Are Basenjis Aggressive Dogs (The Truth)

Will my Basenji bite people? Other dogs? Children? Big questions for a lot of people looking to buy or adopt a Basenji. Is there any real merit to them being labeled as difficult dogs? Let’s look into this assertion a little deeper and, hopefully, by the end of this article, you’ll have your answer.

Basenjis have a bad reputation for being aggressive and destructive dogs. Though some Basenjis will exhibit a strong prey drive and chase anything that moves, they are generally good family dogs and show a lot of affection.

They are also free-spirited and have boundless energy so, when they are not exercised frequently, they will look at other ways that may pass off as aggressive.

How Did The Basenji Get The Aggressive Tag?

To understand a little about how the Basenji got the reputation of being an aggressive dog, let’s look a bit at the historical origins of the Basenji. The Basenji is originally from Africa and was used as a hunting dog for thousands of years.

red and white basenji puppies
Two Basenji puppies are playbiting each other.

A Basenji is both a blood and sighthound meaning that it tracks its prey both through smell and sight. They are independent hunters who tend to go into bushes and run off in any direction in search of prey.

The African hunters would tie bells around the Basenji’s neck so that they always know the Basenji’s location at any given time as they would always break away from the group from time to time. Their frame and agility make them excellent runners.

Basenji’s Hunting Instincts

They were taken from Africa to Europe a number of times to be bred but they would always die. It was only in the 1930s that they were successfully bred in Britain and then transported to the shores of the United States.

Ever since then, they have been a regular part of American life with many falling in love with them.

a small basenji looks a an all white husky
A small Basenji looks at a white Husky. What a mix!

The strong prey drive from their African hunting days has remained in them over the years and they have been responsible for killing cats, squirrels, rodents, and other small animals. In fact, they will chase just about anything that moves.

Basenjis have a lot of energy and need about 40 minutes of exercise every day. It is when they don’t get that release that they look for an outlet. How that looks exactly, will depend on the individual Basenji.

Some will make a mess in the house while others can exhibit aggressive tendencies. This and their prey drive can cause the Basenji to act in a manner that may be translated as aggression. There is a saying in the Basenji owner community that says a tired Basenji is a good Basenji.

This is because they have noticed that when Basenji receives sufficient exercise, they are much calmer.

A good idea is to take them out when you go jogging but be careful because they can tend to be a bit too energetic and some owners have reported that they are a trip hazard when jogging because they love to zig-zag in front of you.

If you have a fenced yard, it’s a good idea to let them run around in there in order for them to release all that pent-up energy.

Are Basenjis friendly?

That question cannot really be answered with a single statement because it is the same as asking whether people are friendly. Every Basenji has its own unique personality but I will proceed to answer this question in a way that will bring better clarity on this issue.

The floppy face of a Basenji smiling
Basenji dogs have a surprising amount of loose skin on their face!

Basenjis by nature are pack centric. They enjoy being part of a pack and their behavior shows this. Their pack, in your case, would be you and your family. They are very friendly and protective of their pack but they may also show passive behavior or aggression towards other people who are not part of their family.

Again I will stress that they all have individual personalities but this is a generally exhibited behavior among Basenjis. They are very playful and can also be friendly with other dogs especially if they are regularly exposed to them from a young age.

A case in point is how they can be friendly with a family cat but show very aggressive behavior towards other cats to the extent of killing them. In the same vein, they have been known to kill the family cat that they never showed any signs of aggression towards when left alone with them.

Do Basenjis like to Cuddle?

Basenjis have a strong pack mentality as I have already mentioned. This gives them a strong desire to want to be close to the people in their family. For this reason, they don’t like sleeping outside. They may adjust to this when they have companionship such as another Basenji but don’t like being alone outside.

A Basenji sits on a mans lap and sleeps.
A full grown Basenji snoozes in a lap. Taking lap dog to next levels!

Basenjis love to cuddle and considering their reputation for being independent and somewhat aggressive, a lot of first-time Basenji owners are surprised at how cuddly Basenjis are. This behavior is most common during the night.

When the sun is out, they are less cuddly and prefer to lie in the sun. On the opposite extreme, they can also be aloof but, by and large, they are cuddle bunnies.


So, are Basenjis aggressive? The answer will vary from one Basenji to another. Their genealogy makes it such that they possess a strong prey instinct yet their playful nature makes them loveable, adorable pets.

It’s important to keep them exercised so that they have an outlet for all that energy that they possess. When you allow them to release energy in this manner, their aggressive drive tends to tapper down a whole lot. Remember; a tired Basenji is a good Basenji 😉