...I was also very interested in the remarks made by Mrs. Ellen Scheuing in "Notions From New York," in the
February issue, in which she comments on temperament, and feels that the early breeders let weeding out of poor
temperament fall by the wayside. I do not think many people know of the terrible problems the very early breed-
ers had to try and overcome, so being one of them, I feel some reminiscences might be of interest. Nearly all
native dogs are high-strung and nervous. In their native land, it is a case of "jump first and look afterwards," or
you might be dead. The jumping can also include "bite first," and who can blame them! George Gilkey once wrote
that Mrs. Taaffe said that when her two native dogs were on her knees, she had to be careful that they did not
bite her. To those who do not know, this sounds terrible, until it is remembered that KINDU and KASENYI came
from the jungle as adults, and no one could expect them to adjust completely.
To return to the early dogs, we had to work out which were sweet tempered dogs with native apprehension,
and how the six-month solitary confinement of quarantine had affected them; and which were were naturally not
so good tempered, and this, with the best intentions in the world, could only be found out by trial and error. I
know that as far as my kennel was concerned, I put temperament first as I reckoned that no breed has a future,
however attractive physically, unless its temperament is equally attractive. One of my first dogs, KINGA OF THE
CONGO, was chosen chiefly for disposition as at that time, during World War II, very heavy in-breeding has to
take place, and temperament was very important as the early dogs were by no means ideal in disposition. Even
then breeders differed in their views. I did not care for BASHELE OF BLEAN, and at a later date, WAU OF THE
CONGO, feeling their temperaments were suspect. Yet Mrs. Burn thought the world of BASHELE, and later on,
Mrs. "Glenaireley" Anderson, Miss "Riviana" Cook, and Miss "Gooses" Campbell, all thought WAU was
wonderful and that he had contributed greatly to their kennels.
I often think how courageous the few early breeders were, and I am proud to have been one of them. We
coped with all sorts of difficulties which the present-day breeders know nothing about, and I often think if I had
not been very young, and very enthusiastic, I could not have gone on. I certainly would not now.
To give a brief instances of some of the problems: In the 1939-1943 period, at least 20% of all puppies were
born undershot. At first about 50% of all pups born had bad inguinal or scrotal hernias, but thank goodness, this
was under control quicker than bad mouths, though bad umbilical hernias persisted for a long time. And by bad,
I mean bad, with hernias sometimes the size of walnuts. Then we had the cream problem - cream being a pretty
colour, but quite ruined by pink noses, pink eye-rims, and yellow eyes. I would say at least 20% of the early
puppies were cream, and sometimes there were more creams in litters than reds. On top of this, we had a few cleft
palates in the early days, but these did not persist. And we had "sprawlers" which are puppies which cannot get
up on their feet, not many of them, but enough to be a problem, and I am glad to say these have not been seen
for many years.
As can be well understood, all these major problems did not allow very much scope for selecting for show
points, nor for being hyper-critical over temperament, so returning to Mrs. Scheuing's comment, "...weeding out
poor temperament must have fallen by the wayside," I think she will now understand that with the very early
breeders it was impossible to wee anything too severely or there would have been no dogs left!
In later days, with the importing of KINGOLO, and especially of FULA who is famous for what she has done
for temperament, it all proved much easier, and what a pity we did not have them to lighten our load in the early
As it was, we struggled on to the best or our ability, and in the early days of the war, I struggled alone. But I
remembered Mr. K. B. Smith's remark to me in the first two years of Basenjis. I had said to him in despair, "What
can we do, we are surrounded by insurmountable difficulties, is it worth trying to carry on?" By which I meant
bad mouths, hernias, creams, sprawlers, the lot. He replied that if on has the patience, one can in-breed to
strength, as well as weakness. And how right he was-one had to pick, for instance, the only sound red pup in a
litter which contained creams and undershot pups, and by carrying on doing this sort of thing, in time the faults
were gradually bred out.
I'll confess, when I think back on that uphill task, I wonder if it was worth the heart-breaking personal struggle
- and then when I look at Basenjis today, I feel that it was!
Volume X Number 6 June 1973 p. 2
Copyright © 1973 The Basenji, All
Having written of the early struggles of Basenjis in the June issue of the Basenji, with particular reference to
temperament in the early dogs, and in the imports, I was very interested to read Alice Bair's, "The Acid Test"
over cutting Basenjis' nails being a test of temperament - how true! She then refers to CH. RIVIANA JOLLITY OF
THE CONGO having passed this test with flying colours. Now the interesting part is, JOLLITY was the daughter
of GAMBOL OF THE CONGO, who, was by WAU OF THE CONGO, out of CH. FRIVOLITY OF THE CONGO,
and it was WAU whose temperament I felt was not of the best, and therefore did not use him much for stud,
though others felt differently about him. I find it interesting as it seems the dog whose temperament I did not
care for was responsible for a super-temperament, though FRIVOLITY had a lot to do with it as she was absolute
tops in nature...
Volume X Number 7 July 1973 p. 4
Copyright © 1973 The Basenji, All