Hi there, hunting with basenjis, visiting Nocturnal

  • Hello all, I'm new to the forum and new to basenjis. I have been doing my homework in anticipation of adding one to the family, and in poking around these forums I saw Sarah/Nocturnal's name come up with some questions, so I thought it worth posting my experience.

    My husband and I are recent transplants to North Carolina, to Roxboro, which is where Sarah and her husband have a little farm. Our dog is getting to be an oldster, we have been thinking about a second dog for a long time and figure this is a good time to seriously start looking, while our old fella can still enjoy romping with a pupster. I had a short list of breeds I was considering, and basenjis hadn't really even crossed my mind. We are mostly looking for a pet, but I'm a currently non-practicing falconer, and would like to start training a rabbit dog in anticipation of hunting rabbits as a team with a hawk in a couple years… but it's a hobby, so if it didn't turn out to be a champ in that way, we'll still love it as a pet. As I said, basenjis weren't on my radar, but after meeting Sarah's dogs, both my husband and I left thinking a basenji checks every single one of our "wants in a dog" boxes.

    Roxboro is a small town, and I met Sarah by accident at the post office. I pulled in next to her and she has a bumper sticker that says "Fight noise pollution, get a basenji!". I'm a dog geek and it made me laugh, so I struck up a conversation with her. She also has an American Livestock Breed Conservancy sticker, so I asked her about that. We're looking for good sources of farm-direct food, and she's a long-term ALBC member--she raises critically endangered heritage livestock breeds for slow food and preserving biodiversity. I was really excited about that and we set up a date for my husband and I to come out and pack our trunk with Dexter beef for the freezer. We talked a little about the basenjis, but mostly her farm.

    We went out there a couple days ago, and she gave us a tour of the farm and kennel. It's not a chi-chi place, it's a home-built kennel on a pretty, biodiverse, sustainable farm. As a dog nerdy kid, I worked for a couple fancy show kennels with gorgeous custom-built facilities. This is rustic and hand-built a little at a time, but it's absolutely clean, well-planned, and constructed. There are a row of kennels on one side, and a "hub" of kennels around an indoor kennel area on the other. The ground is hard-packed dirt, but it's extremely clean. Everyone had ample fresh water. She has Welsh Terriers, Westies, and Basenjis, her husband has a few pugs. I saw photos of a dachshund, that was her old personal pet.

    One thing that immediately struck me was how quiet the dogs were. To be very frank, I was expecting noisy, unruly kennel dogs, mediocre-built dogs bred for the local pet market. These dogs were clean, bright, alert, active, and extremely friendly. There was a little friendly yammering here and there, but zero hysterical "unsocialized terrier" barking. They all crowded up against us, but were respectful and not jumping all over. They were clearly responsive to her and they were mannerly, happy, well-socialized dogs. The same with the basenjis. They wiggled all over up against the fence, but were not jumping around like unsocialized maniacs. We made it a point to pet just about every dog there, they were all friendly and clearly extensively handled. My husband isn't very familiar with pariah type dogs, and was expecting aloof, standoffish dogs. These were not that, they were all really cuddly. He asked her about it and she said the neighborhood kids come around all week, playing with the dogs.

    The indoor kennel facility was great. Again, not fancy, hand-built a little at a time, but it's absolutely a well-planned, sanitary, functional kennel space. Each kennel connects to an indoor dog box with a bed, clean shavings, a heat lamp and warming mat. She showed us a two-day-old litter. I would have expected mama to be wary of strangers with her babies, but she snuggled right into us and showed off her pups. They were all unavailable, placed with wait-listed owners. These are clearly extensively socialized, well-loved dogs. She had charts and whiteboards up with medical info, feeds very decent kibble--not primo grain free, but a fine food, and the dogs are in great weight. Not kennel fat, and not ribby and paunchy like dogs that eat cheap corn kibble.

    I'm not intimately familiar with the basenji standard, or what's winning in the show ring. so I can't speak to the quality of her dogs in that way. But I do have an eye for a well-built working dog, and these all looked like sturdy, easy-movers, to me. Their coats were glossy, their eyes and noses clear, they're fit and active. They were alert and responsive and clearly attentive to Sarah. There were older pups there, but only one she was thinking about placing. The rest are going to co-owners to campaign, since she can't physically travel for shows anymore.

