While sometimes called raccoon dogs because they are similar in appearance to raccoons, tanuki are, in fact, canids. They are more closely related to wolves, coyotes and domestic dogs than they are to raccoons. These are generalist omnivores and scavengers who tend to do well near human environments, much like raccoons and coyotes. While these animals chiefly are nocturnal, tanuki do spend a good amount of time foraging around in daylight hours. Tanuki evolved in climates with warm summers and cool or cold winters, so can be seen year-round in Atlanta.
Status in the Wild
You, my friend, are about to learn about one of the greatest aspects of Japanese culture. It's cute, fluffy, magical, and ridiculous. And it has giant testicles which it uses to perform amazing feats. Meet the tanuki.
More Tanuki Trickery
It is indeed what it sounds like! Not to be mistaken with the image of a typical raccoon, the Tanuki is actually an unrelated animal with somewhat similar physical features. Legend has the Tanuki tagged as both mischievous and jovial, a shapeshifter that changes for reasons different than the sly fox, who changes its form in order to deceive humans. They all look similar: a hat, a big smile, a big belly, and a big scrotum.
Follow on Social Media. This annotated narrative is based on extant Tanuki art photos herein. It describes, both chronologically and thematically, the metamorphosis of the spook-beast Tanuki from a bad guy to good guy, from feared to beloved. It also debunks widespread misinformation about Tanuki. It is intended as a "primer" for students and teachers of art history and folklore.