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What is a Tanuki? Things you didn’t know about raccoon dogs

The Japanese raccoon dogs otherwise known by its Japanese name tanuki, are fascinating creatures that have captured the curiosity of many and may interest you as well.

Originating from East Asia, particularly Japan, these animals have a unique place in Japanese folklore and cultural significance.

What is a tanuki?

So, what exactly is a tanuki? Tanuki are medium-sized mammals that belong to the canid family.

Despite their name, they are not actually raccoons but rather a separate species known as Nyctereutes viverrinus .

Tanuki the Japanese raccoon dog
Credit: Photo by RenisBastelChaOase.


They have distinct features that set them apart from other canids, such as their rounded ears and bushy tails.

Additionally, unlike the common raccoon dogs, tanuki dogs have smaller stomachs with shorter fur of less insulation value.

In Japanese folklore, tanuki dogs are often depicted as mischievous and shape-shifting creatures with supernatural abilities.

Even though they are believed to possess magical powers and are associated with good fortune and prosperity, they are somewhat absent-minded and gullible.

In Japan, Tanuki statues can be commonly found in public places especially outside of restaurants, grocery stores or shops to symbolize wealth, good fortune and business success.

The striking resemblance between the Japanese racoon dogs and actual racoon dogs weren’t as notable in the olden days as in recent times.

Although the tanuki has a reputable significance in Japanese folklore, there is not a clear distinction from other similar looking animals.

On the basis of how they live, the type of food they eat,  their relationship with the environment in which they live and other animals, there is much to be said.

To be specific, we will drive into some things you may find more interesting about the tanuki.

Here are some interesting things you may not know about the tanuki

Tanuki the Japanese raccoon dog
Credit: Photo by Bru-nO.


If you’re a fan of furry creatures, these facts about the Japanese raccoon dogs may increase your interest in the creatures:

Adaptability: Adaptability is no doubt a top characteristic of every living thing especially animals. However, Tanuki have proven to be highly adaptable creatures.

They can thrive in various habitats ranging from forests to urban areas so long as the conditions for survival are within its threshold.

Nocturnal behaviour: If you intend befriending one, you better be ready to give up on your night sleep.

This is because, these creatures are primarily nocturnal, meaning they are most active during the night when they hunt for food or socialize with other members of their species.

Vocalisations: Tanuki communicate through a range of vocalisations including barks, growls, whines, and even screams when threatened or alarmed.

Their survival instincts are top notch as they are unwilling to hide their tails in fear. Instead, when threatened they can be quite vocal and active, and in some cases defensive.

Diet: If you think a healthy diet is only for you, you might want to think again. Tanuki eats a combined diet of both plant matter such as fruits and nuts, as well as small animals like rodents or insects. Enough to maintain a healthy weight if you ask me.

Hibernation :During harsh winters or periods of food scarcity, tanuki may enter a state of torpor similar to hibernation where their metabolic rate decreases significantly to conserve energy.

If you’ve ever thought of animals that hibernate like Bears, here you have one.

Tanuki the Japanese raccoon dog
Credit: Photo by Bru-nO.


Conservation status: While not endangered globally, certain sub-species of tanuki face threats due to habitat loss and hunting for their fur.

Every one wants a feel of that exquisite fur, sadly at the detriment of these cute creatures.

Fortunately, conservation efforts are being made to protect these unique creatures to prevent them from completely going extinct.

In conclusion, tanuki are captivating animals with a rich cultural history and intriguing characteristics.

Their presence in folklore and their ability to adapt to various environments make them a subject of fascination for many.

Understanding the background and lesser-known facts about the tanuki can deepen our appreciation for these remarkable animals endemic to Japan.

Emmanuella Koughna

Born with an innate gift of storytelling, Koughna Emmanuella has engraved her name on the minds of her audience by seamlessly blending profound insights with captivating prose. Over the course of four years, each of her work has been a testament of mastery of language and an ability to plumb the depths of human emotion, weaving intricate tapestries that resonate with readers across the globe. In her free time, she volunteers with animal shelters in her locality where they cater to homeless pets and other animals who need care. She also enjoys traveling, reading, and karaoke.

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