The Basenji Club of America African Stock Project

Project Library



SOME MONTHS AGO I met Col. John B.
George, who was then the executive vice pre-
sident of the African Wildlife Leadership Found-
ation, Inc. He is an authority on East Africa and
has spent many year there, and is a fervent devo-
tee of the land, its people, and its natural
resource—particularly the wildlife. Following a
telephone conversation, he came over on Sunday
morning to meet some fifth-plus generation
Africans who have settled in Virginia. It was a
pleasure to behold his enthusiasm and delight
over seeing these creatures so typical in line, ex-
pression, and movement of their native land, en-
joying domestic tranquility. He was so obviously
intrigued with everything about these Basenjis
—as he said it, "shen-zis"—and said that the
faces and expressions were a familiar sight in so
many villages where he had been. Doubtless very
few were pure Basenji, but the influence was so
strong that seeing them was a poignant reminder
of happy memories and fascinating experiences.
While he was questioning me about Basenjis
here, I was pumping him for his reminiscences of
those in Africa. Needless to say, it was an en-
thralling visit, and I am sure that on his next trip
he will better mark their whereabouts, conform-
ation, and deeds of prowess. He did say that a-
typical of the usual African attitude toward dogs
in many areas the natives appeared to be genuin-
ely fond of their little Basenjis.
One tale that enchanted me was of a trip into
the bush, when he was walking down a narrow
game trail quite restricted on either side by dense
vegetation. Suddenly, coming at full speed to-
ward him was a bush-buck pursued by four red-
and white Basenjis. The bush-buck was as start-
led as he was and, fortunately, instead of impaling
him on his horns, he banked off a tree, striking it
top of page
with his hoofs, and dashed off at right angles into 
the undergrowth. The Basenjis did the same man-
euver one after the other, glancing off the tree
trunk and following their quarry. The whole action
was so instantaneous that he said it was only in
retrospect that he could follow the sequence of
motion. The dogs were followed shortly by their
master in hot pursuit. It was only a moment out of
a day, but I could visualize it so well when he told
it, and it gave me such a thrill that I hope the re-
counting of it second hand holds for the reader a
little of what I felt in hearing it.
His knowledge of animals and the wild prompt-
ed me to ask him to speculate on some of the
peculiar characteristics of Basenjis. On the bark-
lessness and lack of doggy odor he thought this
followed as a camouflage against leopards, which
consider dog as one of the tastiest of morsels.
They have been known to go into people's
houses to prey on a pet dog. In fact, Basenjis
have been seen in quantity living unprotected in
areas where no one could bring a European dog
and have it survive for any length of time. Their
agility and fleetfootedness obviously has devel-
oped and been cultivated because those who
lacked it didn't last long under the rigors of their
life.
The observation that Basenjis require only
small amounts of water compared to other dogs
explains their survival during the long dry season
of approximately eight months. They live even in
villages where no surface water is to be found
and are seldom if ever watered by the natives.
The heat period, which comes in the fall here,
coincides with the short rains in their native en-
vironment. Hence water is plentiful and food is
available when the puppies are whelped and
weaned.
Perhaps I'll have more goodies to relate after
the Georges' next stint in Africa.—Damara
Bolte.


Article reprinted from
Pure-Bred Dogs: American Kennel Club Gazette
Volume 81 Number 3 March 1964 pp. 35-36
Copyright © 1964 AKC, All Rights Reserved
Used with permission.