Weird Nature 13 Bizarre Things Most People Don't Know About The Raccoon Dog  

Justin Andress
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Spending thousands of hours looking at the adorable antics of random dogs and high-spirited raccoons on the Internet is a perfectly viable use of time, but it turns out science has optimized our search efforts for us in the form of the cute raccoon dog. What is the raccoon dog?

This creature - that looks like a raccoon but is a dog - hails from East Asia but has spread across Europe as well due to its to international adopting. No doubt due to its undeniably provocative cuteness. It is thus named because of - surprise, surprise - its resemblance to the common raccoon, but it is in fact more closely related to dogs than raccoons. 

Here come raccoon dog facts for anyone well on their way to declaring this their new favorite animal.

The Raccoon Dog Is Not a Raccoon At All (Not Even Slightly)


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Photo: Sheffield Tiger/flickr/CC-BY 2.0

The raccoon dog, if judged on name alone, is a somewhat misleading animal. Best to focus on the “dog” part, not the “raccoon” part. Though it might look like an everyday raccoon, the raccoon dog isn’t closely related to the North American raccoon, at all. In fact, it’s in an entirely different zoological family.

As a member of the Canidae family, the raccoon dog is closer in relation to the domesticated dog than it is to the cute, little critter rummaging through trash cans at night. The raccoon dog also has other names, like magnut or tanuki, in the East Asian countries it's most commonly found in.

Like Dogs, They Can Adapt To Live Around Humans


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One of the shared traits between raccoon dogs and common dogs is their ability to adapt and thrive in both natural and urban environments. This helps explain why the raccoon dog is spread across huge swaths of northern Europe and Asia. In some climates they’ve even multiplied after being artificially introduced.

Like wild dogs, the raccoon dog has been known to inhabit urban areas and even live in homes like domesticated dogs.

They Are Famed Tricksters In Japanese Folklore


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Photo: MShades/flickr/CC-BY-ND 2.0

Raccoon dogs are called tanuki in Japan and have a robust folklore around them. Mythical tanuki are considered deceptive and tricky, much like the fox is to many other cultures' folklore. They are thought to be shape shifters, often taking the shape of other humans or objects to fool humans. They can cause humans to see false imagery and are known for their pranks on people.

By far the most bizarre trait of Japan's mythical tanuki is their gigantic scrotums, which they use for every manor of task including carrying things and stretching long distances. This strange enchanted characteristic first started when real-life raccoon dog scrotums were found useful in crafting due to their ability to stretch.

Raccoon Dogs Are The Only Dogs Who Hibernate


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Photo:  Toshihiro Gamo/Wikimedia Commons

In their natural habitat of Asia, the raccoon dog distinguishes itself as the only canids that hibernate. During the winter months, raccoon dogs will take time off to sleep through the cold only to pop out in the summer and begin the mating season.

In their adopted European turf, raccoon dogs have not shown a tendency toward hibernation unless a severe snowstorm pushes them to sleep it.