    I appreciate that she doesn't require early spay/neuter. I am a responsible dog owner, have no intention to breed dogs, my dogs are never unattended outside or in the house, and absent any compelling physical reason to do so, I just don't see the need to lop off a piece of their endocrine system just to be PC. I appreciate that she gives me that choice. I also don't personally have a problem if she makes money selling dogs. I think anyone making anything on an artisanal basis deserves to get paid for their work so they can keep doing it. She is clearly not raking in piles of dough, but she talked about plans for improving the kennels, and you can't do that if you're constantly in the red. I don't think dog breeding should be limited to those who have piles of hobby money to dispose of, and as a puppy buyer I am happy to pay the costs of raising a good dog plus support the improvement of her breeding program.

    Anyway, I was really impressed with her and her dogs. I hadn't thought about basenjis before, but I am really interested in pariah type dogs. We like a non-barking dog--our other dog is also of a breed that hunts silently--like the tidy coat, like the moderate natural build, like a dog who is a thinker and problem-solver. I'll be chasing rabbits with it a few times a week, and if that doesn't work out we'll do agility or parkour together ;0).

    My husband was surprised about how much he enjoyed them too. While I was strategizing how to bring up the idea of getting a basenji as my rabbit dog, he was strategizing how to bring up the idea of having one as a pet =). We got in the car, looked at each other, and started talking about maybe thinking about prospectively considering a basenji 😃 --so here I am, doing my homework and reading up on the forums!

    Does anyone else here hunt with their basenjis? I found the yahoogroup, but it's been inactive for a couple years.

    Sorry for the length, and hello!

  • It's good that you're posting your personal, positive experience here. Just curious if they explained health testing beyond Fanconi? Or the negatives of owning basenjis. My impression of them is based purely off of their website and may not accurately represent their kennel:

    I had briefly considered Nocturnal when they were recommended to me in my search….and while they don't seem like completely irresponsible breeders... it was worrying, to me, that there is very little mention of health testing beyond Fanconi on their website (or the negatives of owning basenjis). Personal pet peeve. If you're going to bring more animals into this world I want to see 100%. But it may be that they explain that when actually communicating with individuals. I never got around to that.

    I'm no expert, but it confused me that only a few of the dogs had thyroid, hip, PRA tested in OFFA. As a novice, I thought that all dogs were supposed to be tested for these?

    If there is a more experienced breeder on this forum that could explain why a responsible breeder might do this, I would appreciate the info. My impression wasn't favorable from those minor things..but they don't come off as a puppy mill.

  • I read a really nice free article on basenji hunting which can be found via Google. Specifically, Georgia k9 supposedly used basenjis in "working". I wish they had kept updates on how that litter went….a search on here will bring them up. I don't remember if they did hunting or just tracking.

    I use my dog to catch and corner voles.....but he has an abnormally soft mouth that I don't think is typical to basenjis for catch-and-release.

    My personal feeling is that while people can and do hunt with basenjis.....it'd be a huge pain in the ass compared to other breeds.

  • You might find this article interesting. Bear in mind that it is from the 1970s, when the breed may have been somewhat different (the Basenji I owned in the '60s was the most obedient I have ever had!), and for sure the training methods were different than they are today.


  • Hey, thanks guys! She does do some other testing, but not everything under the sun. My main concerns were kidneys and eyes, so I'm happy with that and her terms for congenital issue guarantees. I don't personally need hip certifications on a dog this size, and even in CHD prone breeds the ratings are subjective, so that one wasn't an issue for me in light of the rest of her program. Also, about her website, this place is REALLY country. Like, tiny rural Southern town, and she is down a long woodsy gravel road near a lake basin. We live in town, literally on Main Street, and our cable internet connection is spotty. She does some internet stuff, but has a pretty minimal website. She did point me toward the main online info resources.

    She did have plenty to say about the right home for a basenji, but I may be coming at it from a skewed perspective–I don't know basenjis specifically, but I am reasonably familiar with similar types of dogs, and most of what typical pet owners see as negatives are the reasons I'm interested in a primitive breed as suitable for a hawking partner and companion. The pup we are buying was kept back as a show/breeding prospect who didn't really turn out. Her issues are fairly minor for pet purposes, but I can see why she hung onto her and also am pleased with her standards in choosing to pass on her as a breeding prospect, if that makes sense. I think she will be a very fun, thinky sort of dog to train, too. She is relaxed and cautious, not bouncing off the walls, but extremely alert and responsive. She is not fawning and overly clingy, but if I walk to the other end of the area, she keeps hunting the fence line and moves with me. She works just like podencos do, jumping to get a visual bead on something. Or I guess I should say that podencos seem to work just like Basenjis ;0).

