Facts About the Raccoon Dog - A Rare But Endangered Species

Fact about raccoon dogs
Raccoon dogs have a distinct and rare genealogy, which makes them unique from all other canines. These docile animals have several interesting characteristics, which make them special...
Raccoon dogs also known as Nyctereutes procyonoides, belong to the Canidae family, which are known to have distinct dog and wolf like characteristics and appearance. These animals are both carnivorous and omnivorous mammals. The raccoon dog originated in east Asia, after which it was introduced into Central and Western Europe. This animal has been deemed as an invasive species because of the ecological destruction it causes to berry farming. The animal is also a carrier of rabies and tapeworms. It is the only subspecies remaining from the extinct group of animal genus, known as the Nyctereutes. The Nyctereutes became extinct long before the Pleistocene, thereby making the present day raccoon dog among the rarest animals in the world, for having withstood the extinction over these many years.

Generic Information About Raccoon Dogs
  • This animal is native to China, Japan and has been introduced into Siberia and Russia for hunting purposes, from where it has spread into France, Germany and Scandinavia.
  • Raccoon dogs look very similar to raccoons but have no genetic similarities between them. The raccoon dog has comparatively rounder and smaller ears, short legs and a longer body.
  • These animals prefer dwelling in dense woodlands, which is why their habitat has dwindled to a large extent. This has thus increased the instances of raccoon dogs invading into commercial human inhabited areas.
  • These animals prefer living near water bodies and are excellent swimmers. Fish and frogs make a major part of their diet.
  • These animals have a life span of 7-8 years in the wild and can live up to 11 years or more if bred in captivity.
  • A peculiar trait practiced by raccoon dogs is that they will defecate and urinate in one allotted spot alone, and will thereafter cover the place by piling mud. This trait is also practiced by dogs and some cats.
  • The deadliest predators for these animals, are wolves and foxes, which ironically fall within the same genus as that of raccoon dogs!
  • These animals do not bark, and will growl in a manner which will sound like the hiss of a cat. They have a very shrill call, but are predominantly quiet and docile in nature. A raccoon dog as a pet will be gentle and inquisitive. These animals rarely go into hibernation while in captivity. Since these animals are carriers of rabies and tapeworms, it would be advisable to get the pet vaccinated and duly treated for worms.
Feeding Habits & Hibernation
  • These animals are carnivorous and hunt smaller animals in order to survive. Animals such as lizards, rodents, frogs, spiders and snakes are all thoroughly enjoyed by the raccoon dogs. However these animals enjoy feeding on some fruits such as berries.
  • These animals have a thick coat of fur, which protects them during winters. They are the only canine like species which hibernate during winters. They will hibernate only if they do not have sufficient food to feed on or cannot hunt for lack of prey.
  • Raccoon dogs gain 50% more of their body weight before the onset of winter. Hibernating raccoon dogs become more active during early February, when the climate becomes relatively warmer. This is when they begin to shed all the excess weight.
  • These animals are monogamous and will mate for life. It is only if the mate dies or is killed, will the other search for a new mate. This monogamous relationship is practiced even during hibernation, as the two mates will hibernate in one den. During this period they will maintain close body contact to keep each other warm and will groom each other as well. This is a trait not practiced by canines, as dogs neither hibernate and nor are they monogamous in nature.
Reproduction Traits
  • Raccoon dogs are nocturnal and will forage for food with its mate during nighttime, while leaving the den for a few hours. The den is left unattended only if there are no pups to look after.
  • A female raccoon dog can give a litter of 6-8 pubs, each of which will weigh about 4 oz at the time of birth. These pups will be able to open their eyes only after the first week has lapsed. They will be fed milk until they are 5 weeks old, after which the mother will wean them. The pups being too weak to walk, will emerge out of the den after the 3 week.
  • The father raccoon dog will forage for food and bring it for the female and the pups. During the day the mother leaves the pups in the male dog's care, while she goes for foraging, while during nights the male raccoon dog takes over the responsibility of bringing in more food.
  • The raccoon pups attain the age of maturity by the 9-11 month, but usually remain with their parents for a few more years, until they are willing to set out independently.
Raccoon dogs have been hunted all over Japan for its fur and body parts, which is believed to have medicinal value. In European countries these animals are hunted down because of their invasive nature and insatiable appetite for berries, which destroys the output for berry farmers.