Meet the animal that has baffled many with its appearance… the racoon dog

The Racoon Dog (ILIUTA GOEAN)
The Racoon Dog (ILIUTA GOEAN)

Meet the raccoon dog, a creature who has long baffled and confused with its unique appearance.

Many assume they are looking at a typical raccoon, with its colouring and facial features, only to eventually realise it is actually a dog.

And what about other the dogs in town?

They’re really not sure what to make of it, although they do tend to get along once they work out it’s probably more canine than mammal.

You may have spotted a particularly-famous raccoon dog, a Japanese one, that has been all over the internet in the past few months.

This is Tanu, who looks for all the world like a little raccoon — or maybe even a badger — but is in fact a dog.

Tanu became an internet celebrity after his owner began posting photos of the dog, showing it eating, sleeping next to a warm stove or just looking appealingly into the camera.

Soon, thousands of others spotted the pics and reposted them, and the story of Tanu became big news among internet fans.

It seems the dog’s owner found it abandoned in June, 2015, took it home to feed it and has looked after it ever since.

Raccoon dogs are mostly found in East Asia and Western or Northern Europe.

Not at all related to raccoons, they certainly have similar markings and their claws are curved, allowing them to climb, unlike some dogs.

Prone to manging, vets don’t recommend them as domestic pets, but Tanu is doing just fine, thank you very much.

The Tanuki species, which Tanu is, can weigh anything between 8-13lbs and stretch to 26ins in length.

A canid — which includes foxes, wolves, jackals and coyotes — they go into near-hibernation in winter, but will wake to look for food if it isn’t too cold.

They reckon that if Tanu lived in the wild, he would eat such tasty morsels as lizards, frogs, rodents, birds, seeds and fruit.

As this dog is domesticated, it will accept all of that in its bowl, or pretty much anything else its owner comes up with at teatime.

Japanese people consider this type of animal a special breed.

They see it primarily as a symbol of prosperity and fortune, and the Tanu is believed to have magical shape-shifting powers!

After 1970s cartoon Rascal The Raccoon came out, Japan started importing more than 1,500 real raccoons a year, such was the interest in having them as pets.

Sadly, however, as the raccoons got older, they became aggressive as they naturally preferred to live in the wild and weren’t really suitable for becoming domesticated in the way their owners would have necessarily liked!

Many were released when the owners gave up trying to keep them in their homes, and they promptly became a real pest, destroying crops and so on, having never lived in the wild before.

Ironically, they also attacked raccoon dogs like Tanu, which may explain what had happened to it before its new owner found it.

Whatever the facts, it is now an internet superstar, has a happy new home and is doing well.


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