In Japan, Raccoon dog is known as Tanuki which scientific name is called Nyctereutes procyonoides. It is a cute name and fully matched with this cute animal. Tanuki are native animal to Japan. It belongs to Mammal species of the canid family member and similar to badger, foxes, wolves and domestic dogs. I have seen them many times in my life. They look cute but sound naughty though!

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A Cute Japanese Raccoon Dog (Tanuki). Photo credit: rumpleteaser at Flickr through Creative Common Licensing.

Tanuki is a legend name in Japanese folklore and traditions. You will find the word “Tanuki” in different Japanese folktales. I will mention some of them later in this article. I do have a Tanuki tea kettle and mask. Just you don’t think that I do make tea with my Tanuki tea kettle. I bought this as a collectible and a home décor item. Enjoy reading this article that emphasizes on Japanese raccoon dog habitat, dieting, lifestyle, reproduction conservation, threats, facts, and Tanuki in Japanese culture.

Habitat:

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Tanuki in Chugoku, Japan. Photo credit: djflowerz at Flickr through Creative Common Licensing.

Raccoon dogs (Tanuki) are mostly found in eastern Asia such as in Japan, China, Korea and Manchuria. This animal is also native to southeastern Siberia in Russia. Hokkaido, Kyushu, Honshu, Shikoku, Sado Island and Awaji Island are the main territories where they live as a wild animal. Usually they live in hilly forests which are thick and close to water. Nowadays, they are seen in both urban and rural areas. As they are furry animal, we can assume that they could survive in a freezing cold weather. They surly survive by going into torpor during winter season. Winter in Japan could be horrible for you if you are from Africa and South or Southeast Asia. Now, just you imagine how they adapt to the cold to stay alive in the freezing cold weather.

Characteristic of Japanese Raccoon Dog:

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This Tanuki Looks Funny! Photo credit: tambako at Flickr through Creative Common Licensing.

One of the main characteristics that draw my attention is Tanuki could hibernate. They are the only canines that hibernate. In fact, their furry skins help to keep their body warm. When you first look at them, you will see that their facial markings resemble those of a raccoon. There are four main body colors could be seen they are: Tan, Black, Yellow, and Brown. The shoulders of Tanuki, tip of tails and legs are blackish. The legs are shorter than a usual fox has. An adult Tanuki body length is about 50cm – 65cm and weight is about 4kg to 10kg. Having shorter legs, they can’t run like a cheetah does, typically they run 40km per hour. Lifespan of a Japanese raccoon dog is 3 – 8 years.

Dieting:

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Tanuki Face! Photo credit: carlosalejo at Flickr through Creative Common Licensing.

If you ask me what’s my favorite food then I would tell it right now! That’s rice with vegetables. Well, if you ask the same question to a Japanese raccoon dog then it would not answer you. However, no worries, I will answer you on behalf of him. Their favorite food is frog. As they are omnivorous, except eating this they eat small insects, rodents, fishes, fruits, seeds, rhizomes and lizards.

Lifestyle and Reproduction:

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This Tanuki Seems Unhappy! Photo credit: tambako at Flickr through Creative Common Licensing.

Raccoon dogs are not furious animals. In general, they like staying in wildlife than staying in zoo. They do have a great reputation for taking care of their own family and parents; it applies especially for male Tanuki. They don’t have a tendency to have a double partner, they are happy living in monogamous pairs. Those who live in coastal area usually eat various marine species and crabs. They could even climb trees to catch up and get foods for them since they have dexterous front paws. They sleep most of the time during winter season and be less active, while on the other hand they become more active in February when spring season is about to begin.

Usually a female raccoon dog gives birth to a litter of between 5 to 12 pups after a gestation period of up to 12 weeks or less. It happens when summer (late April to early May) arrives in our nature. Please note that, matting season is in spring. Pups usually are blind after its mother gives them birth. Both mother and father raise them carefully until they become mature enough to be independent. They learn how to hunt into wild life seeing their parents.

Threats:

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You can see Tanuki at Zoo in Japan. Photo Credit: makitani at Flickr.

Threats are everywhere until and unless we take some effective actions to protect them from danger. Their main threat is habitat loss! We, the people are the main cause for that. We are polluting our environment. Deforestation takes place; as a result they are in real danger. Apart from these, we have some crazy hunters out there who love hunting. Who knows someday they will be hunted by themselves when there will be no animal in our life! In old Japan, raccoon dogs were hunted for their meat and furs. Their fur is used for making calligraphic brushes, stuffed animals and other products. Their predators are wolves, foxes, wildcats and most of all PEOPLE (HUNTERS).

A White Raccoon Dog was Caught in Japan:

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The White Raccoon Dog. Photo Credit: www.japantimes.co.jp

A white Tanuki were captured alive! “Rare White Raccoon Dog Caught” this news was published on October 18, 2013 at japantimes.co.jp. It published that a rare white Tanuki was caught by the farmer Shunji Okuyama on a farm in Nanbu, Tottori Prefecture, near the Sea of Japan coast. I am unlucky that I could not see this rare white Tanuki yet.

Conservation:

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An Injured Tanuki! Photo credit: djflowerz at Flickr through Creative Common Licencing.

In Japan, population of the raccoon dog is not decreasing rather the government is trying to protect these applying new laws and regulations. In some places around Japan, hunting Tanuki is strictly prohibited.  On the other hand, for other places you require license and permission from the authority to hunt and trap them but it has to be within a designated hunting season from (November 15 to February 15).  Wildlife protection areas such as at zoo and national parks have built a friendly environment for them. During the breeding season they are given extra care. This is the whole picture of Tanuki in Japan but what about outside environment of Japan? Are they protected? I heard, in some European countries raccoon dogs’ hunting is permitted. I wish, people don’t hunt them wherever they are at.

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Ceramic Tanuki Statues. Photo credit: akaitori at Flickr through Creative Common Licensing.

Japanese Culture and Tanuki:

Tanuki is well respected in Japanese society. It is a legendary name we all know about. If you are interested in reading Japanese folktale then you could start reading some. This is where you could discover Tanuki such as in the story of Bunbuku Chagama (Lucky Tea Kettle Story). It is a popular Japanese folktale comes with some version. Except these you can find him in Kachi-Kachi Yama (The Crackling Mountain Story), Shibaemon Tanuki, Danaburo Tanuki and Hage Tanuki. In fact, Tanuki is found throughout Japanese folklore as mystical, shape shifting sprits called Bake-Danuki.

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Bunbuku Charama Folktale. Photo Credit: www.muian.com

In modern Japan, you will find ceramic Tanuki statues all over Japan, especially outside restaurants and bars. There is a famous animated movie called Pom Poko, directed by Isao Takahata. It is a very popular animated movie among kids here in Japan. The main theme of this film is struggling of Japanese raccoon dogs against urban development.

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Here is a Cute Tanuki Statue for Home Decoration. Get it here

Tanuki artwork is famous all over Japan. Various types of Tanuki masks can be found that are perfect home décor item for you. Tanuki’s big belly and belly drum portrays were seen in 18th century and it extended to 19th century artwork. The origin of Tanuki’s Big belly and Belly drum comes from a story where Tanuki is saved by a little child.

Tanuki seems a very unique creature in Japan. It has a great impact our culture and tradition. I want real Tanuki be saved by all of us not only in Japan but outside Japan too. This cute animal will be abolished someday if we don’t extent and protect their habitats.

Copyright 2014 @ takkhis