Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Basenji's: A Classic Tale of Kennel Club Defect

Modern African Basenjis after a hunt.

In correspondence this weekend, a reader wrote to note that not all was darkness in the American Kennel Club.

For example, when Basenji's began to present with jaw-dropping rates of hemolytic anemia in the 1970s, a test for the disease was developed and affected animals were then culled.

Unfortunately, the now smaller gene pool came down with a new disorder, an eye problem called persistent pupillary membrane, which was quickly followed by a kidney disease called Fanconi syndrome, and IPSID (a fatal malabsorption syndrome).

To combat these three diseases, it was decided to open up the U.S. Basenji registry to increase genetic diversity within the breed.

That does sound like a positive thing, doesn't it?

Sadly, however, the tale does not survive scrutiny.

In fact, it underscores the real problem with Kennel Club thinking.

To start with, let's state the obvious: the Kennel Club did not create the Basenji.

This breed has been around since before recorded history, and is a landrace dog used for hunting in the tropical jungles and scrub brush regions of central subSaharan Africa.

Point two is as important as point one: this breed is not about to go extinct in its native lands.

Basenjis are still used as hunting dogs throughout central Africa, and it takes little or no effort to find excellent specimens in nearly every local village.

So exactly where is the dog in trouble, and why?

The short answer is that the Basenji is only in trouble in the western industrialized world, and it is only in trouble because of the kennel club's closed registry system.

The full story is told here in a paper from the July 2007 Bulletin of the Basenji Club of America, but suffice to say that in the U.K. the breed was founded with just 7 dogs, while in the U.S., the breed was founded with just 9 dogs.

A few more dogs were added in to the mix over the years but, as the paper notes:

"[T]he Basenji modern population was derived from 18 original progenitors, with varying degrees of gene representation."

Even this overstates the genetic variability found within the modern Basenji, however.

As the Basenji Club of America notes, much of the founding stock in both the U.K. and the U.S. did not contribute much in terms of get. In addition, due to the popular sire effect, the true male "founder" side of the breed is really no more than four or five dogs. In fact, just three dogs -- Bongo of Blean, Wau of the Congo, and Kindu -- are estimated to represent over 95% of the Y chromosomes in modern AKC dogs!

In response to the collapsing and inbred genetic mess that is the Kennel Club Basenji, the AKC has now decided to open up the registry to dogs imported from Africa provided they can pass a 10-step hurdle.

Of course, no one is asking the most obvious question: Why do we need Kennel Club Basenjis at all?

The answer, of course, is that Kennel Club Basenjis are needed so people can win ribbons showing these dogs, and perhaps make a little cash breeding them as well.

Is there any other reason to ever own a Kennel Club dog?

Of course, some folks are always looking for a "project" or a cause, and the Basenji serves them well in that regard.

If they tell the story right, they can convince themselves and others that they are trying to "save" a rare breed, and never mind that the dog is not rare and does not need "saving"!

And so the push is on, once again, to import a few more dogs from the Congo, Benin and Cameroon.

And what will this achieve in the end? Not much.

Yes, the rate of genetic collapse of the Basenji within the AKC may slow down a bit, but the numbers imported are going to be so low that they will only change the velocity, not the direction, of the curve.

And, of course, the registry is not going to stay open forever, is it?

Once it closes, dominant sire selection will again raise its ugly head, and the gene pool will once again choke down, and inbreeding will continue apace.

In the interim, a few dog dealers will have made a profit selling "outcross" dogs imported from Africa, but not much else will have been achieved.

The good news for the Basenji is that the survival of this breed does not depend on Kennel Club "saviors."

