When we think about “wrinkled” dogs, the Chinese Shar-Pei typically comes first to mind, though the Neapolitan Mastiff, Dogue de Bordeaux and Bloodhound, may not be far behind. Compared to those breeds, the Basenji might not be considered wrinkled at all, but the AKC breed standard calls for a wrinkled head (particularly when the ears are erect), and the AKC breed study guide makes note of very pliant skin. Some say that wrinkles are less noticeable in Basenjis with brindled, black, or tricolored coats, and Basenji pups have more wrinkles than adults, but at any age, loose skin is an advantage.
Basenjis should be able to hold their ears high, and to swivel them in and out – important in making wrinkles, and to create the overall expression of the dog. Basenji wrinkles, however, aren’t always visible. A Basenji that is “chilling,” and has his ears at “half staff” won’t have wrinkles.
As mentioned earlier, loose skin in this breed has a historical advantage as this is a hunting dog; loose skin and wrinkles enable the dog to avoid harm from an enemy who, after an attack, finds he had only a mouthful of skin, but missed vital organs. Pliable skin also helps the dog wriggle out of tough spots, and plow through dense jungle or underbrush without gouging and tearing their hide.
Depending upon one’s source, the Basenji’s name means “wild thing” or “uncivilized” in Persian, while some maintain that the breed’s native name, M’bwa m’kube M’bwa wamwitu, or “jumping up and down dog,” refers to the breed’s tendency of launching themselves into the air to spot their prey over high grass. The marvelous writer, D. Caroline Coile, PhD, shares another theory, and that is that the name was derived from the Arabic word for “wrinkles.”
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