The tanuki is also referred to as a Japanese raccoon dog. Does that mean that it is a dog or a raccoon? First impressions are that they are raccoons, and popular media really assist in this; however, tanukis are actually canine. It seems that people really enjoy thinking of them more like raccoons than dogs, and to be honest, so do I.
The tanuki can have a body length as long as 28 inches with a tail as long as 7.1 inches. They have long torsos with short legs underneath. They also have disproportionately large testicles, and I know that seems like a weird thing to mention. Unfortunately, the tanuki's huge testicles are one of its most beloved features, and I cannot avoid it in this spotlight. Don't worry; it's more funny than horrifying.
Tanukis are omnivores. Their menu is wide and vast. They are not picky at all. In my research, I found a very long list of plants and animals that these guys go after. I'm not really sure they care what they eat, to be honest. Naturally, they go after things that are smaller than they are which are mostly plants and rodents, but they will also eat fish and some waterfowl.
If you are wondering if their huge... "package" assists in reproduction, I think it very well may. Tanukis breed from February to late April. After a gestation period of about 70 days, the female tanuki will likely give birth to 6 to 7 pups... if it was her first time. It seems that the more these animals mate, the more babies they tend to have. In exceptional cases, the female can give birth to a whopping litter of 16 pups! I'm sure the male is very proud of himself. Happily for the female, the male tends to take care of the kids. I mean... if you think about it, she obviously needs some rest after that.
Tanukis have been in fiction for longer than I could really figure out. In Japanese lore, the creature was known for being mischievous but also clumsy. It could shape-shift into other creatures as a way of disguise itself, and they could also possess people. The testicles surprisingly did not inspire any lore having to do with fertility or virility. Instead, the Japanese saw it as some sort of cute thing. The balls were often taken by people and used as drums. In some versions, the tanuki's chubby belly was used as an alternative to pounding on their balls.
Fiction: The first place I ever even heard the word Tanuki was in the 1988 video game "Super Mario Brothers 3." Mario could put on a number of costumes in this game giving him special powers. One of the rarer suits was the Tanuki Suit which gave him the ability to fly, float, and turn into a statue in which enemies would ignore. At the time, I had no clue as to why they called it a Tanuki Suite. It looked more like a raccoon to me, but then we children of the 80's had not yet reached the peak of our nerdiness.
In a video game that I once used to obsess over--"Animal Crossing"--your character is immediately enslaved by, or rather placed in debt by, a tanuki named Tom Nook. Yes, he pretty much opens the game by placing a massive debt over your head in which you have to spend months working off. The game came out with many other versions, and Tom Nook was in all of them. I have heard many stories of frustrations for this character who reasonably simulated the oppression of debt in video game form. Why do we keep putting up with him? Well, as it turns out, he also owns a shop with a lot of nice furniture. While we are struggling with our debt, we can decorate our houses completely oblivious that he is only making it worse for us. Also, he's super cute.
Tanukis were featured in an anime movie called Pom Poko in 1994. I have not seen this film, but it needs mentioning for being the most beloved tanuki motion picture of all time. They had the large testicles in the film, but I understand that they were referred to as "raccoon pouches." I intend to see this movie someday.
I am happy to say that I have been taking notes to have tanukis in an upcoming novel. I cannot give the title because--honestly--I haven't come up with one yet; however, I do know how I am going to present them. My tanukis will be heavily based on real raccoons in that they tend to favor fight over flight when threatened, They will have a strong country accent and wear straw hats. I have not yet decided if I am going to mention the large testicles, but I kind of want to.
Tanukis are fun and amusing. Their lore if far-reaching and malleable based on your own ideas. They are really here for us to enjoy, so... enjoy them! After all, this animal really survives on its lore, and I can't get enough of it.
Thank you for reading my blog! If you enjoyed it, you can comment below, or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Grr.
|Japanese Tanuki Statue|
|Super Mario's Tanuki Suit|
|Tom Nook from "Animal Crossing"|