Naturall Instinct
  • 0
  • Sorry to be so late jumping back into the fray; I have been busy working, winning PACH points, trying for MACH double q's and getting one step closer, and only one step away, to V's bench championship! Whoo hoo.

    Came across this today while updating my iPad. An interesting addition to the discussion of losing the breed's natural instinct.

    Chris Maxka, basenji breeder since 1969 had this to say in an article for the (I believe) inaugural TMB (page6/7)

    "Another thread of the "natural" basenji" discourse constantly refers to the basenji in the field, doing what it was bred to do, hunt. I would like to point out that basenjis were never imported as hunting dogs, despite what we know to be their considerable talent. They were imported as unique and beautiful, exotic companions, new and unusual additions to the known dog world. Veronica Tudor-Wiiliams, the primary founder of the breed was hoping the barkless feature would make the basenji an ideal apartment dog (well, we know that's not exactly where that one ended up). She saw the basenji as a unique companion, a pet, and therefore the more grace and exotic beauty, the better. Her original selections of imported stock were based on these features, not on hunting ability, and rightly so."

    Not saying she is right or wrong, only sharing.

    As for neglecting the hunter = fundamentally changing the breed, I am not convinced. We have been breeding towards a companion, show ring standard since the basenji was first exported in the mid 1930's. Luckily we have allowed the importation of native stock which means these hunting instincts one step out of Africa and are being infused into any pedigree that cares to incorporate them.

    It is not my experience that the hunting instinct of the basenji is lacking, undeveloped perhaps but that is easily remedied if one chooses to do so - such as what Jeff is attempting. No dog comes out of the womb ready to hunt without any guidance be it from their older brethren or their human counterparts, but they do come out of the womb with the desire, the instincts and the ability to hone the craft. This is why I think the instinct is fine, they just need the fine tuning.

    Because there is seemingly very little interest in live game hunting with basenjis (as Jeff says roughly 6 hunters amongst how many hundreds/thousands of owners) I can not see the demand for a hunting/working line of basenjis except by those who like to cross breed to them (Feist's and Decker terriers comes to mind) for hybrid vigor (though Decker has apparently created a new breed incorporating basenjis into the mix).

    If we are truly concerned about loss of instinct, seems we as a united fancy need to find a venue that simulates what we think is their primary use in Africa (not how they fend for themselves which by the stories I have heard over the many years of AWOL domestics, is highly intact and is also evidenced by Pat's two killing off her squirrel population or mine who keep our quail and rabbit population in check) which is to drive game into nets, with coursing probably the best we have, or we need to create a venue that best simulates what we feel their true function is and encourage the fancy to participate or barring that I guess we will need to embrace the function the original founders wanted to create, which - if Chris is correct - is to be a unique companion animal; if they lose their instinct, well we have the founders to thank for not wanting the basenji to remain true to its African form. :(

    I personally like a well balanced dog, structurally sound with a bit of an attitude who I know could survive quite fine on their own if necessary but has no need to. I am personally not interested in solely breeding for a unique companion animal which is probably why I want to maintain at least 30% native African in my line of dogs and why I focus more on the performance aspect of the breed.

    As an aside, Feigh had a herding instinct test a few years ago, we received a number of compliments and was even encouraged to develop her and try for a herding title in one of the venues that allow various breeds. If only I had the time between breed, obedience, agility, and coursing I would give it, and tracking a more serious nod.

    Maybe one day, after I win the lottery and move to a more hospitable area. :)

  • 0
  • I had a B/W Basenji pup out in a very large field suddenly show up and drop a large (nerves still quivering) dead jackrabbit at my feet. "Look what I got for dinner!" Back in the mid nineties I had 2 Basenjis kill 5 jackrabbits in 30 minutes. I'm not a hunter by any means and never used them for that purpose but it was sure in them to hunt. My first Basenji in the 70s would run out in the middle of a field in knee high weeds and track down and kill Pheasant. Rats, birds, squirrels or rabbits they were highly driven.