Darwin and the hand of God are still working, as they always have, to save and preserve the Basenji. As Susan Shott has noted:

The owners of African Basenjis do not provide veterinary care for their dogs, and they do not interfere with their dogs' breeding. This insures that African Basenjis are subjected to the rigors of natural selection. Dogs with genetic problems that reduce their fitness early will be much less likely to breed than healthy dogs. For this reason, African Basenjis are less likely than American Basenjis to have serious genetic health problems

Right. But there's more to it than that isn't there? You see, the working African Basenji was not created in a closed registry system, and today's healthy dogs are not maintained in a closed registry system.

Let's not forget that.

And let's not forget that today's unhealthy, non-working American and European Basenjis are a byproduct of a closed registry system that has resulted in nothing but genetic defect cropping up within this breed.

But thanks to God and Africa, we can say: No loss. The Basenji is still alive, well and thriving in its native land.

_ _ _ _

End Note:

Novus sends an email (thanks!) with some data (and links!) which I will summarize:


Karen said...

hey there! found you through poodle and dog blog. Thanks for posting this interesting article about basenji genetics. It's very sad to see that breeders are sacrificing health for looks.

Marie said...

This isnt 100% accurate but is very close.

Pat has my lengthy comments.

The breed is as at risk as any other and bringing in the Africans, then inbreeding them, is no help.

The resource in Africa is not endless.

Importers are not making money, quite the contrary. Africans were valuable when Fanconi was endemic, before the genetic linkage test came out, but interest has dropped since then. Progressive Retinal Atrophy (a bigger problem than PPM) and IPSID are still with us. Inbreeding may be the source of autoimmune hypothyroidism - not a specific gene but the lack of diversity in Major Histocompatibility Complex. The only dog in the ancestry of my AKC dogs with hypothyroid is their New African ancestor, who was severely inbred.

Jonathan Setter said...

I just saw a pack of 6 American Basenjis on an Animal Planet show. These look a lot finer than their African counterparts and one can already see less bone, muscle and substance on the US dogs. This is not to say that the American dogs do not enjoy a far higher standard of living in terms of regular consistent diet and access to veterinary care than their African counterparts who "live and die hard" however.

ShowDays said...

If you ask anyone in the Basenji club, they will tell you this outcross was not done to address any disease. They will tell you it was simply done to expand the gene pool.

Why would they be so circumspect? Simple, and this is a (if not THE) problem underlying acceptance of any outcross for health (in my opinion).

1) They don't want to admit there is a problem in the breed, for fear of affecting the reputation of their breed. Much is swept under the rug.

2) If they admit that the outcrossed dogs are healthier, most potential puppy buyers will want those, thus having an adverse affect on breeders who choose not to follow that path (i.e. the traditionalists, who basically comprise the power structure in any club.)

If any puppy buyer asks them about the outcross, they can say that it was not done for health reasons, and there is nothing wrong with non-outcross dogs. (At least they can say that until the outcross is integrated to such an extent as to become immaterial)

In Dalmatians, for example, I believe the main reason the club continues to exclude the healthier outcross, is that if they are allowed to exist officially, then they will be preferred to "regular" Dalmatians because they are healthier.

Thus the very success of an outcross effort in any breed, becomes an argument for not allowing it. In Basenjis they managed that by how the outcross was presented to the public.

Michael said...

I have a question for anyone who might know. I know from conversations with breeders that the Basenji is supposedly still 'the wild man of Africa' but is this true? One canine historian has told me the dogs sold to foreigners are actually domestic dogs far removed from the landrace originals. Is this true, and are fanciers being duped as they were in the late-nineteenth century when shopping for "champions" in England and sold 'inferior' dogs, whatever that's supposed to mean?

Unknown said...

Nothing is swept under the rug, where reputable breeders and the Basenji Club of America are concerned. All of the information available to EVERYONE is available for ANYONE to read on the BCOA website (www.basenji.org), and The Basenji Health Endowment has been established (quite some time ago)to support research into finding solutions to the known health problems. People are going to the Congo and Benin and Cameroon to find new, healthy specimens to bring out because the numbers left uncorrupted by outside influences are dwindling, and basenjis in their native state are becoming rare, if not endangered. I support those who are able to go, and I know that they are not doing it for the fame, and certainly not the fortune. They are doing it for love of this ancient breed.
While most breeds can be improved by outcrossing to a similar breed (re: dalmations), there is NOTHING to outcross a basenji to. I'm thankful that we are able to still locate a few in their native state in the few remote pockets where they remain, and then are able to persuade the native owners to share them with us. They are very valuable to the Africans who own them, and they do not part with them easily.

