Tanukis are native to East Asia, and are found throughout parts of Europe as an introduced species.
Despite their uncanny resemblace to a raccoon, tanukis are part of the Canidae family, along with dogs, foxes and wolves.
In fact, raccoon dogs share a lot in common with foxes, including the shape of their skull, which is similar to South American foxes, and their knack for climbing trees, just like the gray fox.
Also similar to foxes, raccoon dogs do not bark. Instead, they growl, whine, yelp and even mew like a cat.
Physically, raccoon dogs have short legs and long torsos, with body length varying between 18-28 inches.
They have long thick winter coats that help protect them from temperatures as low as −25 °C.
Despite being able to resist the cold, raccoon dogs are the only canid known to hibernate.
Diet-wise, racoon dogs are omnivorous.
Their favourite plantlife to snack on includes nuts, berries, oats, bulbs, grapes, watermelons, pumpkins and tomatoes.
For meat, they are known to hunt rodents, birds, insects, amphibians, reptiles and fish.
The raccoon dog's main predator is the wolf.
Other predators include red foxes, badgers and birds of prey, such as golden and white-tailed eagles.
Mating season for raccoon dogs begins around early February, and ends around late April.
Wild raccoon dogs will form monogamous pairs.
Females give birth to litter sizes of 6 or 7 pups, though in rare cases a litter may include up to 16 pups.
Newborn tanukis weigh between 60-110 grams. They are born blind and don't open their eyes until they are around 9-days-old.
As an invasive species throughout parts of Europe, some countires sadly support the hunting and killing of these beautiful animals.
Even more upsetting is the fact that their fur is greatly coveted by people, and many tanuki are inhumanely bred just for their fur.
In two instances, the department stores Kohl's and Macy's both sold jackets that claimed to contain "faux fur", but actually turned out to be raccoon dog fur.
In Japanese folklore, tanuki are associated with the bake-danuki, a mythical shape-shifting creature that appears in a number of stories, artworks and songs.
The tanuki of these Japanese legends are often portrayed as having oversized testicles, which is to symbolize the idea of sacks of money and bringing good fortune in regards to monetary gain.
These stories have also held an impact on Japanese pop culture, with references to the mythical creatures appearing in manga, anime and video games (most notably as a costume for the titular hero in Nintendo's Super Mario Bros. 3)
Fans of Super Mario Bros. may recognize the name ‘tanuki’ as a suit donned by the titular hero in the third instalment of the game franchise. Others may know these creatures to be nothing more than myth, as they have a significant presence in Japanese folklore. Despite how you heard about them, we assure you that tanuki are very real, and very cute, though they go by a different name: Raccoon dogs. Flip through the gallery above for a some incredible photos of, and facts about, these remarkable creatures.