  • 0
  • Mine have always utilized their hunting instinct to control our rabbit population and my first two males especially somehow knew to get the rabbit cornered in the fence as quickly as possible. My female catches them simply on speed (I would love to have her in lure coursing but the two times I took her to an event, other dogs got overly aggressive with her and she has a long and retaliatory memory). She was the only one however that would bring the rabbit to me.

  • 0
  • I believe the hunting instinct is strong in the 'modernized' basenji. In my experiences with Kipawa, a leaf blowing by is something to be pounced on/killed. And one grassy area we go to has already produced two rat kills, flung high through the air on their final journey in this world.

  • 0
  • @nobarkus:

    Back in the mid nineties I had 2 Basenjis kill 5 jackrabbits in 30 minutes. I'm not a hunter by any means and never used them for that purpose but it was sure in them to hunt.

    I find that hard to believe. A Basenji just isn't capable to reach the speed needed to catch a jackrabbit. They get outdistanced very soon. A jackrabbit can easily reach speeds of 40mph, while a Basenji can only reach about 25mph. They could catch an ocasional jackrabbit if they manage to suprise it, but certainly not 5 in 30min.
    Even most of the sighthounds can't easily catch a jackrabbit. Only the greyhound can put out enough speed, but they lack the endurance to go on for longer. Salukis have the endurance, but lack a bit of speed and they will often lose the hare when it manages to get out of sight.

    But catching jackrabbits isn't what Basenji's are used for. You won't even find jackrabbits in Africa. Basenji's are used to hunt cane-rats and such quarry. Those are not very fast.

    I am not a hunter, but got intrested in it a couple of weeks ago when we met some guys ferreting while we are walking and we joined them and used Voodoo to catch and kill the rabbits instead of the nets. Now I go out every evening to let him chase some mountain hares. He hasn't been able to catch one yet, but we are getting closer, mainly cause he starts to respond to my signals better and faster every day.

    It is not the fact that they will chase anything that moves that makes them good hunters with a good hunting instinct. That's like saying that every herding dog which will run to a flock of sheep, is good at herding, or still has the instinct. Yes, they seem to remember what they were created for, but only few still really have what it takes, and still have the skills, to do a good job. Most of them can be trained to learn the basics again, but they should instinctivily still have those basics, and that is not the case with most breeds.

  • 0
  • I would suggest anyone wanting to learn about dogs and hunting jack rabbits read Dr John Brachards posts on the subject on our BNTPP yahoo page. Basenjis do not have the speed to catch a jack rabbit. True coursing hounds are sorely tested at the job and they easily outrun basenjis.

    Jeff

  • 0
  • In an open field where the jackrabbit can actually get to its top speed, you are right, the basenji is no match but in areas where the jack can't reach top speed, the playing field is more level. Also, in some fields there are so many jack you practically trip over them.

  • 0
  • P

    I'm not sure what a jackrabbit is but I find it extremely bad mannered to cast aspersions on Nobarkus' claim. Surely it depends on just where these jackrabits are. Surely top speeds of prey are usually measured on an open field?

    I have had Basenjis catch squirrels too and obviously not when they are in their normal habitat (branches of trees). Basenjis catch birds - of course not in the air - mine have often brought in dead birds.

    It was surely Olivia Burn who introduced the Basenji into the UK and Veronica had her first Basenjis from her? It is mislewading to call Veronica the founder of the breed. Basenjis have always been companion animals but also have the hunting instinct so whatever Veronica selected for she couldn't avoid that. In those early days her stock was also used specifically to hunt and trained to the gun by a few individuals. My parents fostered several 'of the Congo' dogs and these would catch rats and rabbits around the farm.

    As a matter of interest when hunting was still allowed in the UK my then Basenjis quarried a fox while the Foxhounds followed by the Hunt went in completely the opposite direction!!

