November 11, 2020
AZ Animals Staff
Raccoon Dog Facts
- Main Prey
- Frogs, Fish, Rodents
- Distinctive Feature
- Dexterous front paws and pointed snout
- Thick forests close to water
- Foxes, Wolves, Wildcats
- Average Litter Size
- Favorite Food
- The only hibernating canine!
Raccoon Dog Physical Characteristics
- Skin Type
- Top Speed
- 25 mph
- 3 - 8 years
- 3kg - 10kg (6.6lbs - 22lbs)
- 50cm - 65cm (19.6in - 26in)
“Raccoon dogs can climb trees, swim, and dive underwater”
Raccoon dogs live in Europe and Asia. Though they look similar to raccoons, they are not related to them. These animals are omnivores and are active at night and part of the day. They have a lifespan of 6 to 11 years. They are social animals that live in pairs or small groups.
Incredible Raccoon Dog Facts!
• These animals are closely related to the fox
• They have an average of 6 babies per litter
• They eat birds, fish, insects, and fruit
• These creatures have very poor eyesight
• They hibernate during extreme snowstorms
Raccoon Dog Scientific Name
The scientific name for these animals is Nyctereutes procyonoides. The Greek words Nyctereutes procyonoides mean night wanderer. The word is broken up this way: nykt (night), ereutes (wanderer). Japanese raccoon dog, Japanese badger, tanuki, mangut and Neoguri are other names connected with this mammal. Neoguri is the Korean name for these animals.
The mangut or tanuki is a subspecies with a smaller skull and smaller teeth than a Japanese raccoon dog. The Korean raccoon dog (aka the Neoguri) and the Ussuri raccoon dog are two other subspecies.
The raccoon dog belongs to the Canidae family and is in the Mammalia class.
Raccoon Dog Appearance
The thick coat of these animals is a mixture of brown, gray, tan, and black hair. It has a black tail and a black stripe across its shoulders. Raccoon dogs have two dark eyes and ears that are similar to a fox’s ears.
In Japan and China, there are a few mangut, or tanuki, with a coat of pure white fur. The saying goes that if you see an all-white tanuki, you can expect good luck to come your way. Unfortunately, these tanuki are rarely seen.
An adult measures between 20 and 27 inches long. If you lined up 13 golf tees end to end they would equal the length of a 27-inch long raccoon dog. The weight of an adult animal ranges between 9 and 20 pounds. As an example, a 20-pound raccoon dog weighs about the same as two average-sized housecats. The heaviest a raccoon dog can get is 22 pounds.
They have poor eyesight but an excellent sense of smell. This helps them to find prey, especially when hunting at night.
Along with black hair on its neck, these animals have black hair on its nose and black rings around both its eyes. This mask of black hair makes this animal look like a raccoon. Now you know how it got its name! But it’s not actually related to a raccoon. In fact, its closest relative is the fox.
Raccoon Dog Behavior
This mammal is social and lives in pairs or with a small family. A group of raccoon dogs is called a pack. They try to avoid being seen but will become aggressive if they feel threatened.
This animal’s brown coat allows it to blend in with its environment as a protection against predators. These mammals can also swim and climb trees to escape threats. The ability to climb trees is a characteristic they share with one other animal from the Canidae family, namely the gray fox.
Raccoon Dog Habitat
Raccoon dogs live in Europe and Asia. Specifically, they live in China, Japan, Russia, Vietnam, North Korea, South Korea, Austria, France, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Germany, Sweden, and Finland.
These mammals live in burrows located in areas of thick vegetation where they can hide and blend in with their environment. When food becomes scarce in their habitat, these mammals migrate to find a new territory where prey is more plentiful. They are adaptable and can move long distances to find a food source.
The activities of these animals slow down in the wintertime from December to February. They hibernate, but only during serious snowstorms. They find an abandoned burrow created by a badger or other animal and settle in for the cold weather months. These mammals hibernate in pairs.
Raccoon Dog Diet
What do these animals eat? These animals are omnivores. It eats birds, insects, lizards, snakes, and mice. Plants, berries, and nuts are also on the menu. This mammal can swim so it captures frogs, crabs and fish in rivers and streams.
Some raccoon dogs live in urban environments where wildlife is scarce. So, they’ve been known to dig through garbage cans and eat leftovers thrown away by people. Sometimes raccoon dogs steal eggs out of birds’ nests. In short, they adapt to eating whatever is in their environment and are sometimes called scavengers.
