The Raccoon Dog (Nyctereutes procyonoides “nycto-” = Gr. “night,” “ereutes” = Gr. “wanderer,” “procyon” = “raccoon,” ”-oides” = Gr. ”-oid”) is a member of the canid family (which includes dogs, wolves, and foxes) and is indigenous to east Asia. It is not a true dog, and is the only extant species in its genus Nyctereutes. It is named for its superficial resemblance to the non-canid raccoon. When they live in the arctic the fur changes color to white so it can blend in with its surroundings.
Raccoon Dogs are native to China, Korea, Japan, and southeastern Siberia. Average adult head and body length is about 65 cm (2 ft) and weight ranges from 4 to 10 kg (9 to 22 lb). Average litters are large, up to 15 or more pups. Longevity is 3–4 years in the wild and up to 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.
Native East Asia raccoon dog populations have declined in recent years due to hunting, fur trade and fur trapping, urbanization, an increase of animals associated with human civilization such as pets and abandoned animals, and diseases that may be transmitted between them.
Classification and Sub-Species
There is some debate in the scientific community regarding speciation between the Siberian subspecies (N. p. ussuriensis), Chinese subspecies (N. p. procyonoides) and the Japanese raccoon dog subspecies (N. p. viverrinus) in that due to chromosome, behavioral and weight differences, the Japanese raccoon dog should be considered a separate species from the two other subspecies.
The identified sub-species or species of Raccoon Dog are:
Nyctereutes procyonoides koreensis (Mori, 1922) found in Korea
Nyctereutes procyonoides orestes (Thomas, 1923) found in Yunnan (China)
Nyctereutes procyonoides ussuriensis (Matschie, 1907) found in South Siberia (Russia)
Nyctereutes procyonoides viverrinus (Japanese Raccoon Dog) (Temminck, 1838) found in Japan
Nyctereutes procyonoides albus (Beard, 1904) found in Hokkaidō (Japan)
Nyctereutes procyonoides procyonoides (Temminck, 1838) found in the rest of Asia
Like many other canids, 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.
Raccoon Dogs are secretive and not very aggressive; they prefer to hide or scream rather than fight, and play dead to avoid animals that will eat them. They are monogamous; some fights occur between males for the females. Mating season begins when Raccoon Dogs emerge from their winter dens. The female is in heat for about six days. The baculum tie in coitus lasts about 6 minutes, less than in other canids. When the cubs are born after a gestation of about 60 days, the male will assist in cub-rearing, first by providing food to his mate and then also caring for the cubs when they are weaned, about 50 days after birth, while the mother gathers food. Raccoon Dog pups continue to nurse even after they begin eating solid food. They aren't weaned until eight weeks of age, later than any other canid. They become physically and sexually mature after one year.
The Raccoon Dog is the only canid to go into torpor through the cold months. It is also unusual in that its curved claws enable it to climb trees; the only other canid with this ability is the gray fox. It does not bark and it turns its tail into an inverted U to express dominance. The Raccoon Dog's teeth are small for a canid.
Introduction to Europe
Between 1929 and 1955, N. p. ussuriensis subspecies were introduced to the European part of the Soviet Union as potential fur or game animals and have spread rapidly since. In 1948, 35 raccoon dogs were introduced in Latvia. The population increased rapidly. In 1960 Latvia officially reported that a total of 4210 raccoon dogs were hunted.  No negative effects on native fauna have been reported. However, speculation exists that the introduction of raccoon dogs to Europe brought with it infected ticks that introduced the Asian Tick-borne meningoencephalitis virus.
Raccoon dogs are now abundant throughout Finland and the Baltic states, and have been reported as far as France, Italy  and Switzerland.
Main article: Tanuki
The animal carries historical and cultural significance in Japan, where it is called tanuki, a term which is also sometimes translated as “badger” and often mistakenly translated into English as “raccoon”. Traditionally, different areas of Japan would have different names for raccoon dogs as animals, which would be used to denote different animals in other parts of the country, however the official word in the standard Tokyo dialect is now “tanuki”, a term that carries folkloric significance (see tanuki). It is also a common theme in Japanese art, especially statuary.
1. ^ K. Kauhala. 1994. The Raccoon Dog: a successful canid 2. ^ Miervaldis Bušs, Jānis Vanags "Latvijas Meži" 1987. Latvia. Article: Medību saimniecība. 3. ^ Interview with Vilnis Bernards, chairmen of Division of Species and Habitats Protection in Ministry of Environment.asp?ID=74&what=4 4. ^ K. Kauhala. 1994. The Raccoon Dog: a successful canid 5. ^ F. Zimmermann (2004). Monitoring der Raubtiere in der Schweiz 2004. KORA Bericht Nr. 29. Coordinated research projects for the conservation and management of carnivores in Switzerland. Retrieved on 2008-01-25. 6. ^ http://www.careforthewild.com/files/Furreport05.pdf 7. ^ Quality of the Environment in Japan 1995 [MOE] 8. ^ http://www.traffic.org/content/293.pdf
Sillero-Zubiri & Hoffmann (year}). Nyctereutes procyonoides. 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. Retrieved on 11 Maio 2006. Database entry includes justification for why this species is of concern
Nyctereutes procyonoides (TSN 183821). Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved on 23 March 2006.
World Conservation Union - article on raccoon dogs
America Zoo - basic info, one image
Lioncrusher's Domain - detailed information, image
canids.org - technical and conservation information
Lauri Sippu's page - many images
BBC - very basic information with images
Animal Planet - basic information, image
Foundation TV's “Brilliant Creatures” - a pair of on-camera raccoon dogs