Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Can You Carry a Basenji African Style?

One of the first, most intriguing, native African stories about Basenjis for me was how their people would sometimes carry a weary Basenji home from the hunt on their shoulders.

For some reason the idea facinated me. I thought to myself, wow how valuable of a dog would that be that you would carry it? It was such an important part of your life and so valuable to you that you would carry it home after a hard day hunting. You have to understand, I was raised with working cattle dogs. We never carried them anywhere and they certainly were important and necessary to our survival as ranchers.

Then we got our first Basenji. My whole attitude changed. First of all, I couldn't imagine Libby being willing to be carried. I couldn't imagine her being tired enough to be carried. I couldn't imagine her being willing to sacrifice her independance enough to be carried. We still tried and just for the fun of it, Libby occasionally consented to let us pack her on our shoulders. After one particularly long day of backpacking, she even enjoyed the ride... for about five minutes.

When we got our second Basenji, Reno, we learned that temperament had a lot to do with the whole business about being willing to be carried. We also learned that Basenjis are smart about the whole thing... If you give them a good enough reason and they trust you enough, your shoulders are a very nice place to be. Reno WANTS to be on shoulders if:

1) The ground is too cold, too wet, or too hot

2) It gets him closer to the squirrels

3) it lets him see over the fence to where something interesting is happening

The bad part about some of these reasons for being on your shoulders is that nothing much prevents you from being a handy lauching pad to where your Basenji REALLY wants to be.
Not much else entices a Basenji to spend much time on top. Our continued facination with the effort is still that it looks cool to see a dog actually at home on your shoulders and hey, how valuable is that dog? After all, YOU are willing to carry HIM. Good luck with your attempts!


  1. Those are great photos, and I congratulate you on being able to carry your basenji in the traditional style. I've tried this with my b-girl in the house, and she'll have none of it. My fear outside is of it being a launching pad for something interesting just above her. I've carried her many times cradle-style which she enjoys, but we've yet to do this outside.

  2. Great pics, Virginia! I especially like Reno's expression, so composed and, well, superior!

    (Ruby wouldn't think of allowing such a thing. "You gotta catch me first!")

  3. Virginia, I LOVED this post! Personally I find basenji history really interesting, because they have a background that is so ancient and yet so accessible because it still is in practice today. My mother always jokes around when I complain that my dogs are behaving wildly, and she tells me "that's what you get when you adopt a wild dog!" But for all their wildness, your post shows that basenjis are so unique among dogs in their relationship with humans. I'd love to go to Africa and see our "wild dogs" being carried on their owners' shoulders -- I doubt a collie would ever allow that!

  4. I love it!! I have absolutely experienced the "launching pad" phenomenon...I laughed out loud when I read that part. Jibini puts up with me carrying him on my shoulders sometimes...he was a lot more tolerant of it when he was a puppy & would tire more easily. Tana is slicker than greased owl snot...if I try to put her up there, she wriggles out of my grasp and refuses to talk to me for at least an hour :)

  5. We had a basenji years ago who would crawl up on my shoulders when I was driving and go to sleep.She loved to ride on shoulders, and also be in laps all the time. She was a love. Long gone, but never forgotten.