When he landed in Cuba, Columbus discovered "a dog that didn't bark." Barking, like kissing and sending Christmas cards, is a social habit fostered—for better or worse—by civilization. Wild dogs never bark, and among primitive peoples even house pets and hunting dogs seldom speak above a dignified growl.

Africa's underslung, café-au-lait Basenjis ("bush things") are no exception. For generations they have tracked game for chiefs in the Belgian Congo, emitting only an occasional soft "groo," plaintively yodeling during the mating season, but never barking. Last week, however, in London's Trinity Hall, at the...

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