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Raccoon Dog

So, is it a dog? Or a raccoon? If you guessed canine, you'd be right. Raccoon Dogs (also known as Tanuki)  are in fact canids, through they split away from the other members of family Canidae somewhere between 7 and 10 million years ago. They are the only species within the genus Nyctereutes.

Image by Jinsuk Kim
Raccoon Dogs and actual Raccoons are far, far more distantly related, but the species name of the dog, procyonoides, is a nod to Procyon, the genus in which Raccoons are found. Raccoon Dogs are native to East Asia, and are now abundant in Central and Eastern Europe due to introduction there for the fur trade. In some areas of Scandinavia, Raccoon Dogs outnumber the native foxes. Raccoon Dogs are still hunted for their fur, but their numbers are large, and so the species as a whole is not threatened. They live in a variety of habitats, including grasslands, dense forests, and urban areas.

As one could probably guess by now, Raccoon Dogs have such a name for a reason. Their facial markings resemble those of a Raccoon. They are very foxy in appearance, but with shorter legs and a shorter tail. And did I mention that they have claws that allow them to climb trees? They also have a diet that seems to mirror that of a Raccoon... they eat small mammals, insects, crabs, fruits, nuts, and garbage.

Raccoon Dogs are monogamous, possibly for life, and live in dens that were often built by another species. They give birth to litters sized between 6 and 8, and both parents help to raise the pups. Raccoon Dogs hibernate. They are the only canid to do this in their natural state.


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