Karin Shah said...

Are you suggesting Americans and Europeans should go to Africa if they want a pet basenji? And exactly what empirical data are you using in your claim that basenjis are healthier in Africa? Or for your assertion they are plentiful? There are thousands of street dogs in India that look like basenjis, but genetically are not.

PBurns said...

I am "suggesting" exactly what I wrote.

I am "suggesting" you read the links (those are the blue bits).

I am "suggesting" that the Basenji does not exist in this world as a pet for Europeans and Americans who are too bored with life to hunt, and who are too lazy to actually get on an airplane, and who think they have a right to breed defective dogs to live a life of pain because they want to brag about their rare breed at Starbucks.

I am "suggesting" that in a world in which an airplane ticket to the Cameroons is $2,000, and a single genetically defective Basenji from "Next Day Pets" is $1,000 to $2,000, they might want to pull their head out of their ass and buy dogs differently, and that perhaps in an Africa of cell phones and faxes, computers, and 747s landing on the continent, one might even be able to acquire an African Basenji without flying to the Cameroons or Benin or the Congo. Hell, there is a good and honorable dog man in South Africa right on this very thread!

And yes, I am suggesting that Central Africa is ass-deep in Basenjis and always has been, and that anyone who had spent a second doing any research at all on the topic would know that. Hell, they just discovered a new population of more than 100,000 lowland Gorillas in the Congo alone (use the Google). The Africa of my birth has hardly disappeared has it?


Lisa Corell Auerbach said...

The figures of 95% for tail male lines is NOT correct - it applies only to dogs with no new native stock blood. That is a small subset of Basenjis. The majority of dogs now have at least some new native stock blood.

There are currently more than 5 NEW unique tail male lines that have been introduced recently, more than you claim exist in total, including Diagba, Gangura, Ojo, Rikita/Zibili, Amisi, Asuma, Kitoko, Tambura, and possibly new imports not yet registered.

By my count, that is at least eight new tail male lines if one assumes Rikita and Zibili's unknown sires are the same, and if you only count dogs already newly admitted to the AKC stud book.

The Basenji is not a collapsing and inbred genetic mess. In fact, the major disease you mention, Fanconi syndrome, now has a DNA linkage marker test and incidence of Fanconi appears to have been cut dramatically, to nearly zero.

I personally believe in genetic diversity enough to think native stock dogs are important to use, and I spend a significant amount of my own time and money subsidizing their perpetuation, but I don't think the domestic portion of the breed is in danger of collapse.

Fanconi has a DNA test, and breeding around it is proceeding in a way specifically designed to maximize genetic diversity while avoiding disease (one parent clear, not wholesale culling.) Fanconi was the only major disease common in Basenjis.

There are 10 steps to get a dog admitted to the stud book. They aren't difficult, and we have breeders from all over the world using the process. I've been one of the ones voting on them, and I've had several friends put dogs through the process. It isn't a "hurdle", it's a relatively straightforward process that has strong support from the club and the membership.

We actually have a number of breeders, including club Board members, who are specifically interested in genetic diversity and long-term breed viability. I personally breed full Af Basenjis, in addition to Af/domestic crosses, specifically to maintain a pool of dogs that are bred in a way consistent with their history.

There are no dog dealers selling outcross dogs - an outcross dog is priced the same as a domestic dog. A full Af is priced the same as a domestic dog. If you actually think you can make a profit selling Basenjis (a relatively low demand breed that is not for everyone and that is blessed with low prices) you are mistaken.

