ba·​sen·​ji bə-ˈsen-jē How to pronounce basenji (audio)
: any of a breed of small curly-tailed dogs of African origin that do not bark

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One of an ancient breed of hound native to central Africa, the basenji is used to point and retrieve and to drive quarry into a net. Known as the barkless dog, it produces a variety of sounds other than barks. Its finely wrinkled forehead, erect ears, and tightly curled tail give it a characteristic alert expression. It has a short, silky reddish brown, black, or black-and-tan coat, and white feet, chest, and tail tip. It stands 16–17 in (41–43 cm) high and weighs 22–24 lbs. (10–11 kg). It is clean and gentle.

Examples of basenji in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Indeed, after analyzing the evolutionary relationships between modern dog breeds, the team found their most common ancestor, an animal akin to a present-day basenji (a type of African herding dog), would have played with people—albeit it with some encouragement. National Geographic, 23 Sep. 2020 Or maybe there were two domestications of dogs, and the dingo would be related to the Chinese wolf while the basenji was related to the Croatian wolf. Ariel Bleicher, Quanta Magazine, 20 Apr. 2017 But contestants like Zuri the basenji and Valur the Saluki came from breeds seldom seen at agility trials. Michael Dumas,, 11 Feb. 2018

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'basenji.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


probably modification of Lingala mbwa na basenji, literally, dogs of the bushland people

First Known Use

1937, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of basenji was in 1937

Dictionary Entries Near basenji

Cite this Entry

“Basenji.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


ba·​sen·​ji bə-ˈsen-jē How to pronounce basenji (audio)
: a small curly-tailed hunting dog native to Africa that does not bark

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