Raccoon Dog Predators and Threats
These animals have a few predators including wolverines, wolves, lynx, Golden eagles, and domesticated dogs. If the animal can’t escape from a predator, it only has its teeth and claws to use for protection. Many of its predators are stronger and can overpower this mammal.
Humans are another threat to these animals. There is a demand for the fur of a raccoon dog, so they are sometimes caught in traps set by poachers. Plus, in Japan, these animals are a form of cuisine.
Raccoon dogs that live in urban environments near homes are considered pests because they can transmit disease to pets and even humans. They are sometimes poisoned or shot if they enter these environments. They can be killed while trying to cross roads in busy areas as well.
Despite all of their predators and threats the official conservation status of these animals is Least Concern. Their population is categorized as stable.
Raccoon Dog Reproduction, Babies and Lifespan
The mating season of these animals begins in February and goes through April. A female releases a scent to signal she is ready to mate. Three or four males fight over her to see which one is strongest. Once a female and a male pair up they are mates for life. This means they are monogamous.
The gestation period of a female falls between 60 and 70 days. Raccoon dog babies, also known as pups, are born in April or May. A female usually has six pups per litter, but there have been litters with as many as 15 or 16 pups in them. Both the males and females help to care for their pups.
These pups are born blind with a thin coat of coarse hair. They weigh two to six ounces. A six-ounce raccoon dog pup weighs the same as a pet hamster. At ten days, the pups’ eyes open. They are nursed for the first 40 to 60 days of their life but begin to eat some solid foods at three weeks old.
The pups remain with their parents until they are four and a half months old. After that, they go out and live independently. They reach adulthood at 10 months old. These mammals have a lifespan of 6 to 11 years. The oldest Japanese badger aka raccoon dog on record died at age 16. Its name was Tanu and it lived with a family in Japan.
As these mammals age, they can take on parasites and fleas as well as develop mange. In some cases, they have been known to carry rabies.
Raccoon Dog Population
The conservation status of these animals is Least Concern. Though their exact population is unknown in many areas, scientists estimate there are approximately 120,000 adult raccoon dogs in Finland.
The population of this mammal is categorized as stable mostly because it’s an adaptable creature that can find food and shelter in a variety of environments.
Raccoon Dog in the Zoo
• Learn more about raccoon dogs aka tanuki at the Zoo AtlantaView all 21 animals that start with R
Raccoon Dog FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
What is a raccoon dog?
It’s a mammal with a mask of fur on its face that makes it look a lot like a raccoon. But, despite the name, it’s not related to the raccoon. The fox is its closest relative.
Raccoon dogs are omnivores that can swim, climb trees, and travel long distances on the ground making them very adaptable to their environment. Their conservation status is Least Concern.
Where do raccoon dogs live?
Raccoon dogs live in countries throughout Europe and Asia. Their habitat includes grasslands and temperate forests. They are known to hibernate in the winter when there’s a serious snowstorm.
Are raccoon dogs dangerous?
No, they are not considered dangerous. However, any animal can become aggressive if it feels cornered or threatened by another animal or a human.
What do raccoon dogs sound like?
Raccoon dogs whine, growl, and howl when communicating with one another. Regardless of their name, they are not known to wag their tails or bark. In fact, some scientists report that Japanese raccoon dogs sound more like cats than dogs.
Are raccoon dogs legal in the U.S.?
No, they are illegal to own or even bring into the United States. The one exception is a zoo. The scientists and animal technicians working in a zoo would be able to care for a raccoon dog properly and keep it away from the other animals.
Unfortunately, raccoon dogs are considered an invasive species in the United States because they carry parasites, bacteria, and diseases that can easily be passed to other animals. Of course, there’s no harm in learning more about them as long as you don’t try to bring one home!
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- Tom Jackson, Lorenz Books (2007) The World Encyclopedia Of Animals
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- David Burnie, Dorling Kindersley (2008) Illustrated Encyclopedia Of Animals
- Dorling Kindersley (2006) Dorling Kindersley Encyclopedia Of Animals
- David W. Macdonald, Oxford University Press (2010) The Encyclopedia Of Mammals
- Animal Diversity Web, Available here: https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Nyctereutes_procyonoides/