The Raccoon dog is a canid native to East Asia. It is unrelated to raccoons, and it is a close relative of true foxes rather than the domestic dog. The winter fur of Raccoon dogs is long and thick with dense underfur and coarse guard hairs. It protects them from low temperatures. This fur is of a dirty, earth-brown, or brownish-grey color with black guard hairs. The tail is darker than the torso. A dark stripe is present on the back, which broadens on the shoulders, forming a cross shape. The abdomen is yellowish-brown, while the chest is dark brown or blackish. The muzzle is covered in short hair, which increases in length and quantity behind the eyes. The cheeks are coated with long, whisker-like hairs. The summer fur is brighter and reddish-straw colored. Rare, white Raccoon dogs occur in Japan and in China.
Raccoon dogs are native to eastern Asia ranging from the eastern corner of Russia to Japan and northern India. They were introduced in Europe and now these animals are abundant throughout Estonia, Finland, Latvia, and Lithuania, Bulgaria, Serbia, France, Romania, Slovakia, Switzerland, Austria, Belarus, Poland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Moldova, North Macedonia, Romania, Ukraine, Germany, Norway, European parts of Russia, Denmark, and Sweden. Raccoon dogs live in forests, farmlands, and urban areas. They are often found near water and prefer moist meadows, shores of rivers and lakes and other habitats with abundant undergrowth.
Raccoon dogs are social animals. They live and hunt in pairs or small family groups. However, in most sightings by humans they are seen alone. Raccoon dogs are active both during the night and day. When foraging they rely on their keen sense of smell because they have very poor vision. To hunt their prey these animals may climb trees, swim and even dive. Raccon dogs hibernate in pairs. Hibernation starts in early winter. In areas such as Primorsky Krai (Russia) and their introduced range, Raccoon dogs hibernate only during severe snowstorms. In December, their physical activity decreases once snow depth reaches 15-20 cm, and limit the range from their burrows to no more than 150-200 m. Their daily activities increase during February when the females become receptive and when food is more available. Raccoon dogs use vocalizations to communicate with each other. They do not bark, uttering instead a growl, followed by a long-drawn, melancholy whine. Males fighting for females may yelp and growl. Japanese raccoon dogs produce sounds higher in pitch than those of domestic dogs and sound similar to cats.
Raccoon dogs are omnivores that feed on insects, rodents, amphibians, birds, fish, reptiles, mollusks, carrion, and insectivores, as well as fruits, nuts, and berries.
Raccoon dogs are monogamous and mate for life. Captive males, however, have been known to mate with four or five females. Males will fight briefly, but not fatally, for mates. Their breeding season begins from early February to late April, depending on location. The gestation period lasts 61-70 days, with pups being born in April-May. Litter sizes typically consist of 6-8 pups, though 15-16 pups can be born in exceptional cases. Males take an active role in raising the pups. At birth, pups weigh 60-110 g, and are blind and covered in short, dense, soft wool lacking guard hairs. Their eyes open after 9-10 days, with the teeth erupting after 14-16 days. Lactation lasts for 45-60 days, though pups begin eating food brought to them as early as the age of 3 weeks to 1 month. They reach their full size at the age of 4.5 months and leave their parents in late August-September. By October, the pups, which by then resemble adults, unite in pairs. Reproductive maturity is reached at the age of 8-10 months.
The main threat to Raccoon dogs is hunting and they are often persecuted as a pest species. They also suffer locally from road kills, predation from feral dogs, and from epidemics. Populations may also decline due to extreme habitat loss.
According to the IUCN Red List, the total population size of the Raccoon dog is unknown. However, there is an estimated population of the species in Finland consisting of 110,000-120,000 mature individuals and in the autumn population will contain 320,000 individuals, including the young of the year. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are stable.