First published in Basenji Owners and Breeders Magazine - Autumn 2002
We were fortunate enough to sell a Basenji to a delightful German lady called Joanna, now sadly deceased. Int/VDH Ch Zande Rodi lived with Casa Regina Ganymedes, bred by Berta Burkert, down near the Black Forest. Both dogs were spoiled, happy Basenjis with seldom a cross word between them. Lots of walks, trips down to Switzerland, a garden, doting owners at their beck & call.|
Joanna would telephone frequently - to report success, find out how we'd done at shows or just for a chat. However, every September I'd get a phone call, regular as clockwork and always following the same format : "Sally, sie wollen sich zanken ! Was kann ich machen ?" (they want to fight ! What can I do ?)
"Hi Joanna, have you had a look at the calendar ? it's getting close to 'that' time of year again." Joanna would laugh, sigh with relief and resign herself to being vigilant and avoiding any stressful situation which might spark Rodi & Ganymedes into an altercation. A couple of months later, she'd ring again. Everything was sunshine and light, the hormones had settled down and the boys were firm friends again, curled up together in a shared bed.
There were no Basenjis or any other bitches at all within miles but for about two months every year, these two boys mistrusted each other, hated to be out of sight in case one should get something the other didn't, and were constantly on edge. This is by no means an isolated incident. Across Basenjidom there are cited occasions of packs of males 'timberwolfing' in the wee small hours, with nary a bitch of any breed even on the far horizon.
The point is, and this is something new owners of Basenji boys need to be aware of, the dogs have their rutting season. They know that at certain times of the year they would normally expect to get lucky. There is a primordial instinct which tells the boys that the survival of the breed is their responsibility (and pleasure !) and that NOW is the time.
We have run as many as three entire males with five nubile lovelies although through a process of natural selection are now down to two boys and three ladies and, as people who have been to the house know, they all live as house-pests. In common with many Basenjis, the boys are quite happy to make us aware that Bess or Lucy, the neighbour's Black Labradors, are 'interesting' but they aren't particularly bothered. Its just a fact they mention in passing. I firmly believe that Basenjis do not seriously attract, and are not normally attracted by, other breeds. In 20 years breeding in this country - and remember Marvin goes back to 1956 in USA - we have never had visiting firemen nor have our boys even been seriously interested except in Basenji bitches.
But let our own bitches come within a month of the onset of a season and the boys give us warning. It starts with that little frisson of excitement to come, a little 'mouthing off' under circumstances which otherwise wouldn't cause them to turn a hair. They start paying attention to the lawns where the bitches have pee-d and on occasions teeth rattle like castanets. Grab collars go on forthwith. These are normal collars, just loose, something to grasp at need ! As soon as the first girl shows colour, our boys go away to their isolation quarters, a des.res. up in the orchard with large run whence they are taken for extended road-walks to cool their ardour. They remain firmly on leash because we do not want them racing across fields, woods and the highway to get back to the girls.
Now that there are more and more instances of bitches having two seasons a year, some breeders around the world note that their boys are less inspired in the spring / summer and there have been instances when boys have even been reluctant to mate at what for them is the 'wrong' time of year. Deedles had no such inhibitions. He would mate at ANY time. One summer, we heard the unmistakable screams of a Basenji being raped and rushed out into the garden to find him firmly tied with Shani. It was months away from any season but the pack had been chasing around and indulging in horseplay on the old grass tennis court and he nailed her. Marvin was worried cos Deedles was vulnerable as long as the tie lasted and Donner stood among the interested spectators. We needn't have worried.
The Pack Leader just looked up, head on one side, and told us 'silly boy ! he's wasting his time there !' The other bitches raced around like headless chickens shouting at each other and I didn't need a translator to understand what they were saying "LOOK what he's doing to her !" "Will we ever have to submit to such indignity ?" "Just listen to her screams !"
This two-seasons a year trend is interesting in itself. We have had a very high percentage of summer litters and in the main, bitches kept from those litters have had a token dribble in sympathy with the rest of the pack for the autumn season. Attempts to breed them in autumn have not always been successful. They have come in right royally, and been successfully mated, in the spring - dragging the rest of the pack into a sympathy season - -
We don't take any risks. One out, they're all out. We treat both the spring / summer and autumn / winter season seasons with equal caution.
That Basenji boys have a rutting season can be manifest in a number of ways - over-excitement, sheer bounce (in the younger males), more difficult to control, edgy with other dogs, unearthly howling reminiscent of an American Police siren at 2 a.m. There is no point in administering punishment because this is a feature of the breed which you have to come to expect. Have patience while keeping firm discipline and this, too, shall pass.
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