The raccoon dog (Nyctereutes procyonoides) is a member of the canidae family (which includes dogs, wolves, and foxes) and is indigenous to East Asia. It is not a true dog, and is the only species in its genus Nyctereutes. It is named for its superficial resemblance to the non-canidae raccoon. The animal carries historical and cultural significance in Japan.
Raccoon dogs are native to Japan, southeastern Siberia, and Manchuria. Between 1929 and 1955 they were introduced to the European part of the Soviet Union, and have spread rapidly. They are now abundant throughout Scandinavia and the Baltic states. They have been reported as far as France and Italy. Average adult head and body length are about 2 ft 65 cm and their weight ranges from 9 to 22 lb (4 to 10 kg). Average litters consist of 5 pups. Longevity is 3 to 4 years in the wild and 11 years in captivity. They are found in both plains and mountainous regions and are especially common in woodlands. Raccoon dogs are commonly seen near villages and in rural areas.
Like many other canines, they are omnivorous. Their diets are atypically diverse, consisting of invertebrates, frogs, lizards, rodents and birds along with seeds and berries. Those living near the ocean will also eat crabs and scavenged marine life.
Raccoon dog populations have declined in recent years due to hunting; fur trapping, urbanization, and an increase of animals associated with human civilization such as pets and abandoned animals. There diseases that may be transmitted between them.
Raccoon dogs are secretive and not very aggressive. They prefer to hide or scream rather than fight, and play dead to avoid predators. They are monogamous which means some fights occur between males for the females.
The raccoon dog is a unique member of the canid family as it is the only member to go into torpor through the winter months. It is also unique in that its curved claws enable it to climb trees. The only other member of the canid family with this ability is the gray fox. It does not bark and it turns its tail into an inverted U to express dominance. The brain of the tanuki is poorly developed compared to dogs and wolves and its teeth are small.