  • 0
  • Patty, you have obviously had Basenjis for a long time. I would like your comments regarding temperament. My own observations (admittedly anecdotal) are that temperament was, if anything, better in the earlier dogs (unlike what is so often stated)…...and from reading some of the comments of Veronica Tudor-Wiiliams and others, it seems to me that this is so. My own experience bears this out. My first girl, (over 40 years ago), was absolutely wonderful. Aloof with adults she didn't know, crazy about any and all children, and unwilling to bite under any circumstances. My second, in the mid seventies, was likewise excellent with children and pretty tolerant of adults. She would snark if disturbed, but under normal circumstances she would never bite. So how come these days it is recommended to handle Basenjis with kid gloves, else something untoward might occur? My personal experience tells me the temperament may already be changing, although whether this is genetic or environmental can be difficult to ascertain. For sure, during the first few thousand years of their existence, a Basenji was never offered treats to recover items he had stolen from the dinner table. :rolleyes: And I would suspect a disagreeable dog would end up in the soup pot sooner than later.....

  • 0
  • P

    In my opinion temperament was good in the early dogs as you say but unfortunately because people had little experience with them some had a bad name for temperament. Dog training then was quite harsh - not much gentle method then. I'm not too sure whether it is recommended to handle Basenjis with kid gloves - this is not my experience. Basenjis now seem to have good temperamenst too on the whole but in my eyes are much too friendly and have lost their aloofness. Of course this is a generalisation but to me they seem to behave like other dogs.

    It is my opinon that bad temperament is not due to breeding but the responsibility of the owners.

  • 0
  • I read in a 1937 piece on Basenjis in Africa that "They are domesticated and very long suffering with children". Also mentioned, "they sleep with their backs against their owners to guard the latter from harm." Well, some things haven't changed! :)

    I think as far as owner responsibility is concerned that Basenjis, perhaps more than other dogs, need to have respect for their owners, and if they don't, ahead lies trouble. You mention that dog training used to be harsh…...true enough. But I don't think it is soft or harsh that causes problems per se, I think it is inconsistency. Forty years ago we didn't train with treats, and yes, we did use physical corrections. Guess what? Our dogs were just fine with it. I am not recommending a return to the old days and old ways, but then as now, if someone is having a problem with an animal they raised, a glance in the mirror will usually reveal the source of the difficulties.

  • 0
  • To All, I think it is a pretty well known fact that Basenjis from the early years did not have the best of temperaments. I think that every old time breeder in the US will tell that same story. Breeders have work long and hard to improve the temperaments with breeding AND MOST important early socialization. I have no doubt from the stories I have heard from old time breeders this is fact, not fiction.

  • 0
  • Patty-please note Chris referred to VTW as the primary founder, not THE founder. I think this is an apt descriptor since VTW did so much more long term then Mrs. Burns did.

    I think there is a difference in temperament across the many ponds, just as there is a different style of dog due to the emphasis of different things, though the more exportation of the generic American dogs, soon we they will all look alike no matter what country you are in.

    I agree with Pat, the stories we have 'cut our teeth' on in the USA talks about how terrible the temperaments were and how much improved they are. We have a number of judges from other countries who also say this to us. That said, I have also heard they are almost too nice now. Its a fine balance for sure.

    As for top speeds of basenjis…there was a challenge in one of the 1960 Bulletins from some greyhound folks after some basenji folks claimed their basenji could outrun a greyhound. I have yet to find any conclusion in my reading. I personally doubt basenjis can get up to the speeds some people have touted. This would def. be something I would need concrete proof of before embracing it as fact.

    As for jackrabbits, we have those here and as LisaV stated, it all depends on where the jacks are first espyed and how many 'senjis are on the prowl. If anyone googles basenji hunting there is a picture of I believe the Brauns and the many jacks (I believe that is the rabbit featured) they were able to take out wk their two basenjis. That's a lot of rabbits!

  • 0
  • I'm lifting this from the other thread as it fits better in this discussion.

