Many people are new to Basenjis, and many have had several generations of them. How did you first become familiar with Basenjis? Some people came to love the breed through the movie, "Goodbye My Lady." Others, like me, started their Basenji fascination at a dog show.
I remember the dog show here in Seattle where I first met the Basenji many years ago. The strange sound from one corner of the large arena was haunting and I was drawn toward the eeriness. As I approached, several Basenjis decided to do a group howl. As one Basenji started, another would join in and finally almost all the Basenjis were singing a long and forgotten song from Africa that echoed through the building. Once you hear that howl, you will never forget it.
While many people hold the misconception that Basenjis are "silent" dogs because they don't make a barking noise like most dogs, they are by no means quiet. The vocal cords of the Basenji are unique and unlike others of the dog world. They allow the Basenji to make a howling noise, a baroo or a yodeling noise, and in some cases even a muted bark. With such an vocal repertoire at their disposal, each Basenji is unique in the noises it chooses to make, and not all Basenjis choose to howl or even yodel. Our BRAT boy Sanji does a very loud yodel when he wants something that is out of his reach. He also screams as high as a young child, if he is imposed upon or someone steps on his foot accidentally. In the evening when the boys are settling down, Sanji will do a high pitched growl to get Gumbo to hold still so that he can clean his ears. The growls of a loved Basenji are generally not a warning growl like the sound a dog makes before a bite, but more like a grumbling old person.
Basenjis do sometimes offer a wimpy bark. Gumbo has done this bark since he was very young and saw his image reflected in a window. The bark is more a forced burp than a bark. Now he is not fooled by the reflection anymore, but he will warn us if there is someone coming up our walkway-- three "burps" at the most. We always thank him for the warning. Gumbo has never howled or yodeled but he does have several interesting sounds. At night if he needs to go out for a break he will offer a low throated voice much like someone verbalizing. He will also join in when I sing, with nouns, verbs and cadence so close to a human voice that it makes me wonder, do these Basenjis hearing our language really try to converse with us on our level?