THE BASENJI STACKED AND MOVING
This webpage is dedicated to Robert Cole who exhibited and bred Basenjis under the prefix Bymarket Reg'd.
Born on March 4, 1929 in Toronto, he joined the Royal Canadian Engineers in September 1950. His natural talent led to his being trained as a graphic artist, and he became part of the Army Survey Establishment in Ottawa in 1951. During his service, he was chief instructor at the Canadian School of Military Mapping, Administrative Officer at the MCE, and Troop Commander of Field Print Troop. He retired from the army around 1980, with the rank of Chief Warrant Officer. He was an international all-breed judge, a freelance illustrator, and his all-breed audio-visual canine structure and movement presentations were well received worldwide. The excerpts shown below are from his book, The Basenji Stacked and Moving, one of the most comprehensive, in-depth technical treatises ever written on a breed.
Photo by June Andrews.
It is with great pride that the Basenji Club of Canada was given permission by Robert Cole, prior to his death on March 24, 2004, to use the text and drawings from his book. The copyright for his book is still applicable: "No part of these excerpts may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information, storage and retrieval systems, without prior written permission from Robert Cole's estate or publisher, except by reviewers who may quote brief passages in reviews."
* General Appearance * Characteristics and Temperament * Head * Neck * Forequarters * Body * Hindquarters * Tail * Size and Weight * Coat & Colour * The Basenji in a Nutshell - A Comparison Of Good And Bad * Moving In Profile At The Trot * Coming And Going Away * Double Suspension Sighthound Gallop
THEN CLICK "BACK" IN YOUR BROWSER TO RETURN TO THIS PAGE.
Appearance is of an alert, poised and intelligent animal. The British Standard uses the word "aristocratic", a fitting adjective. Elegance penetrates to both his structure and bearing without loss of strength or power, as evidenced by the proud carriage of head on a well-arched neck and seemingly effortless action at the trot. Gazelle-like grace is the hallmark of the Basenji. Courseness of body is to be avoided as is excess size which is often the cause of type loss. The impression of a dog high on the leg compared to its length cannot be overemphasized; the Basenjis proportions should be truly square. In addition to being small and lightly built, the Basenji is also finely boned.
The wrinkled head and tightly curled tail set the breed apart. The prick ear contributes to the alert appearance, and there is an aura of mystery surrounding this attractive breed. Its beauty, poised and moving, is not the result of modern manufacture, but is Nature's handiwork. It is a breed that evolved on the Dark Continent. Its ready-made appearance is ours to appreciate and to preserve.
Characteristics and Temperament
Instead of a bark, the Basenji chortles, yodels, growls, and, even on occassion, screams. The wrinkled forehead is described and illustrated further on. A characteristic that could go under this heading is cleanliness: he hates being dirty, and of special interest, has no doggy odor.
The Basenji is a friendly but not a fawning dog. They can be aloof with strangers until they have satisfied their curiosity about them. They are not a blindly obedient dog as are some breeds which have long worked with man. Sometimes this can try one's patience. The Basenji can be Obedience-trained but one must keep the foregoing in mind when working with the breed and not expect instant results.
The Basenji head sets the breed apart from that of any other breed. The small prick ear, profuse forehead wrinkle, and small obliquely-set eyes combine to create a unique headpiece. These three easily identifiable superficial characteristics arrest the attention, often to the extent that there is a tendency for those who assay to judge the breed not to look beyond them. This is unfortunate. One has only to see a few good expressions to appreciate the obvious, the head itself requires a more detailed study.
This is the head of a typical female. A male should look masculine, a female feminine. Functionally, the structure is the same for both. The bitch has been drawn at a three-quarter angle to illustrate the smooth transition of foreface into muzzle. Notice also that lines drawn through the corners of the obliquely-set eye would touch at the point where the high-set small ears join the head.
In profile, the muzzle continues in a line parallel to that of the flat skull. Length relationship of muzzle to skull is critical. The ideal balance requires that the distance from the occiput (rear of the head) to the stop be slightly greater than from the stop to the tip of the nose. To be more precise, the muzzle is shorter than the skull in a ratio of five to seven.
The nose should be black, period. A brownish tinge sometimes appears during the winter months, rarely when the coat is rich and dark.
The colour of the iris of the eye is dark, darker than the coat, and small without being piercing or button-like. The far-seeing expression is dependent on position, shape and angle. Eyes should be positioned close enough to produce a quizzical expression, shaped in the form of an almond, not a triangle, pointing upwards and outwards towards the corner of the dog's ear (when the ear is set high on the head). For an Afican breed, dark rims are a necessity; they absorb sunlight, and do not reflect the sun's rays back into the eys.
The ears should be small, pointed, and erect, of fine texture, set well forward on top of the head.
The requirement for teeth to be level is not to be interpreted as meaning a level or pincer bite where the upper incisors rest on top of the lower incisors. Level is intended to mean that viewed head-on, the teeth meet in a level, horizontal line, ensuring that the jaw or jaws are not twisted. The ideal bite is a scissors bite where the inner side of the upper six incisors touches the outer side of the lower six incisors.