I'm really sorry to see someone claiming to be pro-diversity who is attacking a well-thought out, and well-executed, diversity effort. Next time, if you want more facts, I'm an actual diversity breeder of Basenjis and I don't live far from you. I'd be perfectly happy to talk with you or to have you see my Afs. They aren’t “secret”.

The statements above are my own opinions and beliefs and not an official statement of the BCOA.

Lisa Corell Auerbach said...

Jonathan, many of the dogs on the Animal Planet show about Basenjis were Afs and part Afs.

ShowDays, of the 11 Board members (including officers) of BCOA, four own or owned imports (two are actual importers who went to Africa), another actively breeds full Afs, and at least two more have used imports as stud dogs. This isn’t a case of “how the outcross was presented to the public” – the outcross really was done with purposes of long-term genetic diversity.

Pat, we read what you wrote, but I would suggest that you know relatively little about Basenjis.

While I personally strongly believe in genetic diversity (and have structured my breeding program specifically for that purpose), Basenjis do not normally “live a life of pain” and they are, overall, relatively healthy and free of disease even without the new imports.

Having a Basenji is not something that one brags about at Starbucks. Most people, to put it bluntly, could not care less. And a pet Basenji from a reputable breeder does not cost 1K, much less 2K.

While you can get dogs that look like Basenjis relatively easily, getting dogs that actually are genuine land race dogs is neither simple nor is it inexpensive. If you ask people who are interested in dogs of the original land race, they don’t claim that Central Africa is heavily populated with dogs that aren’t largely European. If the interest is in the actual land race, it takes a good bit of effort, money, and work to get them.

Lisa Corell Auerbach said...

Looks like one of my posts didn't go through.

I actually breed full Af Basenjis, Basenjis whose ancestors are all recent imports, and I'm pretty involved in the parent club. A good bit of what you posted is incorrect.

I understand you are not a Basenji person, but in arguing for genetic diversity (and I consider myself a diversity breeder - many of my dogs are full new Afs, and most are high-percentage part Af) getting the actual facts correct is extremely important.

The HA rate was not "jaw dropping" - the actual incidence rate was approximately 1%. While extremely distressing to have a fatal disease occur in one of every hundred puppies, that is not what I personally consider a jaw-dropping rate.

PPM was not a new disorder and the incidence of PPM does not appear to be affected by the HA test. PPM is also found in new imports and appears to have been in the founders of the land race. It is extremely rare for PPM to have ANY affect on the dog whatsoever and a dog with minor PPM can CERF.

There is definitely speculation, which I personally agree with, that overuse of a few related popular sires following culling for HA carriers increased the Fanconi rate, but it did not create the disease.

IPSID was not and isn't a terribly common disease. It's a not a significant factor in most breeding programs, because most will never see it in a lifetime of breeding.

There are in fact actual concerns that the Basenji will go extinct in its native lands, for the same reason there are concerns about Dingos - not that there are no Dingos, but that interbreeding the historic land race with European dogs is essentially eliminating their unique gene pool.

This is also a major issue in Basenjis and if I remember correctly, the author you quote, who lives in Africa a good bit of the time, has expressed similar concerns about adulteration of a unique gene pool.

It actually does take significant effort to find land race Basenjis that are not heavily mixed with European dogs, as well as expense and personal risk. The countries where most Basenjis are found (Sudan and DRC) are not particularly safe for travel. The state department travel directives essentially boil down to, be sure to let the embassy know where to send the body.

The gene pool for European Basenjis and American Basenjis was originally about 26 dogs, per Jo's paper, not 7 - the gene pool is the same and there is significant flow back and forth among countries.

That does not count newly admitted dogs or dogs in the pipeline. There was a new trip this spring - the club requested and was granted the maximum time period to leave the stud book open. My personal hope is to get us up to at least 50 well-represented founders.

Again, the above is JMHO, not an official position of BCOA.

