People often query the description of mouth in the Standard, and Mrs. Green even incorrectly states
in her book, Your Basenji, that a mouth cannot be both a scissors bite and level, whilst Bob Cole,
author and artist of that brilliant book, The Basenji Illustrated, writes that he feels the description of
mouth needs clarifiying.
Having been present when the first and all the other Standards were drawn up, I think I can throw
light upon it, especially as I understood what the original people, drawing up the first Standard, were
trying to describe. The two prime movers were Mrs. Burn and Lady Kitty Ritson. Lady Kitty bred
German Shepherd Dogs and Mrs. Burn bred Wire Fox Terriers, and I doubt if there are any breeds
where the owners are more fanatical about mouths, so they knew all there was to know about teeth
and jaws. I was just the opposite, so green and young I doubt if I had the faintest idea what an
undershot mouth was, so I merely listened.
I think the Standard defines a scissors bite very adequately, "the upper teeth slightly overlapping and
touching the lower teeth". But it is with regard to "level" that the misunderstandings occur. Many
people think level means edge to edge, and this is far from the case. "Level" means that the perpen-
dicular sides of the teeth fit closely to each other. This is very important in most breeds, especially
sporting, as it makes for a cleaner bite, and most important of all, stops food getting lodged in the
sides of the teeth and causing decay. I have occasionally judged dogs with their teeth out of alignment
at the sides, and it is both ugly and unhygienic. I will take as examples two native dogs, both with
wonderful mouths, Amatangazig of the Congo and Fula of the Congo, both imported from the South
Sudan and both leaving Africa at around the time when their second teeth were coming through.
Amatangazig had all her teeth when she died aged 14½, and Fula all hers when she died aged 15½.
Their mouths had perfect scissors bites, and the sides of their teeth were so level it was as though
they had been planed and a coat of clear varnish brushed over them.
I think that this explanation shows that the people who drew up the first Standards certainly knew
what they are talking about, but I agree that it needs clarifying so as to explain that it is the sides of
the teeth which need to be "level" with each other.
The Official Bulletin of the Basenji Club of America
Volume XIII, Number 4 July-August 1979 p. 18
Copyright © 1979 Basenji Club of
America, Inc., All Rights Reserved.