understanding complex and beautiful animals
Racoon dogs are not related to American racoons, but they are part of the dog family. They are omnivorous and forage the forest for small animals, insects, eggs and vegetation. They can climb trees and are good swimmers, too. They are only animals in the dog family that hibernate.
They were familiar animals in Japanese villages and appear a lot in folk tales. People used to believe they turn themselves into all sorts of things, not only other animals and people, one of those things is the rice pot.
When you are pretending to be asleep, Japanese say ‘racoon dog sleep’. Because of their timid nature, they faint when they hear a gun shot and people think they were dead but when they look away they disappear.
Ceramic statues of racoon dog standing on two legs like humans outside cafes and bars are common site in Japan. They are depicted often fat and comical, carrying a bottle of rice wine. They appear fat in winter because of their thick fur and short legs.
March 2012, London