The Basenji Club of America African Stock Project

Project Library



"YOU CAN imagine how fascinating it was
to see Basenjis in the jungle with their native
owners." wrote Veronica Tudor-Williams in a
letter after her trip deep into Basenji country this
spring, "some of them really good enough to go
into any show ring and win."
At the start of World War II, when food
shortages were forcing the original sponsors of
the African barkless dogs in England to abandon
their kennels, the only fancier who made every
possible sacrifice to preserve a precious nucleus
of breeding stock was Miss Tudor-Williams. All
the early Basenjis in the United States and
Canada, with the exception of four that came di-
rect from Africa, were imported from Miss
Tudor-Williams' kennel. Most of our knowledge
of the breed in Africa having been based either
on mere hearsay or sheer theory, it is fitting that
Miss Tudor-Williams herself, an honorary mem-
ber of the Basenji Club of America, finally under-
taken the long-needed job of careful research in
the very heart of Africa on the Basenji. She plans
to return in 1960 to continue her investigations.
"It is not surprising that there have been all
kinds of rumors and theories about Basenjis in
their native land," Miss Tudor-Williams observed
in the July 24 issue of Dog World, published in
England, "for no one has ever gone on a expedi-
tion with the express purpose of finding out more
about them.
"Statements of every sort have been made,"
she wrote, "and the same statements completely
contradicted. We had no idea what to expect.
Some people told us that there we no Basenji left
and, if there were, we would find them complete-
ly mongrelized by the white man's dogs. On the
other hand, casual observers had said that there
were plenty of Basenjis scattered all over Africa
—a theory we soon found quite incorrect."
From Port Sudan Miss Tudor-Williams and
party flew to Khartoum, then to the southern
Sudan. In Juba they engaged a native driver and
a native interpreter and set out in a Land Rover
with trailer filled with camping equipment into
Equatoria and Bahr el Ghazal, a region that skirts
the Belgian Congo. They drove over rough
roads, averaging 100 miles a day, through a land
in which rolling hills alternated with dense green
jungle.
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 "Then we came to 'the country of the barkless 
dogs. 'One Sudanese commissioner told us that,
until a lew years ago, most of the natives were
dumfounded when they heard European dogs
bark. Here Basenjis are known as Zande dogs
among the English-speaking people, and as Ango
Angari by the natives.
'The older dogs, timid of white people, usually
kept their distance, but on the ground puppies
and young dogs would play with us. Owners ap-
parently considered their Basenjis as precious as
their children. Their dogs followed them quietly to
heel and, if we stopped to observe, were picked
up protectivelv in their arms.
"I had been told that natives seldom parted
with adult dogs—a statement I could hardly
credit, but it proved true. Occasionally we saw a
young adult that we wished to buy. Through our
interpreter we would offer jewelry, cigarettes,
and finally large sums of money (up to treble the
price of a native bride), but to no effect, the na-
tive owner walking away, a disdainful expression
on his or her face. This was an attitude with which
I thoroughly sympathized, especially when I ob-
served that the adult dogs reciprocated this
attachment. When we remembered that they
knew nothing of the horrors of the white man's
world—traffic, aeroplanes, and the long quaran-
tine on reaching our shores, we felt that it would
be cruel to bring such dogs to England and de-
cided that puppies would be the answer. We then
had another shock. We went to various villages
asking for puppies and usually received the ans-
wer, yes there had been puppies, but they had all
been sold. Thanks to the mysterious African
grapevine, word had gone ahead of us that we
were Europeans who had come to shoot the
dogs. Probably these rumors stemmed from me-
mories of the days when white men shot dogs be-
cause of rabies outbreaks. As a result, Basenjis
were hidden, and it would have taken more time
than we had at our disposal to gain the complete
confidence of the natives and persuade them that
we wished them good, not harm."
At the end, however, they acquired two pup-
pies, who will be hero and heroine in a future col-
umn. And the observations by Miss Tudor-
Williams on colors, sizes and types of native
Basenjis and on other varieties of African dogs
will be important to those of us who have long
been dismayed by the lack of factual information
on the Basenji in its homeland—Walter Philo,
NY, New York

see next article on Observations of Sudan Basenjis by VTW


Article reprinted from
Pure-Bred Dogs: American Kennel Club Gazette
Volume 76 Number 10 October 1959 pp. 44-45
Copyright © 1959 AKC, All Rights Reserved
Used with permission.