The Basenji Club of America African Stock Project

Project Library

"Report on Russell Hendren's Talk"

by Susan Patterson

From the last Bulletin, it's apparent that the Big News is the project to bring Basenjis out of Africa, and so it was with much interest that fanciers attending the Columbia, MO "un-specialty" listened to Russell Henderen explain the project in person. The face-to-face opportunity cleared up a LOT of misconceptions, and I'll do my best to summarize the major points:

(1) Why Bother To Import? Africa is changing irrevocably in lightning fashion in regard to its physical nature, political makeup and social stratification. Western influence is at its root, and the Africa that spawned, nurtured and protected the development and isolation of the Basenji as a pure breed, and as a viable component of village life is almost gone. Development, resettlement, and the changes from nomadic to permanent homes has changed the face of the continent so that it cannot support the life on it. We are all aware of the horrible drought that has wracked Africa for over 10 years, threatening every life form. In the Big Picture, of course, the little Basenji hardly ranks high on an international scale of concern in light of Africa's many significant problems. But Basenji fanciers, interested in the breed's history - much of which is taken as "gospel" is purely a matter of conjecture and second-to fifteenth-hand legend - ARE concerned about bringing out what remains of the breed before it vanished like the peoples and lifestyles which it once was a part of there. Please know that I am GROSSLY oversimplifying the state of affairs in Africa, and do so only to illustrate a point as simply as possible. As heard on TV, there's lots of material in the library available for you to Read More About It!

(2) And Why Not? USA universities and botanical gardens are spending many millions of dollars and man hours to ravel all over the world where habitat is being threatened to save specimens of plants; Africa is one such place where these efforts are being concentrated. The project to bring out native Basenjis is involving much the same sentiment - and the reasons are much the same as those persons who first brought them out specifically to send to another continent. Also to be considered is that European breed fanciers commonly import dogs from their country of origin, so why are American Basenji fanciers "wigging out" over the same principal?

(3) Eradicate All Disease? WHERE ON EARTH DID ANYONE GET THIS IDEA? ? ? ? ? The import project was never conceived as means of solving; it is just an acknowledgement of the fact that WHEN AND IF the native dogs are bred to Western-bred Basenjis, it will have an effect on the gene pool. Now this carefully!: The native dogs will NOT be bred to Western dogs for AT LEAST five years. They will be segregated in such a manner that they will be permitted to breed only with each other; this is as much to fulfill AKC's requirements to register their offspring down the road as it is to isolate them for health reasons. Although they will be living in homes and kennels with Western dogs, there will be no inter-breeding. Ideally, it would be advantageous for the Africans to live all together in a big research/breeding center by themselves, but we don't have that luxury, so private individuals will be donating space, food, vet care and love - and time to caring for the imports. Just as the first Basenjis to set foot on Western soil were no great shakes to look at, the current crop will probably not contain many (any?) raving beauties. Remember - much of the credit for the appearance of the modern dogs goes to the superior feed and health care provided them as to the genes determining phenotype.

(4) The Next Generation. And so, you wonder, what happens to the pups of the Africans? Numero Uno to consider through all this is that mere human beings are responsible for all this (such statements cover a multiple of sins!). Noting this, we'll back up to the fact that the dogs imported will be chosen by certain people because they feel that the dogs exhibit essential characteristics. As we all know, we do not always agree on what's "best", important, ect. with the dogs, and so we'll have the same situation. Of course, that's farther on down the road from the original importers who took what they were given ( and since ALL of OUR Basenjis came from those dogs, who is to say just what a "good" or "proper" Basenji REALLY is? ? ? ?) Back to the main thread here: OK, a breeding takes place and pups are born. Any pups determined by those very human humans to be "pet" quality will be placed accordingly Free Of Charge. The new owners will be educated as to the importation/assimilation project. A contract will encourage (we all know about trying to enforce doggy contracts, don't we?) these owners to have the dogs tested for HA, PPM, IPSID and/or whatever as current and to-be-developed techniques permit. Also, sickness and /or death of a dog is to be reported since this will catch late-onset diseases such as Fanconi syndrome so that notations can be made on the "lines" being developed from the imports. Those persons part of the original project will be required to keep in touch with puppy buyers, etc. and to keep exceptional documentation. A responsible vs. emotional approach to the Project is promoted.

(5) Summing Up: AKC has been approached about this and is, not surprisingly, enthusiastic about the project. There are rules and regulations which must be followed in order to make the Africans eventually eligible for AKC registration, but AKC has not thrown any roadblocks or discouraged the project in any way. The BCOA Board and Officers have voted support for the Project, but what is really needed is the support and input of the fancy as a whole...


Reprinted from
The Official Bulletin of the Basenji Club of America
Volume XX Number 3 July-August 1986 pp. 20-21
Copyright © 1986 The Basenji Club of America, Inc., All Rights Reserved