    I'm really excited to get to work with her. Has anyone done bridge and target type training?

    @eeeefarm-- Yes! That's one of the only things I could find specific to field work with basenjis. It's easier to work with a specialist, but beagles drive me bonkers. I bet she will make for a really fun hawking partner, if I can halfway manage the training 🙂

  • Double post, can't figure out how to delete!

    Any breeder NOT testing ALL breeding stock for Hip Dysplasia is NOT a reputable or repsonsible breeder.. PERIOD.

  • If you have a 20 lb ur-dog with dysplastic hips, you are doing something seriously wrong. Start by evaluating your nutrition and exercise protocols.

  • Hip dysplasia certainly can have a genetic component, but environmental factors are significant in determining whether it will be expressed. Overfeeding is a biggie here! (horse breeders ran into similar problems when feed manufacturers started pushing food for early rapid growth. Suddenly an explosion of "contracted tendons" was running through barns that were using such food.)

  • Mixie, honest, CHD is not nutrition and exercise determined. How do I know this for a fact… ? YOU CAN ACCURATELY tell if a puppy has CHD at 5 mos of age with both OFA and PennHip. While you can obviously make worse, make symptomatic, with poor diet and obesity, it is absolutely genetic. Dogs who have good hips at a young age KEEP GOOD HIPS, across the board. So if diet and even obesity created hip dyplasia, sorry but you'd see a lot wider scale

    A recent publication* compared the reliability of the preliminary evaluation hip grade phenotype with the 2 year old evaluation in dogs and there was 100% reliability for a preliminary grade of excellent being normal at 2 years of age (excellent, good, or fair).
    There was 97.9% reliability for a preliminary grade of good being normal at 2 years of age,
    and 76.9% reliability for a preliminary grade of fair being normal at 2 years of age.
    Reliability of preliminary evaluations increased as age at the time of preliminary evaluation increased, regardless of whether dogs received a preliminary evaluation of normal hip conformation or HD.
    For normal hip conformations, the reliability was 89.6% at 3-6 months,
    93.8% at 7-12 months,
    and 95.2% at 13-18 months. T
    hese results suggest that preliminary evaluations of hip joint status in dogs are generally reliable. However, dogs that receive a preliminary evaluation of fair or mild hip joint conformation should be reevaluated at an older age (24 months).<<

    PennHip is highly accurate at only 16 wks.

    I am a big believer in nutrition, don't get me wrong. But study after study after study has proven that CHD is genetic. Dogs on same diet, in controlled studies... CHD parents, one parent, no parent was the main predictor of puppies having CHD.

    The "under 20 pounds" is simply misinformation. Although larger breeds absolutely have more symptoms due to weight on the hips. But no, it is not just dogs over 20 pounds. Then number 2 highest rate are tiny pugs. Under 20 pound Norfolk Terriers are 15th. Frenchies (28 is TOP weight, most closer to 20)... are 18th.

    Breeders who lie and say no need to test are just lying... or seriously misinformed. Either way, not a breeder you want to use. And while under 4 percent of basenjis TESTED have chd, we are woefully under-tested.


  • It is definitely genetic. Its expression is also highly dependent on environmental factors. We've genotyped the whole sequence and pinpointed it as a polygenetic trait related to osteoarthritis: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0013219

    But the testing currently in use isn't genetic. It's qualitative and subjective. I've seen breeders shop for vets in order to get great ratings on dogs with terrible hips. I've also seen, in person, a vet manipulate bad hips to get a good film. Both methods of visual evaluation are highly subjective as currently operating. Furthermore, expression is only half the picture. I've seen dogs from long lines of well-rated and extremely athletic, functional, field-proven animals turn up dysplastic when fed and exercised incorrectly in a pet home… meaning dogs with excellent conformation and who is a more-than-sound mover with a long, long record of field functionality AND an excellent OFA rating may still carry the gene.
    Just like "papers" are no guarantee of quality, an OFA score on the parents is no guarantee that your pup won't be dysplastic if you raise her with mediocre nutrition and conditioning.

    When the direct, genetic test becomes both widely available and reasonably priced, I will be all for its use. Until then, natural selection has done a great job building a balanced, functional animal here that, without the intervention of contemporary breeding practices, is perfectly functional as-is. It's not surprising (to me, anyway) that dogs which deviate greatly from a natural build also are significantly more likely to express CHD phenotypically. I am in no way claiming that the gene for CHD doesn't exist in basenjis. I am pointing out that a dog of this type and build does not express bad hips on any significant scale, and it's not something that I am even remotely concerned about.

