founder of Pet365. On a mission to make pet sites more interesting and, hopefully, put a smile on people's faces along the way. @mattbeswick on Twitter.