This Is The Dog Breed That Can’t Bark
Wherever you go in the world, the language
of dogs will probably follow a recognizable
bark pattern namely, a single syllable that
gets vocalized twice in quick succession,
such as woof-woof or arf-arf.
However, every rule has an exception, and
there’s one exceptional dog breed that doesn’t
typically bark at all.
Unimaginatively dubbed the “Barkless Dog”,
that canine anomaly is the Basenji, and according
to the American Kennel Club, it actually yodels.
You might assume that a yodeling dog would
hail from somewhere like the Swiss Alps, but
the the Basenji’s roots actually lie in Africa
and those roots go far back in time.
In fact, the Basenji could be the world’s
oldest dog breed, a theory consistent with
Libyan cave paintings from 6,000 B.C. that
appear to depict a Basenji-like canine.
Experts believe the first domesticated dogs
probably resembled the Basenji, too.
Characterized by a short coat, tightly curled
tail, wrinkled forehead and almond-shaped
eyes, these canines were given to Egyptian
pharaohs as gifts, and they’ve also been depicted
in ancient Mesopotamian art.
But the Basenji outlived those ancient civilizations,
eventually becoming the best friend of African
Natural-born hunters, this breed boast excellent
eyesight, lightning-quick speed, a strong
sense of smell, and a phenomenal vertical
The four-legged yodelers also tend to be very
quiet because of their unique vocal cords,
which inhibit barking.
In some cases, these silent killers wear hunting
bells so their owners can keep track of them.
But Basenjis aren’t actually entirely “barkless.”
While they do seldom bark, some video evidence
suggests that they possess the ability to,
as does the 1965 book, Genetics and the Social
Behavior of the Dog.
Authors John Paul Scott and John Fuller found
that the Basenjis they studied barked when
“sufficiently excited” or asserting dominance
over other dogs.
In the latter case they usually gave only
one or two low ‘woofs.’
It simply appears that it may require more
elevated stimulation to get basenjis to bark,
compared to other dogs.
Scott and Fuller acknowledged that they could
only speculate as to why this trait has developed.
However, the authors offered one plausible-sounding
explanation: they evolved in a way so as not
to sound like dogs.
Barking may not have benefited basenjis living
in African forests, given the presence of
predators like leopards, which are reportedly
fond of dog meat.
The authors further noted that travelers have
reported hearing basenjis make “yowling” and
“crowing” sounds at night so it could be that
their nocturnal crowing is supposed to be
unappetizing to leopards.
If you buy a basenji expecting the barkless
dog to act like a typical canine, you might
be barking up the wrong tree.
Obviously, different breeds have different
But the basenji tends to behave like a different
species of animal.
As Modern Dog Magazine contributor Kelly Caldwell
once jokingly asked: “Is this breed half-cat?”
Basenjis are meticulous self-groomers that
don’t show an interest in traditional dog
Don’t expect to teach this old dog breed many
new tricks either.
As The New Complete Dog Book puts it:
“It is advisable in your training to be consistent
and persevere with patience and humor.”
Basenjis may respond to repetitive commands
with little more than a bored look.
Because hunting is in their blood, they need
plenty of exercise and plenty of fencing to
prevent them from running into traffic when
they find something they want to hunt.
So all in all, they rarely bark, don’t play
fetch, and respond to your orders with total
Apparently, it’s probably best thinking of
this barkless dog as more of a meow-less cat
than anything else.
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