    @Voodoo:

    What concerns driving game into nets, I haven't read or heard anything about that yet, other then it being mentioned in some breed discriptions. I can imagine that from time to time, while chasing an antilope, they would make it run towards the hunters, but I don't think they would be trained to do that. Guess it would be just a lucky coincidence if it happened.

    At the National this year, Dr. Jo showed us video of hunters using their basenjis in net hunting. It was a deer-like animal, I forget the name, so hopefully someone else will remember. It was the end of the hunt in the video after the prey was caught and killed. My description is no where as good as Dr Jo's, but I believe a major purpose of the dogs was to distract the animal (by grabbing the legs, etc.) so the hunters could make the kill. It was also fascinating that only the lead dog wore the bell and that dog went from hunting party to hunting party to check out the kills at each site.

  • 0
  • @Voodoo:

    I find that hard to believe. A Basenji just isn't capable to reach the speed needed to catch a jackrabbit. They get outdistanced very soon. A jackrabbit can easily reach speeds of 40mph, while a Basenji can only reach about 25mph. They could catch an ocasional jackrabbit if they manage to suprise it, but certainly not 5 in 30min.
    Even most of the sighthounds can't easily catch a jackrabbit. Only the greyhound can put out enough speed, but they lack the endurance to go on for longer. Salukis have the endurance, but lack a bit of speed and they will often lose the hare when it manages to get out of sight.

    But catching jackrabbits isn't what Basenji's are used for. You won't even find jackrabbits in Africa. Basenji's are used to hunt cane-rats and such quarry. Those are not very fast.

    I am not a hunter, but got intrested in it a couple of weeks ago when we met some guys ferreting while we are walking and we joined them and used Voodoo to catch and kill the rabbits instead of the nets. Now I go out every evening to let him chase some mountain hares. He hasn't been able to catch one yet, but we are getting closer, mainly cause he starts to respond to my signals better and faster every day.

    It is not the fact that they will chase anything that moves that makes them good hunters with a good hunting instinct. That's like saying that every herding dog which will run to a flock of sheep, is good at herding, or still has the instinct. Yes, they seem to remember what they were created for, but only few still really have what it takes, and still have the skills, to do a good job. Most of them can be trained to learn the basics again, but they should instinctivily still have those basics, and that is not the case with most breeds.

    Voodoo,
    Basenjis don't catch the rabbits in an all out run. They can't out run the rabbit in the straight away. Here's what happens. The rabbit tries to stay hidden in the tall green grass and not move and with the Basenji's keen sense of smell slowly gets close. Then when it's too late the rabbit decides "oh no I've got to try and make a run for it!" Only the Basenji is too close, trips it up and nabs it fast. If the B does not nab it right then the rabbit bolts and the B loses in the straight out run. Also with 2 Basenjis one get's close and the rabbit runs but right into the other B. This area is next to SF Bay so there are areas where the rabbit runs into a dead end and is caught that way too. During January to April the fields are full of these jack rabbits and the tall green grass is abundant. When the Basenji gets it it strangles it right at the neck. I've witnessed it close up. No exaggeration it was 5 in a half hour. It was early March, the field was really wet, grass was thick and tall with large areas of standing water from the rains and there were a lot of rabbits. They were all around, tried to stay hidden and not noticed only the B's sense of smell decided otherwise. I stopped taking them out there because 1. I heard the rabbits squeal like a baby as it was having it's neck broken and 2. I had people complain that were out walking along the levee and saw my Bs make a kill which I didn't want people seeing. The state bought the land has now been closed off for some years.

  • 0
  • @sinbaje:

    LOL, Linda….. I know of one judge that will NOT use a Basenji if it wags its tail on the table... claims "this is not a Basenji"......

  • 0
  • @tanza:

    LOL, Linda….. I know of one judge that will NOT use a Basenji if it wags its tail on the table... claims "this is not a Basenji"......