An arched neck of good length adds greatly to the aristocratic appearance, as well as being a functional link between head and body. Firmly set into sloping shoulders, the neck supports the proud carriage of the head in a lofty manner. The crest accentuates the graceful curve downward into the high withers. The throat is clean without loose skin under the jaw. The slight fullness at the base of the neck is characteristic of the breed.
The forequarters include the shoulder blade, upper arm, elbow, forearm, wrist, pastern, and foot. Each of these features should be considered seperately, then as a unit, then in relation to the whole.
The shoulder blade should also be long and slope inward and rearward as well as be flat. The blade should be well laid back, but not the impossible 45 degrees measured along the spine of the blade. The requirement is for flat laid-back shoulders.
The open angle and upper arm length positions the elbow slightly rearward and level with the bottom of the chest. To bring the forequarters into static balance, the straight front pastern slopes slightly. Support is then directly over the foot. In all likelihood, this type of upper arm contributes to the Basenji's ability to excel at the Sighthound double-suspension gallop.
A sighhound, the foreleg of the typical Basenji should be longer measured from an elbow (level with the bottom of the brisket) to the ground than the body is deep measured from the withers to the deepest part of the brisket. This longer-than-average length contributes to desired high-on-the-leg appearance to increase in stride.
The pasterns are to be "of good length, straight, flexible". Straight means slightly sloped but not bent. Length of pastern in addition to anatomical length requires that the slope commence above the joint so that bone assembly and the bones of the pastern slope at the same angle.
The small, oval feet of the Basenji are a reflection of its small size as a dog and its original habitat. Small feet are a requirement for difficult and varied terrain and for speed. The front paws carry more weight and are slightly larger than the rear. The amount of webbing between toes is slight.
The appearance of a short back (the level portion of the topline between the withers and the loin) is due more to high withers and legs longer than the body is deep than an actual anatomically short body.
The Basenji is square in profile, height at the withers is equal to the overall length of body. Being high on the leg, the body is made to appear short in relation to height. The appearance of a short body is enhanced by high withers, level back, short loin, and a high set tail. The rib cage is oval and the brisket extends down to the elbow. The tuck-up commences at the eighth rib. The appearance is of a dog high on the leg compared to length of body.
The body is measured from the front of the sternum (breast bone) to the point of buttocks (pelvis), and should not exceed in length the heighth at the withers. The typical Basenji is truly square in proportion when the four vertebral sections are each of correct length and structure is sound.
The chest of medium width ensures that the chest will not be pinched and that the legs will not stand too close under the body. A narrow front ensures that the shoulders will not be loaded, that the upper arms will not be bossy and that the legs will continue down in a straight line.
A key to appreciating correct Basenji hindquarters is the requirement (not expressed in the Standard) for 'moderate' angulation. The Basenji is short-bodied, its proportions square. Its working gait is the endurance gallop. Maximum propulsion is achieved by a combination of a short body, long legs, a long well-angled pelvis, and a level sacrum, the latter to provide ample attachment for muscles that extend downward, and draw the hindleg rearward.
The long second thigh must have sufficient length that the hocks can position vertically rearward of the point of buttocks. Angulation must be present at the point of hock as well as at the stifle.
If the Basenji is a male, it is important that he be 'entire'. To be 'entire', the dog must have two male gonad, glands which produce spermatozoa. The adult whose testicles are abnormally retained in the abdominal cavity is called cryptorchid.
A high-set tail is desirable from the standpoint of both function and appearance. Departure from the idea is one of degrees, with the whole of the hindquarter taken into consideration.
A high-set tightly doubl-curled tail is a desirable breed characteristic. Of these three tail features, the 'high-set' is the most important, followed by 'tight', and then by a 'double-curl'. The last, a double-curl, is a Western improvement.
Because the curled tail is an easy-to-see, obvious breed characteristic, care must be exercised to ensure that the presence or the absence of tightness or double-curl does not detract from the tail's actual position as it relates to construction. The manner in which the hindquarters are constructed is more important than degree of curl.
In the minds of many peoiple, the most important aspect is that the tail should curl tightly, preferably twice. However, more important then the degree of curl, is the position where the root joins the body - it should set high on the topline. The posterior curve of the buttock should project well beyond where the tail joins the body when the hocks set vertical just beyond the buttocks.
Size and Weight
Size must take height, length, and weight into consideration; the three combine to produce a balanced, correctly-proportioned dog. The typical Basenji is finely-boned, carrying no more weight than is absolutely necessary.
An inch higher or lower should not penalize an otherwise well-balanced, correctly-proportioned specimen. To be correctly-proportioned, whether the height be 16 or 18 inches at the withers, the body must be of equal length, and the elbows level with the bottom of the chest (brisket).
As long as its original purpose continues to serve as a backdrop for determining size, the smaller specimen should be bred for. Any preference towards promotion of a large Basenji endangers 'type'. Any increase in size is usually accompanied by heavier bone and longer body. The larger dog may well appear more impressive and strong, but has sacrificed the endurance capability of the smaller, finely-boned specimen. Endurance at the gallop is the criteria, not power. Also the requirement to move with effortless grace separates the typical, lightly-boned Basenji from heavier dogs which must expend a greater amount of energy at the trot.
