The cutest animals of the week are these raccoons that look like dogs, or maybe they're dogs that look like raccoons. The animal is something called a Tanuki, and indeed, is of the latter persuasion (a dog that looks like a raccoon, rather than the other way around). Raccoon dogs took the internet by storm this week when a Japanese man posted photos of his domesticated Tanuki frolicking in the snow. The raccoon dog's name is, of course, "Tanu". Ever since, the Internet has sounded like a bunch of Minions in awe, typing collective "Oooooohsssss" and "Ahhhhhssss" across social media. I, of course, am not immune to this.
The Tanuki is probably the most adorable raccoon dog thing you'll ever see, being that it's shaped like a small dog, fluffy like a toy dog (kind of like a Pomeranian) with the face of a raccoon. If you've ever thought raccoons were cute (despite their garbage trolling, disease riddled ways), then the Tanuki is the kind of pet you need to try and get in your life. But before you start going Tanuki crazy, there's a few things you need to know. Unfortunately "They're adorable" doesn't quite make you a raccoon dog expert.
Here are a few things you should know about the raccoon dogs before you try to make one yours:
1. Raccoon Dogs Aren't Hybrids
No, raccoons and dogs did not mate in order to create the Tanuki. The raccoon dogs is actually part of the Canidae family, which is the same family as foxes and wolves, so they're much closer to dogs than they are to raccoons.
2. Tanuki Are Not Endangered
There are plenty of Tanuki out there, SO WHY ARE WE HEARING ABOUT THEM JUST NOW? I feel like someone really dropped the ball on this one.
3. Wild Tanuki Can Be Dangerous
Raccoon dogs are not domestic animals — aside from Tanu, the majority of Tanuki are wild. Some might even be aggressive, or carry infectious diseases (like raccoons!), so if you see one in the wild, don't try and take a close range selfie with it.
4. Atlanta Is The Only Place You Can See Tanuki In The U.S.
Tanukis can be found in the wild across Europe, Russia, China, Estonia, Japan, and Scandinavia, but not in the US. If you're hell bent on seeing one in the flesh, you'll need to take a trip to Zoo Atlanta to see Tanuki brothers Loki and Thor.
5. Raccoon Dogs Are Nature's Feminists
The male Tanuki supports the female, bringing her food when she's pregnant, and helping her raise her pups once they're born. There are no absent dads in the Tankui world, and Tanuki dads seem to take paternal leave and fatherly responsibility very, very seriously.