As we write (February, 2024), the AKC recognizes 201 dog breeds, and the word, “profuse” appears in the breed standards of at least thirty-seven of them. You would be correct in thinking that the term is used to describe coat.
But not always.
Out of all those breeds, only two standards utilize the word, “profuse” to describe something other than coat – or anything even remotely connected to hair. Can you guess what it is?
Wrinkles! Now, can you guess which two breeds mention “wrinkles”and “profuse” in their standards?
It might surprise you to learn that it’s not the Bloodhound, Basset Hound, Bulldog, Pug, Frenchie, Dogue de Bordeaux, or any breed with “mastiff” in its name.
We’re betting most of you have correctly named the Chinese Shar-Pei as one of them, but did you name the Basenji? From the Basenji AKC standard: Wrinkles appear upon the forehead when ears are erect, and are fine and profuse.
The irony. The one thing that many of us would like to avoid as we age is something important enough to include in this breed’s standard – but it’s more important than just skin. Wrinkles are “landmarks” of a correct – or incorrect – Basenji head. A Basenji that lacks wrinkling when it’s ears are alert is likely a dog with a head that is too broad. Even if the hound is “chilling,” there should be a slight tracing upon its brow when the head is correct.
Forehead wrinkles, an important characteristic of Basenji type, shouldn’t be the heavy creases, folds, and luxurious hiding spots for small toys that one might see in a Shar-Pei because such “skin pleats” would obscure the fine chiseling of a lovely Basenji head. They have to be “Goldilocks” just right.
This aspect of type is so important that the Basenji Club of America instructs judges on how to conduct a proper examination for the pliant skin, and you can peruse those suggestions here. For our purposes here, suffice it to say that fine, profuse facial wrinkles are indicative of breed type, and their absence is not only atypical of the breed, but considered a fault because it departs from stated points in the standard.
But wait, there’s more.
Wrinkles in this breed isn’t a “beauty contest thing.” Remember what this breed does, and where. This was an effective hunting breed in Africa. Pliable skin and wrinkles helped the dog wriggle out of dense underbrush and navigate through jungle growth without injuring their hide. Loose skin also helped the dog avoid harm to vital organs if a predator grabbed him, thought he had found dinner, and discovered instead a mouthful of skin.
“Bummer,” said no Basenji ever.
Photo at the top is of Miss Hottie Belle by Melody Falcone