The Tanuki | Japan’s Raccoon Dog

Today at Light Future Art, we’re going to share some fun facts about a beloved Japanese animal: the tanuki! How many of these facts did you already know?

Adult Tanuki1. Tanuki used to live throughout Asia and Eastern Europe. Now, however, tanuki just live in Japan as a native species and Northern Europe as an invasive species.
2. The natural habitat of the tanuki is forest and marshland. They often swim to forage for food. Tanuki eat amphibians, fish, and mollusks in the water, as well as insects, small mammals, reptiles, birds, eggs, and fruit out of the water.
3. Tanuki are very close-knit and social. They live in monogamous pairs or in small groups. Tanuki fathers bring food for their pregnant mates and take equal responsibility for raising the pups.


Adult Tanuki Balances on Log4. Tanuki actually are not related to raccoons. They are wild canids closely related to wolves, foxes, and dogs.
5. Tanuki don’t bark. They instead make a whining sound when they’re being friendly and growl when feeling threatened or doing the threatening.
6. Tanuki’s look similar to raccoons, hence their name “raccoon dog”. They have the same dark markings around their eyes that raccoons do, but the body shape of a fox. The adult tanuki usually weighs between 10 and 20 pounds and measures a little less than two feet long.
7. Tanuki are one of only two canid species who can climb trees. The other is the North American gray fox. The tanuki climb trees to forage for fruit and berries.


Baby Tanuki8. They are also the only species of canines who hibernate. When the weather gets cold, they settle down in their burrows together and decrease their metabolism up to half of its normal rate. They will still wake to forage on warmer days but most of the winter sees tanuki sleeping and staying warm.
9. The tanuki is a basal species. This means that many modern canines are descended from them rather than the tanuki sharing a common ancestor with modern canines. In the past, more canines probably looked, sounded, and ate like the tanuki rather than how they behave today.
10. An average tanuki litter is made of five to seven pups. While they need to drink their mother’s milk, the father brings back enough food to the den for himself and his mate. They are totally reliant on their parents for the first four or five weeks of life. At this point, it’s time for the mother to hunt for her babies. While she’s gone, the father watches out for the pups.

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