    Buddy would be disqualified right there! ;)

  • 0
  • @tanza:

    To All, I think it is a pretty well known fact that Basenjis from the early years did not have the best of temperaments. I think that every old time breeder in the US will tell that same story. Breeders have work long and hard to improve the temperaments with breeding AND MOST important early socialization. I have no doubt from the stories I have heard from old time breeders this is fact, not fiction.

    @sinbaje:

    I agree with Pat, the stories we have 'cut our teeth' on in the USA talks about how terrible the temperaments were and how much improved they are. We have a number of judges from other countries who also say this to us. That said, I have also heard they are almost too nice now. Its a fine balance for sure.

    See that is what puzzles me, as it does not square with what I have observed, or indeed with the accounts of Basenjis in the earliest days in Africa, or for that matter with accounts of African dogs in the more recent imports. Which makes me wonder if it was the way these early dogs were kept once imported that caused problems. In their native land they were for sure socialized early…...which makes sense, since their affinity for children is commented on frequently......and they were very much part of their family, sleeping with their owners, etc. Perhaps once imported they were more often placed in kennels or otherwise isolated from people? Otherwise, I can't imagine why there would be a sudden change in temperament from what was observed in Africa.

    It is interesting that my very old copy of the AKC "complete dog book" characterizes the breed as "tractable and eager to please" "full of play, and yet gentle as a kitten" as well as stating that "the Basenji loves children". Only in the more recent editions is the cautionary added that Basenjis "prefer to make the first overtures and should not be approached from behind" and are "alert & careful with strangers". The breed description from the earlier edition describes my first Basenji to a T. Since it is over forty years ago that I had her, I remain mystified at the reports of bad temperaments in the earlier dogs. However, by comparison, reports of temperament issues seem pretty commonplace these days. Perhaps because of the way dogs are currently kept in our fast paced society?

  • 0
  • P

    I've obviously had no experience of the early Basenjis in the USA but I do know that early Basenjis in the UK were of good temperament. I did meet the two that were exported to Canada and they certainly had lovely temperaments. I was a small child when I used to visit Veronica's kennels and I played with the Basenjis there and met no aggression. I still assert that any bad temperament that arose with later Basenjis was the result of nurture and not nature. I've met many people that claimed that Basenjis have bad temperament and certain of the older kennels were said to breed bad temperaments. I can't argue with other people's experience but can only go by mine.

    I do think that people in general then had little idea of the necessity of early socialisation which I think most of us now are better educated in the matter of raising Basenjis.

    I think that my own Basenjis are typical of the early dogs and indeed I've tried to retain the characteristics. They are very friendly but don't solicit friends and so demonstrate the aloofness of the breed. Any problems in my line have arisen when owners have ignored my advice and I can relate the most horrific stories of the ways some Basenjis temperaments are spoiled by incorrect treatment. I'm sure that's true of the rest of you?

  • 0
  • Although my experience with Basenjis is little, If Ayo is a typical basenji he definitely has an incredible drive to hunt. He will chase after anything that moves. I think he would make a great hunter and be excellent in lure coursing. I don't like hunting, and this really isn't the place for it either. But I have bben seriously considering getting a lure machine and trying to find some land where I could use it…
    As far as temperament is concerned, on our last show, just as the judge was approaching to check his teeth. Ayo sneezed! and the judge jumped back. He then approached again, realizing it was just a sneeze, but he told me that he had basenjis in the seventies and he jumped back cause he knew what they could do in a second!!!He was nice though, he really liked them, but was careful around them.I told him he had nothing to worry about. Although Ayo sometimes nips when he gets really excited, he has never bitten anyone or been aggressive towards anyone who approached him and he is great with children.
    I am not sure i understand why anyone would NOT want a dog with a nice temperament, but I can understand not wanting to loose that typical Basenji character!!
    By the way, Had never heard of Decker terriers , they look a lot like basenjis, especially the red and white ones!! Interesting breed....

  • 20
    Posts
  • 3697
    Views
  • Log in to reply