Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Pet Sounds

After receiving the usual "Oh, what kind of dog is that?" question on my walks with Bow, I tend to give the "African sighthound" response and not the "barkless dog" answer. For one thing I've always thought it diminishes the wonders of basenjis to simply introduce them as just "barkless dogs." Furthermore, in Bow's case, it's not true. Yes, she's 100% basenji, and she barks.

Now before you start thinking that she is channeling her inner pug or beagle, I will qualify that in our two years together she has barked five or six times and it's been one quick and not repeated bark. She looks as startled as I do when it happens, and it's usually when something has startled or upset her. Although I've not read about it extensively, I've seen a number of mentions of basenjis' ability to do a "mock bark" and that they are great mimics. It makes me wonder if I should expose her to more basenjis in order to learn how to properly baroo.

During the entire time I have had her, she has made a wide range of sounds -- howls, whimpers, growls, yelps and other odd sounds. But never what I would call a true "baroo". I've played YouTube videos of barooing basenjis. She cocks her head in interest at first, and then lets out a sigh and goes back to her favorite sunning spot.

A question I have for others is what is defined as a basenji "scream"? I've seen "Dog screams" as a checked or non-checked criteria on intake forms of new BRAT profiles. Bow can be quite a bit of a drama queen, and she will let out what I'd call a scream if she bumps into something or has the slightest ache or pain. If she gets a thorn in her paw, she usually gets heads turning from every direction since she lets out such a loud, shrill sound. I've yet to see any YouTube videos of basenji screams -- no doubt because it's not nearly as charming as a baroo. But I'd appreciate other perspectives on what is defined as the true basenji scream.


  1. Our old boy, Simba, could "bark" like your Bow. He did it rarely, and usually when on the alert or startled by something. He also screamed, loud and long, when he aquired a sandspur in his paw. And while removing it, himself.

    He never barooed until he was 11 years old, after he heard a pack howling on audio tape. After that, he would do it with very little encouragement. More of a howling song, like a wolf. Nose pointed to the sky and everything. And extremely proud of himself.

    Our current 10 year old girl was very disturbed by Simba's howling. We have never been able to get her to come even close to a baroo. Just a very, very quiet yawning "talk." She will "scream" if she feels injured unjustly (e.g., accidently bumping into furniture while chasing a toy.)

    I agree that the screams are not as video-worthy as the "songs." Have you ever seen the youtube video of the female basenji "singing" to the piano rendition of the Godfather? It's basenji opera at its best. Truly dramatic : )

  2. I once had the audacity to hose down my muddy B-girl after a dog park visit instead of a warm bubble bath. I now know what a screaming basenji sounds like. I was afraid the neighbors would call the police for animal abuse!

  3. We had a wonderful Basenji boy, Step'n Wolf. For ages he would scream when crated. There was no mistaking this sound. It was very similar to a child's scream. And yes, I was concerned daily that someone would call the police about the abuse occurring in our home. He quit screaming when we found the "proper" blanket for his crate. I blessed that day.