PBurns said...

Ah yes, the true experts are in VA are they? LOL. Bring Damara Bolte with you, eh, and she can also tell me all about working terriers while you tell me about your years living in the jungle using your basenjis to drive game to spear and net.

Should be a laugh riot.

You are all about genetic diversity, eh? Right. Breeding dogs in the closed AKC registry is proof of that, isn't it?

Again, Bring Damara Bolte (if she is still alive) and she can explain to me how that idea has helped keep the border terrier a working terrier.

And Animal Planet got it all wrong, eh? Those were (sniff sniff) nothing but VILLAGE DOGS.

Right. Tell us more about how the people of Central Africa are not breeding a type of village pariah dog, but in fact are breeding a dog with special magical abilities in a closed registry, LOL. Oh yes, and the dogs were traded to Egypt and across the continent, but the blood has alawys been ""pure". LOL.

Do you even know what a landrace breed IS? It is not based on what a breed looks like, but on what it does. The basenji people sound like the folks who go to Scotland to get a collie and then shrink back because the dogs on the Hill do not look like Lassie.


Novus said...

A strange statement from someone who claims expertise: the basenji is fine in terms of health, which is why the AKC has twice opened up the breed to imports. ???? And we are told everyone else is wrong about basenji health and never mind the basenji club souces, but no she provides no sources herself. ????

I am no good at maths, but I know when things do not add, and everything is fine and we have twice opened the registy are at odds. Opening up a registry is not easy feat -- look at dals and CKCS or any other breed.


Jo Thompson said...

Heh Pat, you have your photo labeled wrong. That is a well known pic taken by Jiri Rotter when he went to Togo (West Africa) in 1990. He labeled it " Shensi hunting dogs" and very clearly stated that the dogs from that area are "basenji-like savanna hunting dogs," not Basenjis.
Ha Ha Ha You sure pulled everyones' leg.

AFAIK, noone in the Basenji camp is considering dogs from Benin or Cameroon. ;)

PBurns said...

I am pretty comfortable with that picture, as will anyone who goes to the site where it was lifted from >> http://www.basenji-freunde.com/basenji%20homeland.htm

You might look at a map and find Liberia, Togo and Benin -- Basenjis found in all three countries and east to west across all of Central Africa, in fact.

Of course, in some worlds dogs that do NOT hunt are "good" Basenjis because a scrap of paper from the AKC says so, while dogs that DO hunt are "dogs of no consequence" because they do not have a curly tail, have slightly floppy ears, or a brindle coat. Those are just "village dogs" right? And neve mind that those are exactly the dogs you see from the 1930s.

As for dogs from Benin and Cameroon, they are already here, and more are sure to come. Of course the dogs are not rare anywhere, are they? Nor are Basenjis confined to Benin, Cameroon and the Congo. Some of the more important dogs came from the Sudan and from Liberia and they are also found in Angola and Uganda as well. A very common and widespread breed, and also very diverse in morphology as all landrace dogs are. Of course, if your goal is a cookie cutter dog that looks just like the standard written for the inbred dog founded on just two dozen dogs, then you cannot have anything but a curly tail, and no brindle coats, and no floppy ears, right? After all, the breed registry is open for a year or two, but the AKC is not changing that standard is it? Got it! Anything that does not conform to "the standard" based on those inbred dogs is just a "village dog," and NO the Baka and Bantu that hunt with them are NOT the experts. Right. Got it. And NO the standard is NOT a working standard is it? Damara Bolte will tell me the same thing about terriers, I am sure ;)

That's why none of this matters. In the end you have a narrow standard and people chasing ribbons rather than game, and popular sire selection means no one is breeding for what the dog was bred to do. Importing a few dogs will slow the swirl down the drain, but nothing more. As Novus notes, this is the SECOND time the registry has been opened. The dogs are a mess, and the mess is up the leash with the AKC system.

