There is nothing the Internet loves more than an enigmatic creature that could easily be two different things. Today, it just so happens to be an animal you'll swear is a raccoon the minute you see him.
抱っこされたい時、タヌキは膝に前足をかけてジャンプします。何か要求がある時は、膝に片足を乗せもう片方の前足で私の右腕をマウスが使えないぐらいに掻きます。昨日はしつこく来たので、ご飯を残してお腹が空いてんだろうなと思いほっときました。 pic.twitter.com/wVc1HUxT18— ことり (@chibi_tori) November 19, 2015
There's no way that's not a raccoon, right? Well, sorry to burst your bubble, but this little guy is actually something much cooler — he's a tanuki. If you just went, "An awhat-i?" you're like many Twitter users who happened upon him during their Winter Storm Jonas downtime. Tanukis are actually a subspecies of the Asian raccoon dog and are native to Japan. They aren't necessarily meant to be household pets, but just like in this country, that hasn't stopped people from domesticating them.
And this particular tanuki doesn't look like he minds being kept as a pet too much.
今日のタヌ飯！今朝、布団で2匹微睡みながら横の顔をイジってたのですが、タヌキも朝は口が乾いているらしく上唇が歯茎に付き様々な変顔になる事に気が付きました。面白いのでカメラを取りに起きたら珍しくタヌキも一緒に出てきてしまい残せなかった pic.twitter.com/Cf3taIlie3— ことり (@chibi_tori) January 10, 2016
Yeah, I'd say he's having a pretty good time hiding in warm covers and being fed regular, tasty-looking meals. Twitter user @chibi_tori says he usually just calls his raccoon-looking buddy Tanuki or Tanu for short. I suppose that doesn't get too confusing for him, considering he's the only tanuki in the house.
His owner said he found little Tanu abandoned by his mother back in June and decided to adopt him. Since then, he's learned quite a bit about tanuki behavior. For one thing, in the wintertime, they really like to be warm and cozy, just like us.
焼き狸始めました。鼻先、耳、胸元を特に芳ばしく焼きあげております。 pic.twitter.com/hF2r18J67s— ことり (@chibi_tori) January 13, 2016
Like cats, they enjoy sleeping a lot, and despite being called raccoon dogs, they don't actually bark. Instead, they make high-pitched whines and little growls that sound akin to the noises foxes make. Oh, and just like their raccoon doppelgängers, they eat absolutely anything and everything they can find. That's why if you check out @chibi_tori's Twitter page, you'll notice a lot of pictures featuring him eating a variety of meals.
Tanukis are considered a basal species, meaning they most closely resemble the ancestors of their genus, the Canidae family (of which foxes and wolves are also members). Being a basal species, they share a lot of the same physical attributes that dogs displayed millions of years ago.
In the wild, they're super clique-y with their chosen partners. You'll often find them in pairs or very small groups, because they like to keep their families tight-knit. The males in particular are very warm and loving partners and fathers. Unlike other mammals, they take an active role as parent when their mate gives birth.
Tanukis also play a pivotal role in Japanese folklore. They're called bake-danuki, and while they once were seen as wicked creatures, they're now thought to bless humans with fortune and prosperity. So all in all, @chibi_tori is very lucky to have inherited his very own live version of one.
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