    Now, what I am concerned about, and what you are concerned about, may be two entirely different things. Some people are thrilled to pay thousands of dollars for a dog from breeding stock tested for everything under the sun, including conditions for which the breed is among the "least affected" among all dogs. For me, and my purposes, I know precisely what I want in a dog and what I expect of my breeder. It's by no means necessary for us to see eye-to-eye on those counts. But I am, personally, a little fed up with the divisions drawn between who is "reputable" and "responsible", and who is not. I'm not going to get political, here, because it's probably not the place for it, but if there's one thing I've learned in all the years I've been around dogs and dog people and the "dog fancy", it's that the only thing ten breeders can agree on is that the other nine are disreputable and irresponsible.

  • Just a little note on hips. I personally know of a dog (not saying the breed) that went "Top Dog in Canada" a number of years ago…....and when x-rayed, that dog had bad hips. He also had a fabulous, free gait, and remained sound, so go figure. (they re-did the x-rays a time or two, for conformation, and the breeder kept all breedings in house, to control and examine the offspring).

  • HD is in BASENJIS…. and it is genetic... for sure some "might" be from other causes, but it is something that any responsible breeder will test for BEFORE breed.

  • This thread got me curious, and I wondered what the incidence of HD is in Basenjis. I found this, although I haven't chased down verification, but it seems right to me: Basenjis are one of the least affected at 3.2% of those tested being dysplastic and 23.7% having an 'excellent' score. . Breeders undoubtedly should test, but I would be willing to roll the dice on those stats, especially if I had seen the sire and dam of the pup I was buying.

  • Right. HD is in Basenjis the same way that epilepsy is; roughly 3% across the board for all dogs. There is just flat-out no reason to insist that someone is a bad or irresponsible breeder for choosing not to bother with a highly subjective screening process for a condition that affects extremely few dogs in this breed. That is malicious BS.

    tanza, your scare quotes suggest that you think the environmental issue is a minor one. CHD has a heritability of approximately 0.25-0.5. That means anywhere from 50-75% of CHD is environmental or cofactored with a polygenetic influence.
    Whether or not a dog carrying the gene set actually expresses phenotypically with functionally dysplastic hips IS highly environmentally dependent. To repeat what I said above, the test we currently use IS NOT GENETIC. It does not screen for the GENES that cause CHD. It only screens for phenotypic presentation. That means there are a whole lot of dogs carrying the gene who come through with fine ratings, a relatively unknown percentage of dogs with "non-genetic" CHD, and means the test is largely useless; or rather, is only as useful as you trust your breeder and your breeder's vet… which brings us back to the rationale of rolling the dice on a breed with a nearly non-existent expression of the disease, visual evaluation of several generations of breeding stock, and a breeder with multiple decades worth of experience.
    I keep my pups lean and slow-growing (following Baker Institute/Cornell protocol which demonstrated reduction of expression up to ~60%) on a prey-model raw diet of mostly grass-fed animals, preferentially heavy in cartilaginous parts, exercise judiciously, and again... it's very simply nothing that even remotely concerns me in this breed. Kidneys? Absolutely. Eyes? You betcha. Hips? No.

    Your rights and abilities to breed your dogs are being eroded very quickly by people who believe that ALL of you are "exploiters" and "abusers" and "puppy millers". Slandering each other like this, they're twenty or thirty years ahead of us in organization and cohesion of message. There are certainly welfare issues to consider, and hard lines to draw, but THIS is most definitely, abso-f*ing-lutely not one of them. Calling people names and casting aspersions on their character and motives because they choose not to test for something that almost never happens in this breed is ABSURD. It's petty and mean and self-destructive.

    If you, as a breeder, choose to ofa/pennhip your dogs, that's peachy. If you choose to test for a billion other things that occur in .0-3% of the canine population, that's just peachy, too. I, as a buyer, am careful with my money and my purchasing choices to support breeding practices that most efficiently and effectively benefit the population as a whole. I would not pay an extra $500-1000 for a puppy because its parents were tested for a pile of stuff that has very little real-world benefit for my purposes. I think it's just fine if other people do; I'm pro-choice like that. I'm not going to go around slandering those breeders as "bad" or "irresponsible" for doing things differently than I prefer.

