The Singing Dogs Of The Congo

By Mike Devlin on Monday, October 28, 2013
146751977
“The barking of a dog does not disturb the man on a camel.” —Egyptian Proverb

In A Nutshell

Originating in Central Africa, the basenji is one of the strangest dogs in the world. Unlike its other canine counterparts, the basenji cannot bark. Due to the shape of its larynx, it produces unique, warbling vocalizations that have been compared to yodeling.

The Whole Bushel

The basenji is one of the world’s most ancient dog breeds. Hailing from the jungles of the Congo, depictions of dogs resembling basenjis have been found etched on the tombs of Egyptian pharaohs. Used as hunting dogs in the old growth forests, the dog is relatively small, just over 9 kilograms (20 lbs). It is similar in appearance to dingoes and other pariah dogs, meaning that thousands of years ago it was once feral and bred unchecked. Without the interference of man, the breed developed a uniform appearance.

The most bizarre trait of the basenji is its physiological inability to bark. This is due to the narrowed shape of the dog’s larynx, which only allows it to make a yodeling, howling sound. There are a couple theories on how the basenji came upon this adaptation. One is that the tribes in Africa who utilized the dogs selectively bred them not to bark so the dogs wouldn’t attract the attention of enemies. Another theory is that the basenji’s larynx might have evolved in that fashion after centuries of disuse.

In recent years, the basenji has declined in popularity, probably due to its temperament. Described as somewhat aloof and cat-like, this dog is independent and not as responsive to training as more commonly kept breeds like Labradors and German shepherds. Its call, while it might be called a yodel, is also far from musical and can be quite irritating to the uninitiated.

Show Me The Proof

Basenji Club of America
Basenji, Dog That Does Not Bark