Continuing our series discovering more about our canine’s cousins, this issue we delve into the history of The Raccoon Dog or Tanuki as it’s referred to in Japanese. The species could pass as a Raccoon, to whom it only has a distant relationship, rather than as a Canid, hence the name, Raccoon Dog.
The animal is quite well distributed around Asia and parts of Europe, but its heritage and history are inextricably linked to Japan and its culture.
As Patrick Ellis discovered, Raccoon Dogs are native to Japan, parts of Southern Siberia and other parts of Asia. However, the species ranges as far as Scandinavia and even France.
They do exist in China, but are often killed for their fur. They favour hilly areas with dense woodland but are often seen in and around villages. Although they are related to the domestic dog, they do have many striking similarities to other animals such as Raccoons and Bears.
They feed on a diverse range of prey as well as being perfectly adapted to surviving on a diet of berries, seeds and other vegetation if needs be. Their prey is usually dictated by what is available in each separate habitat, but Frogs, Lizards, Rats, Mice and Birds are all tempting snacks for the Raccoon Dog. Some Raccoon Dogs can hunt in shallow water, adding Crabs and even dead marine creatures to the menu. The main similarity they have to Bears is their tendency to hibernate throughout Winter, the only member of the dog family to do so. Throughout the year the Raccoon Dog lives in a shallow, dug out burrow, where the young are reared and couples hibernate.
Stay tuned for the next in our Canine Cousins series!