  • The percentage you quote is "of the ones" tested and since with Hip scores, it is the owners priviledge if "non" normal results are published or not and I know for a fact there are Basenjis with HD that are not public listed with OFA. Also there are ones done with PennHip that are also not part of any % given. As they say, if you don't test, you will never know…

    I stated that responsible breeders test before breeding and that is my right and my opinion on what makes a responsible breeder. Hips, thyroid, Fanconi, along with DNA for PRA. Was this done by this breeder (DNA for PRA)?

  • @eeeefarm:

    This thread got me curious, and I wondered what the incidence of HD is in Basenjis. I found this, although I haven't chased down verification, but it seems right to me: Basenjis are one of the least affected at 3.2% of those tested being dysplastic and 23.7% having an 'excellent' score. . Breeders undoubtedly should test, but I would be willing to roll the dice on those stats, especially if I had seen the sire and dam of the pup I was buying.

    You quote "3.2% of those tested"…. there is the rub.... OF THOSE TESTED. If you don't test, you don't know

  • @tanza:

    You quote "3.2% of those tested"…. there is the rub.... OF THOSE TESTED. If you don't test, you don't know

    Yes, I appreciate that. I also understand that anecdotal evidence proves nothing, but for what it is worth, I have never seen a Basenji with hip dysplasia, although I sure have seen lots of examples in other breeds. I tend to agree that x-ray evidence can be "fudged", and it will be a good thing when we have an actual genetic test for the condition.

    Unfortunately, once you close registries and start breeding for show as opposed to performance, you are bound to encounter increasing problems with genetic deficiencies. Breeding away from certain traits can also have unintended consequences, particularly with conditions that are linked to desirable traits as well as the ones you are trying to erase. I sympathize with the Border Collie people who desperately did not want the breed recognized for bench showing. Who knows whether the Basenji that evolved over thousands of years will in the future retain any resemblance to the dogs imported from Africa? What changes will be rendered by breeding for show ring results, as opposed to being selected for hardiness and hunting ability? But now we are on to another topic!

  • @tanza:

    You quote "3.2% of those tested"…. there is the rub.... OF THOSE TESTED. If you don't test, you don't know

    With the completely subjective qualitative test we use now, even WHEN tested, you don't know; you are not testing for genetic markers.
    Are we all clear on this? The test you are doing only shows if your dog has bad hips. It does not show if your dog will pass bad hips to offspring. In fact, more than half the time, YOU are giving bad hips to your dogs' offspring.
    If we are going to continue talking about this, I need to be sure we all understand this. I come from a background working with dogs that DO have a very significant rate of CHD, and this is a subject that means a great deal to me. I don't want to come off like I'm being combative for the sake of being combative, here. Good hips are a BIG DEAL for working animals, and the people who taught me everything I know about dogs depend on their canine partners for their actual lives, in reality. Not just economically, I mean, actual life-or-death situations, where, if your dog is slow to the strike or his limb collapses under him, you might actually die. Structural soundness means 100% of everything to me. I want to be expressly clear that I care very, very much about how to breed and rear a dog with good biomechanics.

    The test we are currently using does not screen for genetics. It doesn't screen for functionality. Its results are certainly variable according to the skill and/or shadiness of your vet. We know that somewhere between half and three quarters of CHD is "caused", rather than bred. The <4% incidence rate in this breed is ABSOLUTELY within range of "environmental co-factors". Hell, ~3% is a reasonable margin of error, period.

    Yes, it is certainly your "right" set your own standards for what YOU do, and what you advocate for. That certainly leaves plenty of room for my "right" to point out that some of your standards are unnecessary and may serve to bottleneck your gene pool in ways that are not beneficial. It's also most certainly my right to vote with my wallet for the practices I support. I do not MIND if someone wants to have their dogs' hips X-rayed. But really… put it in perspective. They did just fine for 13,000 years without first-world hobbyists x-raying their joints.

    The dog fancy is dying from a thousand cuts right now, and most of those cuts come from you slashing at each other. If you want to retain the right to keep breeding your dogs, you are going to have to stop cutting each other down. I'm just a pet owner that wants to keep being able to buy dogs from practitioners I respect. I don't mind that you encourage people to do their very best to improve the health of their dogs, but I do mind when it stops being a reasoned choice and a discussion about allocation of resources, and starts being a weapon you use to attack each other.

  • I beg to differ with you mixie…. testing parents/greatparents/great grandparents will show if it is coming genetic line...

    And I hold to my belief that if you don't test, you don't know... and that is not good for the breed. If you want to support a breeder that doesn't full test, that is your right. Is it right... nope, not in my opinion... if you CAN afford to breed and raise a litter you should be testing as much as you can, period

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