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.