There are hundreds of dog breeds that come from almost all corners of the world, including the continent of Africa. From the diminutive Basenji to the slender Azawakh, Africa has produced its own share of unique dog breeds. Read on to learn more about them!
Basenjis, Africa’s Barkless Dog
The Basenji, also known as the Congolese barkless dog, is a breed that descends from the rainforests of Central Africa. This dog is unique in that most noticeably, it doesn’t bark. However, the Basenji isn’t mute, as it instead produces a sound that is likened to yodeling. This is due to the shape of its larynx, which is different from most other dog breeds.
Basenjis were mostly used as hunting companions, chasing down game animals such as gazelles and pigs. In Kenya, it was reported that the Basenji was used to lure out lions by some Maasai hunters, who would then kill the big cats with spears. Basenjis are noted for their lack of odor; this is because these dogs groom themselves, almost like a cat!
Recent research has concluded that after the dingo, the Basenji is a spitz dog breed––also known as a “primitive” dog breed. What’s more, similarly to dingoes and other older breeds, the Basenji only goes into estrus once annually; this means that they can only have one litter of puppies a year.
Africanis, One of Africa’s Original Dog Breeds
The Africanis, unlike other dog breeds highlighted here, is considered a landrace––not a true breed: it is considered by some to be more of an umbrella term categorizing indigenous dogs throughout Africa. Its name is a simple combination of “Africa” and “Canis,” the genus the domestic dog belongs to.
The Africanis is a rather ancient dog lineage that has coexisted with various African societies for thousands of years. Like the Basenji, the Africanis are believed to be among the most ancient of living dog lineages. The ancestors of the Africanis are believed to hail from ancient Egypt, which then followed migrating human tribes all through Southern Africa.
As this dog is widespread throughout the continent, some populations of Africanis sport slight physical variations. This medium-sized dog is slender in build and comes in a large array of colors ranging from brown and black to brindle, and many also sport many markings.
Coton de Tulear: Africa’s Cuddliest Canine?
Unlike the other dog breeds that we’ll showcase here, the Coton de Tulear isn’t from the main continent of Africa itself. Instead, these fluffy little dogs originated from the island of Madagascar. It was believed that this breed was descended from surviving dogs that escaped a shipwreck and wound up on the country’s tropical coasts around the 1700s.
The Coton de Tulear’s name originates from the Malagasy city of Tulear (also known as Toliara). It simply translates to “Cotton from Tulear” in French. These dogs are believed to be in the Bichon group, which also includes the more popular Bichon Frise and Maltese. This dog was very popular with the Malagasy ruling class, so much so that laws were passed that made it illegal for lower classes to own them!
The Coton de Tulear was relatively unknown outside of Madagascar until the 1970s, when some were exported to Europe and North America. This dog is considered a rare breed today, as it almost became extinct at one point!
Rhodesian Ridgeback Have a Unique Physical Trait
The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a typically reddish-colored, large dog breed that originated in Southern Africa. Having been developed in Rhodesia (now modern-day Zimbabwe), it is currently the only registered indigenous dog breed descending from this area. \
The Rhodesian Ridgeback’s ancestry can be traced from both European and African dog breeds. The Khoikhoi people traded with Dutch settlers, and one of this breed’s ancestors was a type used to guard villages and hunt other animals. This dog was then bred with other breeds, such as Great Danes, bloodhounds, and even the now-extinct Dogo Cubano.
Rhodesian Ridgebacks are named for the distinctive ridge of hair that runs down their backs. This ridge is a whorl of hair that grows backward from the rest of the fur on its body and has been selectively bred. Though originally bred to hunt lions, this dog is known to be a faithful and gentle-natured breed. However, lots of research regarding this breed is a must and is not a good fit for inexperienced dog owners.
Boerboel: One of Africa’s Mastiffs
The Boerboel is a mastiff whose origins can be traced to South Africa. The Boerboel’s name is a combination of the Afrikaans words for farmer (boer) and bulldog (boel, shortened form of boelhond).
The breed was bred by Dutch colonists, who crossbred various mastiffs and bulldogs to create a dog that could be used both for guarding properties and hunting large game. The Boerboel was used to pursue and hunt down various animals, from baboons to leopards. Boerboels are very defensive against their territories, and this protective instinct made them ideal as guard dogs by farmers to defend their land.
Provided with proper care and training by a dedicated and experienced owner, the Boerboel can act both as an ideal guard dog and a loving family companion. However, because of its size and protected nature, it’s a banned breed in many regions. Its guard instincts can become unmanageable and/or even dangerous if improperly trained and socialized at a young age.
Sloughi, AKA the Arabian Greyhound
The Sloughi is an ancient dog breed that originated from Northern Africa, around the Sahara region. The Sloughi’s name is believed to be the Berber pronunciation of the Arabic Saluki, a similar dog breed that can be distinguished by its smoother fur. Rock paintings and Egyptian hieroglyphics have depicted dogs anatomically similar to the Sloughi.
This dog is a sighthound and was mainly used for pursuing small game, ranging from rabbits and gazelles to jackals and birds. It’s one of the dog world’s athletes, being able to chase after prey for long distances. Though this dog is mainly used for hunting, bedouin tribes, and other nomadic groups also used the Sloughi as a guard dog for their campsites as they’re very alert and territorial.
Here's something most people don’t know about these dogs’ eyesight: they have a 270-degree range, making their peripheral vision must better than humans’.
Azawakh, a Cousin of the Arabian Greyhound
The Azawakh is another sighthound that is very similar in both appearance and behavior to the Sloughi; in fact, these two breeds are considered to be closely related. Bred by various North African nomadic tribes (including the Tuareg and the Fulani), this canine is adapted to the rough, unforgiving environmental conditions of the Sahel.
Like the Sloughi, the Azawakh has its origins in the Sahara. Like its relative, it is both used to course small game and to guard campsites. However, this breed has a few notable differences. While the Sloughi usually pursues game alone, the Azawakh typically hunts in packs led by a leading dog.
Instead of seizing the prey like its cousin, Azawakhs usually run their prey into exhaustion. Azawakhs are also ideal watchdogs and will bark to alert other pack members before chasing away their threats. Though it may appear unusually thin, healthy dogs are very slender in physique.