The Basenji Club of America African Stock Project

Project Library

The Story of Amatangazig

as told by Mr. Arthur Byron

 During 1937-38 my wife and I were motoring in the west corner of the South Sudan, and hearing we in the 'coun-
try of the barkless dogs,' we were on the look-out for them. One day we saw a native on the side of the road with
two little puppies, so we stopped, and by a lengthy process explained that we wanted one. We agreed upon the
price, but I gathered that I could have bought two or three wives for far less, and that he would much rather I had
a wife than one of his dogs. He seemed an ordinary Azande, and certainly was no local chief.
One puppy was black and white, and one red and white. We chose the red and white, which we called Ama-
tangazig, so we just called her by the last syllable. What it meant I never discovered, for when I asked another
native he burst into a slightly bawdy laugh, so I did not pursue the question further.
Zig was bound up in an open wicker basket, in which she could move, but not turn round. This was rather im-
portant as she did not seem to like white people, though any native could handle her. We hoped to ingratiate our-
selves by offering her food, but she kept on making fierce noises. After a couple of days she would eat the food
we gave her and within a week she appeared to be fond of us. She then became colour conscious, in fact the sit-
uation was reversed, white people were acceptable while natives received angry rebuffs. She became an out-
rageous snob, a habit she kept up in England, servants being tolerated but never really accepted.
From the start Zig showed signs of being very clean dog. She was fussy and would only use grass, and later
when starting to cross the Sahara I had visions of Zig bursting herself, but to our amazement she resigned her-
self to sand. When we stopped at the end of a day's trek across the desert, Zig would jump out of the Ford and
rush away to the horizon. This frightening gesture would be repeated two or three times until exhausted she
would jump on to a bed and curl up for the night.
Upon our return to civilization Zig quickly became housetrained and her delightful and unusual ways, espe-
cially her frequent yodel, soon made her a dearly loved pet.
Concerning Basenjis in general, they are found in the South West corner of the Sudan, below the Dinka coun-
try, better known as the Bahr-el-Ghazel, a swampy district of Nile tributaries. They seem to live in a narrow belt
west of Meridi, in the area occupied by the Zande tribe, who use them to hunt game. They take them in packs
through the thick undergrowth, the men of the village going out with spears and nets, not unlike the gladiators of
Rome, while the dogs chivvy the animals out into prepared paths and traps, where the men net and spear them.
The Basenjis, being silent, have bells attached to them so that the hunters know where they are. These simple
bells, like a small cow-bell, are fixed to the leaders of a pack, not round the neck, as one would suppose, because it
was found that the thick undergrowth tore them off. They are fixed between the hind-legs, which gives the old
dogs a bow-legged appearance rather like a retired jockey.
Valuable and priceless to the natives, the dogs, as I said before, are worth more than a wife. The small short-
backed specimens are greatly prized, and, incredible as it sounds, the natives will often run a dog up and down for
its movement to be admired.

 Reprinted from
Basenjis: The Barkless Dog
by Veronica Tudor-Williams
Revised edition January 1954, pp. 15-16
Copyright © 1954 Veronica Tudor-Williams, All Rights Reserved.

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