The Basenji Club of America African Stock Project

Project Library

Health Conclusions About My Africans

by Brenda Jones-Greenberg

  For those of you who are not familiar with my project, let me walk you through briefly. Fourteen years ago Karon Begeman of Bighorn Basenjis, and I, were on a list to receive an African basenji. Although our interest in the Africans were not the same, we decided to ban together and proceeded to set up a project in which extensive testing would be done on the Africans, along with behavior observations juxtaposed to their westernized cousins. Karon dropped out of the project at the third generation due to other commitments.
  The project includes six generations, covering five of the imports and 32 dogs. The two full Africans outcrosses I have done are not included in the project. These two outcrosses have brought three more of the imports to my breeding program, along with a fourth vis-a'-vis an outcross done with Acoma, a sixth generation girl owned by Rita and Thomas Pontes.
  It has taken almost 12 years for my Africans to reach an age where the medical side of the project would have some meaning to the fancy at large. Below, you find the beginnings of a body of testing that is finally offering some insight into what 5 of the imports have given us. Please note that, in some categories, the data is still years from completion.


  Here the data looks good through the third generation. With the third generation approaching eight years of age, no Fanconi has been found. The fourth generation will be 7 this December, with no indication of Fanconi. Unfortunately, the fifth and sixth generations, approaching five and six years of age respectively, will offer the best data. This we must wait for.


  Of the 32 Africans, 30 have had their eyes tested. Bikoro, my foundation African was just tested, along with Elekeza, a fourth generation girl, and the dam of the fifth generation, and both are showing normal eyes. Within the next few months many more of my Africans will be done for a second time. So far, all have tested normal, with four exceptions. Atbara, from the second generation, was found to have cholesterol in his eyes and a diet change was recommended. Eleka, in the fourth generation was found to have a double eyelash, along with Acoma from the sixth generation. In neither case was this found to hinder the eye itself. Acoma has two slight ppm strandings, iris to iris.
  Over the years, all the Ophthalmologists that have tested the Africans have commented about how clean their eyes seem compared to what they have seen in our basenjis in this country. Let us hope this will continue through the fifth and sixth generations as the years go by. The data here is quite good.


  Out of the 32, 15 hips have been x-rayed and all are showing good to excellent. Here, I consider the fifth and sixth generations to be most valuable, and will be testing most in these generations. The data here is very promising.


  So far, most of the allergies have been food related, with four exceptions. Of theses exceptions, Acoma has been hit the hardest, with a visit to Tufts University, numerous vet visits, and a thyroid check, none of which has found anything related to her allergies. She is now on medication for a yeast infection, and is completely clear with only one spot of missing hair. She is due for more testing within the next two weeks. I find none of this exceptional as one would expect that the bodies of these Africans must adjust to the different environment they find themselves living in, compared to their native land. The food issue would be the same.


  The data here is indicating a superior immune system in every way. I will be reporting on my findings more extensively at a later date. Suffice it to say that the data here is quite exciting and the more important to this point.


  Before we go further, let me define some things for you first. This will help you immediately understand the findings below. The thyroid gland is a two-lobed endocrine gland found in all vertebrates, located in front of and on either side of the trachea and producing the hormone thyroxin. Thyroiditis is the inflammation of the thyroid gland. Autoimmune Thyroiditis has an indicated: (a) familial relationship and (b) is considered to be genetic.
  Here the new is not so good. When Acoma showed such severe allergies and Tufts testing indicated no allergies, I called for a thyroid test. Michigan State came back with results showing autoimmune thyroiditis. With these results I began, along with James Johannes, Linda Smith and others, to test for a thyroid problem. So far we have found that one of the imports in my pedigree is being treated for a thyroid problem but, has not been tested for autoimmune thyroiditis with Michigan State, one of the labs that can do the test, and we have asked if this might be done. Djuga, of the third generation, is showing the above findings, along with Elekeza. Ebone is normal, as is Zuni. Mwenua is showing equivocal, meaning they are not sure at this time.
  Over the next few months Breka and Arusha will be tested, along with many others, and I will update you on the results of these findings. For those that have a computer, check the OFA website for the results, for I have given permission for all testing to go public. At present, one can only test with Michigan State and get certified by OFA. Dr. Dodd in California can also do the testing, but her results have yet to be accepted by OFA.


  For years, I have heard many stories about the difficulties involved in living with African basenjis. To date, I have lived with many personalities and placed many Africans in households where there are infants, toddlers, children, teenagers, singles, older folks, and very old folks, and have seen nothing that would indicate a personality problem. Yes, one will have problems if people are raising these Africans like the general population dogs. One cannot, under any circumstances, yank them severely by a choke chain, pull them from under beds, drag them out of a crate in strange surroundings, make sudden move around them, or approach them without their permission. The advice I always give is simple; don't do anything to another living creature you would not want done to yourself. These dogs are some of the smartest, most sensitive, and most aware creatures I have ever lived with and it continues to be an adventure every day.
  Personally, I have brought into my home full Africans and half Africans and had not one moment's problem with them. One these examples is Zeze, and her son, Tigger. Zeze, a full African, and her half African son shall be missed by me forever. Zeze was a creature so special, words elude me.


  These Africans bring so much good with them, let us not waste this opportunity given to us. I ponder how it is possible for such a breed as this, surviving for thousands of years in what can only be described as a hostile environment, be in dire straits in the western world after only living with us for no more than 80 years. Let us resolve to try harder to keep these dear creatures healthier and happier as the years go by. How could the world live without such a magical creature?

 Reprinted from
The Official Bulletin of the Basenji Club of America, Inc.
Vol. XXXV No. 3 July/August/September 2001, p. 23
Copyright © 2001 BCOA, All Rights Reserved.