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basenji (bəsĕn´jē), breed of medium-sized hound whose origins can be traced back several thousand years to Africa and the courts of the Egyptian pharaohs. It stands about 17 in. (43.2 cm) high at the shoulders and weighs about 23 lb (10.4 kg). Its short, silky coat may be colored chestnut red, black, or black and tan, with white chest, feet, and tip of tail. The basenji has two unique characteristics: it does not bark but utters a sound that has been described as a chortle or whine, and, in the manner of a cat, it cleans its own body. Possessing a keen sense of smell, the basenji was used in its native Africa as a hunter but is now commonly kept as a house pet. See dog.