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Japan Benefit: タヌキ (Raccoon Dog) (Nyctereutes procyonoides)

Posted on Apr 2, 2011 by in Carnivores, Mammalthons | 4 comments

Today is the final day of our fundraising effort to help Japan. These two drawings, along with the few that remain from earlier in the week, are for sale, with their entire purchase price going to help people and animals affected by the earthquake and tsunami in March—half to the American Red Cross, half to Animal Refuge Kansai, an animal shelter in Japan. Please help!

Nyctereutes procyonoides

This drawing has sold!

Besides today’s portrait, I drew the raccoon dog once before, back in February of 2009 during Hibernators Week—it’s the only canid that hibernates, which is interesting. But even more interesting is its position in Japanese legend. I shall quote from my own previous post, even though it feels a bit lame to do so, especially on the last day of our Mammals of Japan Mammalthon. Ah, well…

In Japan, where the raccoon dog is called the tanuki, the species is pretty common and can even be found in some urban areas. The tanuki is an interesting figure in Japanese folklore. It’s a shapeshifter and a bit of a trickster, and tanuki statues can bring good luck. The most interesting and, to me, strange element of the tanuki legend is the animal’s remarkably large scrotum, which it can use—in myths and stories now, not in real life!—as shelter from a storm or as a net for catching fish. I recommend this baffling series of 19th-century comic prints that show some of the tanuki’s creative uses for its endowments.

Seriously, check out those prints. You will be amazed. Perhaps envious. You may be inspired to buy your own tanuki art—no, not an expensive print from the 1800s, but an affordable original drawing!

Raccoon dog by Coco, age 12 (click image to enlarge)

Coco’s drawing has sold!

Thank you for your support, comments, and visits during our week-long visit to Japan. We are so saddened by the devastation there, and we’re glad that—with your help—we could help, even if our help is small. In drawing and researching these mammals, I’ve been reminded just how beautiful and special Japan is. I hope reconstruction and recovery is smooth, and my heart aches for those who lost loved ones.


  1. This has been a wonderful series, Jennifer and Coco. Thank you so much for giving us these images, thoughts and interesting information — especially about the tanuki!

    I’m glad the fundraiser has brought in so much money, and I hope the drawings continue to sell well. Your generosity is beautiful.

  2. Thanks, Ted! I’m glad you’ve enjoyed it.

  3. Wonder, wonderful series, Jennifer! And I adore CoCo’s drawings!

    • Thank you so much, Kate! I adore her drawings too—and all seven of them sold! (Five of mine did, as well.)

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