Raccoon Dog - The Night Wanderer
Although the raccoon dog resembles a raccoon, due to its shape, size and facial characteristics, it is very much a member of the dog family. It is considered to be one of the earliest species that other dog species have evolved from.
It is native to East Asia, but has also been introduced into Eastern Europe. Due to habitat destruction and extensive hunting and trapping - mainly for its fur – the numbers have declined in East Asia. In Europe, however, it is considered an invasive species.
"Night Wanderer" is a translation of its scientific name referring to their "secretive" nocturnal escapades; however, it is now known that they can be active during the day as well. Tanuki is the Japanese name. The Japanese have some very interesting mythological tales (and more recently some comics) featuring the Tanuki.
Unique Physical Features
On the outside, the raccoon dog looks like a raccoon, but its skull has a very strong resemblance to that of the South American fox. Despite this resemblance, the two species are not closely related. The raccoon dog has a long torso, short legs and a short tail.
Raccoon dogs have a diet that includes meat and plants, so they require a slightly different set of teeth and digestive system than other canid species. The canine teeth are small and relatively weak and the molars are flat. The intestines are about 50 percent longer than those of other dog family species. This allows them to process the vegetable component of their diet.
Their body weight is dependent on the season. In March, a raccoon dog will weigh about 6.6 lbs (3 kg); by September, this weight can double, with males weighing around 15 lbs (7 kg). Their fur also becomes thicker in winter, which insulates them from the cold and provides protection from water.
The winter fur is dense and long, with hairs around 120mm long. The color is a dirty brown or gray color, with earthy tones. The guard hairs are black. The chest hairs are dark brown and the abdomen is a yellow-brown color. On its back, is a dark stripe that gets wider at the shoulders, forming a cross-shape.
Raccoon dog couples are generally monogamous in the wild, and the father of puppies is involved in rearing them. Gestation takes just over two months and the young take around 10 months to reach sexual maturity. Usually, half a dozen pups are born at a time, and lactation lasts for two months.
Puppies are born blind and are covered in a very soft wool, without guard hairs. After ten days, the first guard hairs grow and are dark in color. As the pups mature, the guard hairs lighten in color, with just the hair around the eyes retaining the characteristic “raccoon glasses”.
Raccoon Dogs live for about six or seven years. They are the only dog species known to hibernate in winter.