These canids are unusual, not least because, unlike virtually all other dogs, they can climb effectively using their sharp claws. They also do not bark.
The fur of these canids has been highly sought-after, and there were attempts to farm these animals in the Soviet Union and in Latvia. Some raccoon dogs from these farms escaped, and have been multiplying in the wild since the late 1950s. The raccoon dog originated in eastern Asia. In 1927 it was introduced to eastern Europe for fur-farming and is now seen as far west as the French-German border and northern Finland. Unusually for a member of the dog family, the raccoon dog is an agile climber. Adults form pair bonds and have distinct home ranges. However, these are relatively flexible and they will often roam into other raccoon dog territories.
Now established in the Baltic region, there are reports of them as far south as Italy and France. Highly adaptable by nature, they survive freezing conditions by becoming torpid during the winter months.
Males and females both help to care for offspring, taking it in turns to guard young while the others hunt for food. A litter of 6 to 8 young is born after a gestation of about 2 months. The pups are independent at about 6 months old.
The raccoon dog looks like a grey and black raccoon, with its characteristic black face mask and bridled greyish body fur.
Distribution: Naturally resident in Asia, with populations in China, south to Korea, also southeastern Siberia and Japan. Has been introduced to northern Europe and is spreading further south.
Habitat: Damp lowland forest.
Weight: 4 - 10 kg (9 - 22 lb); males are slightly larger.
Length: 63 - 73 cm (25-29 in); up to 25 cm (1O in) tall.
Maturity: 9-11 months.
Gestation Period: About 60 days; weaning occurs at 8 weeks.
Breeding: Large litters of up to 15 pups.
Food: Omnivorous, feeding on invertebrates, and other small animals, including frogs and lizards; also eats fruit and berries. Scavenges food scraps from near human settlements.
Lifespan: 4-5 years, but up to 11 years in captivity.
The broad face, with its distinctive black and white patterning, resembles that of the unrelated raccoon.
The tail is used for communication, and can be raised into a U-shape by a dominant individual.
The coat is long, protecting against the elements and emphasizing the rounded outline of this species.
The teeth are quite small compared with those of other canids.
Raccoon dogs have a den where they can sleep over the winter.
A GROWING FAMILY
The young are born in a well-concealed den, and both adults will assist in the rearing of their offspring.