"Keep on doing what you've always done, and you'll keep on getting what you've always got."


Lisa Corell Auerbach said...

Novus, I actually am the apparent source of some of the health statements. I wrote the Basenji club health statements, for example, which are being misused here. I am fairly familiar with what they say, what was meant, and what published information and experience was used to back up the data.

I also have worked with our breed’s health researchers for approximately the past 20 years.

I’m not sure what you want sourced, but I’d be happy to provide you with sources if you point out what you don’t agree with or what you think contradicts my own published statements.

The numbers for HA incidence back in the 1970’s (13% carriers, 1% affected, which is in line with Hardy-Weinberg estimates based on that carrier rate) are from published research. The numbers for IPSID are from breed health surveys.

The facts about Fanconi are fairly readily available as the DNA test is online at OFA and our breed health surveys are also online, plus I can point you to PubMed for some studies.

The stud book has been opened twice at the parent club’s request – not at AKC’s – largely because we have a breed that is heavily weighted towards biologists, vets, and genetics enthusiasts.

Much of the impetus for reopening was specifically for genetic diversity. The parent club’s specific support of breed health – and a specific goal of increasing long-term genetic diversity - has been repeatedly noted.

When the parent club is actually supportive, it is not that difficult to get the stud book reopened. The club is overwhelmingly supportive of these efforts.

Pat, the dogs being admitted to the stud book now are consistent with the original imports, and include dogs that are brindle or dogs that do not have particularly curly tails. In remote areas without outside mixture people are not seeing dogs with floppy ears.

In fact, for this type of pariah dog, they don’t have floppy ears – floppy ears is not a variant that is normal for this type of hunting dog unless it’s mixed with European dogs, any more than actual Dingos have floppy ears. Please read some of the writings about Dingos, admixture there with European dogs, and how Dingos are being preserved.

If you look at Sponenberg’s writings, you are making misstatements about what a land race breed is – it does have more variability than a formalized breed (as do the new imports accepted in the stud book) but that variability is not infinite, or you don't have even a land race breed. Not every dog in continental Africa is automatically a Basenji.

Basenji is being defined, in the note you did not post, to include specifics such as distinct genetic characteristics that show up on DNA analysis (which indicate primitive origin and lack of European blood), and behavioral characteristics that are typical for this breed.

That has nothing to do with chasing ribbons, popular sire selection, or not breeding for what the dog was originally intended to do (which included, to no small degree, being a scavenger.) In fact, people breeding full Afs are, as a group, focusing on performance and on avoiding popular sires.

BTW, the registry is open for 5 years, not a year or two, which was the maximum number of years permitted at one shot.

PBurns said...

Asked for sources, Lisa Correll Auerbach provides none, and instead self-references?


I would point out, however, that I actually linked to a few things!

But no matter. Knock yourself out Lisa. Import as many dogs as you can, sell as many as you can, parade them around the ring as long as you can. Tell yourself the culling was not done for health, but because of something else (food?) and the registry was opened twice for the same reason (sheer amusement, eh?). Tell yourself the dog is as rare as a diamond if you want.

Health problems? None of those! Nothing to worry about at least!

It's all OK with me, because I know the dog is fine in Africa and as common as rain water over a very, very wide area, and as healthy as a horse due to genetic diversity in the lands of its origin. Play geneticist, or rescue ranger, or whatever. No problem here.

You see I have seen it all before with other breeds: people who claim to be "saving" a working breed by not working it, and who are "saving" a breed not created in a closed registry by bringing it into a closed registry. And when small gene pools and narrow conformation standards result in genetic defect, they fence up, minimize, etc. Maybe they even open the registry as the Basenji club has done (full appplause here). But do they leave the AKC? NO. Do they actually work their dogs, perhaps driving deer to gun in a state crowded with deer? NO.

