THE BASENJI – QUESTIONS ANSWERED
By Patricia H. Gilbert (First Published in Sight & Scent)
What should strike you first as they walk into the ring?
This is a small shorthaired lightly built elegant hunting hound capable of an effortless gait. He appears higher on leg compared to his length due to his short back. His wrinkled head is proudly carried on his well arched neck. He also has a high set tightly curled tail bending forward that lays to one side or the other. He should be both alert and inquisitive. When you look at him he must be elegant yet appear to be able to do the job of both the Scenthound and Sighthound. He is a dual purpose little hunting hound. He must appear smoothly muscled and never bulgy. The wrinkled head, short level back and tightly curled tail are three features and must haves for me. That is Basenji breed type.
Is there a particular trait that makes you cringe and should never be overlooked?
A long soft back is unsightly in this breed.
I am seeing more Basenjis with almost no wrinkles getting high awards. The head proportions in many Basenjis are not correct and this has caused a loss of the characteristic wrinkle. The muzzle should be shorter than the topskull. When the muzzle is lengthened then the wrinkle disappears.
I cringe when I see a teapot or almost uncurled tail.
I am also seeing flat feet with open toes that remind me of chicken feet.
The foot is essential for function in this hound. He must have small compact and oval feet with thick pads and well arched toes.
I am disgusted by out of condition, underweight or overweight and soft muscled dogs. This applies to all Hounds.
What have breeders worked hard to achieve in the breed that should be acknowledged?There is a lethal gene called Fanconi’s Syndrome. The introduction of African stock was necessary to save the breed. The new stock brought in health but it also brought new colors such as the brindle and trindle. Along with good health they also brought in some less than desirable traits that we see today. The breeders had to take some steps back to go forward with their breed. I think Basenji breeders are really trying to get it right and maintain health. As a judge I cannot consider genes as I am only judging phenotype but I have to admire those breeders who stayed the course to get to where they are today. Breeders have also worked very hard on temperament. In recent years I find the Basenji much more tolerant of a stranger’s touch.
Basenji breeders are dedicated to a healthy breed, I commend them for that.
What do you see that could become a problem?
I see large and tall ears. I see loosely curled tails amongst other things. This is partly due to the introduction of the African stock. I see this as a problem because judges are rewarding it without even blinking.
I also see a problem with judges not understanding Basenji movement. The statement “resembling a racehorse trotting full out” has done more harm than good to the breed. I don’t think it is ever a good idea to compare one species to another. That being said, a judge should know that the racehorse referred to is the Standardbred horse that is a trotting or pacing horse. In the case of the Basenji they are referring to the trot. If you think of a swift and effortless trotting dog, with no wasted action, then you will have the right picture in your head. On the down and back the faster he goes, the faster he has a tendency to converge both front and rear.
Is there something that every judge of Basejis should do (not do) or notice (not notice)?
Never forget that the Basenji is examined on the table and judged on the ground. If you want to recheck a feature, do not approach and touch the dog on the ground. Ask the handler to please put the dog back up on the table.
You should give the handler enough time to settle the dog on the table. Approach obliquely and make sure the dog sees you coming. Calm hands that maintain touch at all times during the exam reassures the dog. I slip my hand under the chin for my first contact and then slide my hands around to the cheeks and muzzle to check head proportions, wrinkle, cushion and finally the bite. Try not to cover the eyes. The neck should have good length, be arched at the crest and be slightly fuller at the base. Make sure you put your hand between his front legs and check for depth, space and the slightly prominent prosternum Check the rib cage (both sides), to make sure it is oval. Check length of sternum and look for the definite waist. The back must be short, level and firm. The loin should also be firm, well muscled and hard.
The Basenji is moderately angulated both in the front and the rear. Balance is essential to get that wonderful full out trot.
You should know that a Basenji’s testicles are high and tight to the body. There are also in line as opposed to being side by side. They have the ability to pull them up into their body. If it is chilly, I try to warm my hands by blowing on them or tucking them into my pockets. So if I cannot find two, I move the dog to let him relax and then have him put back up on the table.
He can be aloof but not fearful. He should always be alert and not dopey looking.
Please note I did not discuss color. I really don’t care about color as long as it is within the Basenji standard. They are many more important features besides color.
When you do your examination properly and get a good dog, your hands will flow. When you step back you will get the full appreciation of this compact, short level backed, lightly built hound.
Trust your good instincts and you will do just fine.