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Raccoon Dog
Scientific classification
Binomial name
Nyctereutes procyonoides

Tanuki (狸 Nyctereutes procyonoides) is the Japanese name for an animal known as Raccoon Dog in English. They are members of the canid family and are considered to be a species of dog although they are often confused with raccoons and badgers.

Tanuki are native to Japan, southeastern Siberia, and Manchuria but now range as far as Scandinavia and France. Average adult head and body length is about 65 cm and weight ranges from 4 to 10kg. Average litters consist of 5 pups. Longevity is 3-4 years in the wild and 11 years in captivity. They are found in both plains and mountainous regions and are especially common in woodlands.

Like other canines, they are omnivorous however 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.

Along with kitsune they are prominent in Japanese folklore. Tanuki are reputed to be mischievous and jolly and masters of disguise and shape-changing.

Statues of Tanuki disguised in human form can be found outside many Japanese restaurants. The characteristics of these statues include a flat cone-shaped hat, a big protruding belly and two big drum-like scrotums touching the ground. According to the legends, the scrotums are used as drums.

In Chinese language, the term li (狸 and 貍 pinyin li2) are used interchangeably, but the writing of the former uses the canine radical while the latter uses the feline radical. That indicates that the Chinese didn't know how to classify this animal. In modern Chinese usage, the term 狐貍 are used together to refer to fox and the term 貍 is seldom used alone to refer a specific animal. The civet is called a xiang li (香貍).