As I noted in the post, thank God for Darwin and Africa, that the Basenji does not depend on the Kennel Club show breeders, theorists or judges to preserve it. It is in fine hands with the Baka and the Bantu, from one coast of Africa to the next. And the working terrier is safe in the thick-hands of working men in Scotland, Ireland, Wales, South Africa, America and Canada, same as the Border Collie is safe in the hands of men who actually work sheep and cattle for a living. The Kennel Club Afghan could not catch a cold, but the origial dog is still at work with people who have callused hands and can skin a hare or fox with the knife found in their pocket.

And so there is no danger for the Basenji, is there? It is just an affected game in America, same as the show collies, and the show terriers, and the show Afghans. And look how well that has worked out!

Carry on! No one is going to stop you as you double down your efforts in a system that has never made a dog, but only ruined them. But YES, it is amusing!


Lisa Corell Auerbach said...

I’ve offered to provide published references if asked. No one has. Much of what I said is in the links in your blog post. Disease incidence data is readily available online - DNA test results for HA and Fanconi, along with hip, thyroid, and patellar statistics, are online at www.offa.org. Eye disease incidence data is available for $15 from CERF. Basenji founders are online at www.basenji.org under the African Stock Project.

That data does not back up your claims of breedwide genetic implosion. That is not to minimize the vital importance of breeding for health - but you are grossly overstating the incidence and severity of Basenji breed health issues.

As it happens, my full Afs are not bred for the show ring, so it would be relatively difficult for me to “continue” to parade my Afs in a venue they have never visited. Basenjis are actively used for lure coursing (very loosely simulated hunts) and for a few people for actual hunting.

There was indeed a shift of the gene pool following the HA test in 1972, some due to popular sire syndrome and some b/c of removal of dogs from the gene pool. That shift is associated with a corresponding shift in Fanconi frequency – but NOT with a shift in PPM frequency.

The registry was opened twice largely to insure long-term genetic diversity for the breed. The current stud book opening was done specifically to increase the number of founders and breed genetic diversity, in no small part because of concerns about the preservation of the dog in its native land. You may dismiss those concerns. Those that I feel know more about it than you do are extremely worried.

The author of the founders article you quote – a wildlife biologist who lives in the DRC – has published her concerns about the preservation of the breed in its native land. She studies wildlife in the DRC, is working to preserve the dog in and out of its native land, and actually is a biologist. She corrected you that Basenjis do appear to be distinct from the dogs you pictured – that those dogs in the photos are not in fact Basenjis - and you dismissed her comments out of hand. Apparently you can’t see how she could be more of an expert living with the native dogs in Africa than you are at your PC in Virginia.

Basenjis are a true remnant of primitive dog, and have been studied as such. They are not the same thing as the Shensi dog whose pictures you posted – and she did post above in an attempt to correct you.

I’m afraid that the dog of the Baka and the Bantu is not a Basenji. Basenjis come from a large, but fairly geographically contiguous, area around the DRC and the Sudan, with one founder from the Sudan/Uganda border and a couple of late imports from Liberia.

Basenjis are behaviorally and genetically distinct. They have distinct primitive physiological characteristics such as once a year heats that synchronize closely breedwide by changes in day length. Their distinctiveness is not a matter of appearance.

In Africa, with dogs from different areas, their hunting style is different, their behavior is different, and their DNA show major, important genetic differences that have been studied by researchers into canine origins.

Hunting terriers and border collies are all part of a populous, but relatively narrow, branch of dogs that are associated with Europe. They are genetically siblings – they have different behaviors and instincts, but genetically they are rather close. People who work with dogs from that branch, as you do, tend to be relatively unaware of the unique genetic resources found in primitive breeds.

Basenjis and other primitive breeds are on a bit of a different branch of the dog family tree – and are distinct from each other as well as being distinct from European dogs. That genetic distinctiveness is important from a scientific and historical perspective.

Elaine Ostrander's research on canine origins, and Sponenberg's work on land race breeds and on preservation of unique gene pools, might provide you with some useful information.

