PROPORTIONALLY SPEAKING THE SQUARE, AGILE AFRICAN BASENJI
BY SANDRA L. BRIDGES
H aving found myself, accidentally, the President of the Basenji Club of America back in 1989, I was dropped into the middle of a controversy about the revision of our Standard. I did my best to resolve that contretemps by breaking the Standard down into small, specific phrases, then putting the entire thing out to the General Membership to be voted on individually. Any phrase passing was sent on, any that did not pass was revised, incorporating the input of the membership and re-voted on—and revised—until it did pass. This was quite an arduous undertak- ing, but the final version passed the vote of the General Membership with 97 percent voting in agreement. I hope that I (and, by extension, the other members who also should have noticed) can be forgiven, then, for not realizing that we had omit- ted the word “square” from the paragraph on proportions. We naively assumed that by specifying 17" x 17" for a dog and 16" x 16" for a bitch, judges would understand that the square proportion was a given.
In the intervening thirty years, I have watched, unhappily, as my small, square, agile jungle dog has morphed into a long-bodied, rect- angular, over-angulated Generic American Show Dog that flies around the ring on a tight lead in front of their handlers. This is not typical of the correct Basenji nor is it in keeping with its Standard and its original native function. The 1954 (the second) approved Basenji Standard specified that the Basenji was “short-backed” (General Appearance), short-bodied or “body should be short” (Body), and “short-coupled” (Body). When we reformatted it in 1990 at AKC’s request, we allowed for the short back and the short coupling, but it was apparently decided to omit entirely that the body itself should be short. The word “balanced” was substitut- ed, instead, in the paragraph on the Body, and the phrase “short body” was not included anywhere else. This eventually allowed, unknowingly, for a change in construction. As newer breeders assume that the 1990 is the “better” version of the Standard, they discard the knowledge to be gained from the two previous versions. Now, rather than our dogs being “square appearing high on leg,” we have many that are often only square by virtue of being as tall as they are long.
Whelped 1954, English Import, American Champion
208 | SHOWSIGHT MAGAZINE, SPRING EDITION
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