Coat and Colour
The ideal coat is very fine, close, sleek, and short, appearing to feel velvety to the touch, and pliant when grasped. The degree that the skin is pliant can be readily appreciated in the manner this owner has been able to gently lift his Basenji by the skin of its back. This degree of loose skin reduces the chance of injury in the bush or brush.
Deep chestnut is the most popular Basenji colour. Pure black has appeal and there have been some good ones, but unfortunately black does not provide the degree of easy-to-appreciate wrinkle and expression that the red colour does. Black and tan has an appeal all of its own, augmented by tan melon spots over the eyes. The heads of all of these three colours are enhanced by a white muzzle and blaze, appreciated when present, of no consequence when absent.
White must be present to some degree on the feet, chest, and tail-tip for all colour varieties. White on the legs, head (blaze) and collar is optional. A blaze that runs over the head and joins the white collar behind is acceptable, as are islands of colour within the blaze itself.
(As of the publishing date of his book, Robert Cole writes) Brindle and white is a true African colour, but is not accepted (as of that date).
The Basenji is immaculate, grooming his coat and paying particular attention to his feet, again, like a cat. He takes good care of himself, and rarely needs a bath. An occasional brisk rub with a rough towel and a daily going over with a soft brush will delight him, and will cause his coat to glisten. The Basenji is practically odorless. If there is any scent at all, it is reminiscent of clean, dry grass.
The Basenji in a Nutshell
Moving In Profile At The Trot
In the Royal Canadian Engineers, I had the opportunity to produce an animated training film. This animated film increased an appreciation for the way in which flip book art can be employed. I also remember flipping the corners of comic books as a kid, and the animated drawings I did on dog-eared textbooks.
This (following) moving flip-art sequence has been traced from motion picture film footage of a real-life Basenji using the rotoscope method employed by film animators to transfer real action into realistic drawings.
This sound real-life Basenji represents a typical, good moving example. (The) sequence was traced frame by frame from slow-motion film taken with a specialized motion picture camera.
It only requires ten drawings to depict the complete cycle, because, at the diagonal trot, one side of the dog is a mirror image of the other side. Each illustrated sequence begins with the right front foreleg in vertical support, a unique format that allows the action of individual dogs to be compared phase-by-phase.
Coming And Going Away
The Basenji Standard does not describe typical action coming and going away and, from time to time, the question arises as to whether or not the Basenji does or does not single-track.
(Using the slow-motion camera techniques described above, it has been proven that) the Basenji does not single-track; few breeds do. Coming and going away, the Basenji's legs converge towards a center line under the body to minimize lateral displacement....the faster the trot, the greater the convergence.
The inner edge of the paw prints may even touch, but, in my opinion, it would not be to the Basenji's advantage for one foot to be carried around and strike the ground immediatley in front of the other front foot.
(While stacked and) viewed from behind, the column of bones from hip to pad should be straight. The hocks should neither turn out nor in. Moving, the hidlegs track directly behind those of the front, converging gradually towards the center of gravity as speed increases.
Double-Suspension Sighthound Gallop
The Basenji is a dog with a proven ability to excel at the fast double-suspension gallop. It differs from the arched Greyhound, Whippet, Borzoi, etc. (as does the Afghan, Saluki, Pharoah Hound, and Ibizan), in that its back is level. The Basenji also differs (as does the Afghan Hound) in that, instead of slightly longer than high, the Basenji is as long as it is high. The Basenji shares with all Sighthounds: long legs, moderate angulation, light bones, flexible spine, a body that is not heavy, and a head that is not large; features which combine to produce excellence at the double suspension gallop.
Actions at this specialized fast gallop is so rapid and so complex that it cannot be analyzed by the eye unaided. The best aid is freeze-action photography. The best sequence photography is high-sopeed cine (motion picture) footage taken at Sighthound Firld trials, and traced frame by frame to produce a complete illustrated stride.
The double-suspension gallop employed by the Basenji is a rotary type, asymmetrical gait. The rotary type footfalls occur in a circe: RF then LF, then LH, and then RH......or the reverse. (Horses employ diagonal footfalls.)
A stride is a complete cycle at the gallop. Speed is the product of length of stride times the rate of stride. Speed can be increased by either lengthening the desirable portions of the stride, or increasing the frequency of the stride. Increasing leg length up to a certain point contributes to lengthening the stride, and therefore a Basenji's foreleg must always be longer than its body is deep. Flexing and flattening the spine at the gallop also lengthens the desirable portions of the stride, and therefore the Basenji's spine must always be flexible.
The desirable portions of the stride where lengthening increases speed are the phases where all four feet are free of contact with the ground. It is during these portions of free flight where the body is transported forward, and distance is covered. The faster the speed, the less number of feet there are on the ground at any given time, and the more periods of free flight.
Return to The Basenji page.