Marie said...

The imports from Cameroun were unfortunately apparently not brought from remote areas. I dont know if they are going to be submitted but I trust they will be given the same consideration as any other.

No Benin imports have been submitted yet but they will be.

There are still dogs all over West Africa protected by functional isolation, including Togo and Ghana.

Breeding import to import even if typey dogs are brought over can give rise to every variant which apparently was educational. At least one dog accepted last year was said to have virtually no tail curl.

The standard actually has NO disqualifications. And the standard was changed when brindles were brought over. So that statement is wrong.

Inbreeding is a problem across all closed studbooks in dogs used for show.

The Western basenji is not immune from this problem. Considering the gene pool it is a pretty healthy breed. Probably much of the credit goes to the culling in Africa over the past few millenia.

Breeders are certainly not in denial at all about this problem and basenji breeders have really taken the lead in opening the studbook. Lisa C Auerbach among others have been very persistent and patient in educating the membership on health issues including maintaining diversity.


PBurns said...

"I’m afraid that the dog of the Baka and the Bantu is not a Basenji"

LOL. Perfect, and as I suspected.

The expert on Basenjis are not the Africans that hunt them (and sometimes eat them), it is a white woman in central Virginia who is an expert because she bought a few dogs and she says so.

And of course Damara Bolte (who is also an expert on Basenjis, right?) is an expert on working terriers -- just ask her.

You tell us that Basenjis are only found in the Congo and Sudan. Really? Well, it seems not too many people agree!

As is noted at >> http://www.basenji.org/african/jone8908.htm

"The historic range of the Basenji is that part of Africa where tropical forest or woodland savanna exists. This would be roughly the rain forest of the western coast and eastward through what was French Equatorial Africa into the southernmost part of the Sudan and south to include the Ituri forest westward to the west coast. All but the Kivu and eastern mountains of Zaire would be included in this range."

You miht get a map -- they just belted Africa!

Of course, they are all wrong right? You are the expert. No footnotes and self referencing.

The fact that Basenjis have always been found across all of central Africa must really be an inconveninece for your thesis! You see, they are found without too much trouble from Congo to Cameroon (http://www.dibubasenjis.com/_cameroon.htm), Togo (http://www.basenji-freunde.com/basenji%20homeland.htm), from Sudan to Nigeria, (http://www.basenji.org/african/joha0210.htm), from Liberia (http://www.basenji.org/african/stan6412.htm) to Benin (http://basenjicompanions.org/articles/benin.html), from Sierra Leone (http://www.basenji.org/african/stowaway.htm) to Ethiopia (http://www.basenji.org/african/frel8108.htm). The Basenji people like to point out that the Pharoahs had them, and of course so too did the Khoisan in South Africa. And so we find a dog that has been spread East to West, north to North to South across a massive part of Africa.

So there you go, a few footnotes. You have supplied NONE. But I will even supply videotape. And yes, of a Baka with a Basenji. But, of course, if you say they are not, you are the expert, LOL!


PBurns said...

I am calling an end to this thread as it really has become a time waster. Lisa is quite convinced that through the dogs are famous for health problems, everything is fine (the same sort of thing we hear from Dalamatian breeders).

In fact, things are NOT fine, which is why the breed registry has been opened up twice.

I applaud the Basenji folks for opening up their registry, but laugh at the fact that so many continue to think the salvation for this breed is in the Kennel Club at all. In fact it is in Africa, as the post correctly notes.

Things really went through the Looking Glass, when Lisa said the Baka pygmies of the Congo, Cameroon and Benin do not have Basenjis at all! Quiet a hoot there. No worries. I have put up a post with video, and the kind of links that Lisa has not supplied, and no doubt finds inconvenient.

I wish the Basenji world well, but mostly I wish the Africans well for I suspect they know what they are doing ;) If you have questions about hunting dogs, it *might* be a good idea to ask someone who hunts with those dogs!