Why Don’t Basenjis Bark (Explained)

So, why don’t Basenjis bark really? We have all resigned ourselves to the fact that Basenjis really don’t bark but have we ever asked ourselves why exactly that is?

There are many myths about these as well as some factual assertions and we will look into some of these. Before we get into that though, here is a summarised answer of why Basenjis don’t bark.

The laryngeal ventricle of a Basenji is shallower than in all other dog breeds. This leads to the Basenji not being able to make a normal barking sound. They can, however, make a host of other vocalizations which include the yodel, baroo, human-like screams, growls, and whines.

That’s the short version of the answer. Now let’s dissect this a little further to really see what all this means.

patting a Basenji on the head
Patting a happy red and white Basenji

Does a Basenji bark?

Basenjis do not bark in the same way that most dogs do. On the contrary, they make a host of other sounds like the baroo, howl, growl, scream and the most popular and most adored of these is the yodel. Basenjis are known to make this sound but unfortunately, not all Basenji owners will get to experience this from their Basenji.

This is because most Basenjis will go through a lifetime without ever yodelling or maybe do it once or twice in their lifetime. If you want to learn how you can encourage your Basenji to yodel, you can read our article on how to make a Basenji yodel.

Among the other sounds that a Basenji can make is a baroo which is often described as being halfway between a howl and a yodel. Some Bs have been known to mimic sounds made by other animals and sometimes even humans. You’ll find a lot of “talking Basenji” videos on YouTube.

training a tricolor Basenji puppy
In the process of training a tricolor Basenji puppy

Basenjis will communicate mainly through body language and will support this with one or a combination of the sounds described earlier in this post. The scream is the most unique of these sounds as it sounds very human-like.

It can make for very annoying or unsettling experiences for neighbours who won’t be sure what to make of it.

Despite the inability to bark, Basenjis are far from quiet. They will use their other arsenal of sounds to voice their opinions or express their excitement. They have high levels of energy and they will often expend the energy using body movements and sound.

Why Don’t Basenjis Bark Then?

So, why exactly don’t Basenjis bark? The main reason Basenjis don’t bark is due to the fact that their voice boxes are shaped slightly differently than others. This means that the laryngeal ventricle in Basenjis is shallower than in other dog breeds. They are, therefore, not able to vibrate in a manner that allows them to bark.

A Basenji dog has its nails clipped
A Basenji dog has its nails clipped

In the intro to this article, we mentioned that there are some downright myths regarding why they don’t bark. One of these is that the ability to bark was bred out of them during their African ancestry. This is far from the truth.

Research done on African Basenjis revealed that this is an inherent part of their makeup and has nothing to do with human intervention.

It can be argued that one of the main reasons why Basenjis were popular as hunting dogs in Africa is because they were stealthier due to their inability to bark. This could be true. They were mainly used to flush out prey and direct them into hunters’ nets.

They were also used quite commonly as pack hunters to hunt lions by the Pygmy tribes.

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


We hope that this article has gone some ways into helping you understand why Basenjis really don’t bark. It all boils down to their physiology. Despite being unable to bark, the Basenji more than makes up for it by the array of other sounds they can make.