What is a raccoon dog? : NPR

Timothy Hill

A raccoon pet dog seems out of its cage in a Chinese live animal market in January 2004. Raccoon canine could have been an initial host for the virus that induced the COVID-19 pandemic.

Peter Parks/AFP via Getty Photos

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Peter Parks/AFP via Getty Visuals

A raccoon dog looks out of its cage in a Chinese reside animal sector in January 2004. Raccoon pet dogs could have been an original host for the virus that brought about the COVID-19 pandemic.

Peter Parks/AFP through Getty Visuals

The Environment Well being Corporation is asking Chinese officials to launch info that may clearly show a backlink involving raccoon puppies and the coronavirus. That still left lots of pondering — what is a raccoon pet dog, in any case?

1st, this is why we’re talking about them. They had been becoming bought at a seafood and meat market place in Wuhan, China, where by researchers uncovered evidence of the coronavirus in January 2020. Details that was briefly posted on, and then taken out from, an global databases appeared to demonstrate that genetic content from raccoon puppies confirmed up in the exact swabs as the virus that results in COVID, implying the animals could’ve been an first host.

Ok, so what are they?

In basic conditions, they’re a wild pet whose confront looks like a raccoon’s. In somewhat much more scientific conditions, raccoon canine are a member of the canid family members with fur markings and head designs identical to all those of raccoons.

The omnivorous animal is native to East Asia, together with components of China, Korea and Japan. Breeding from the fur farming sector introduced 1000’s of them during the previous Soviet Union, and they are now a widespread invasive species all over northern and western Europe.

They prefer to reside in forests and dense vegetation, as nicely as areas bordering h2o.

They’re extra closely connected to foxes than to domesticated puppies. Raccoon canine are a completely diverse species from coonhounds, which are a domesticated breed of scenthound also recognized as a coon pet dog.

Have they been linked to other diseases?

Of course. Raccoon pet dogs and linked mammals sold for food items at a a are living animal marketplace in China in 2003 had been discovered to have a coronavirus identical to the virus observed in human beings in the course of a SARS coronavirus outbreak at the time. In 2004, Chinese wellbeing officials requested the slaughter of 10,000 animals set to be bought at market, such as raccoon canine, soon after a person examined good for a novel pressure of the SARS virus and lifted fears of another outbreak.

A single 2022 examine took samples from about 2,000 animals of 18 unique species from across options in China — including organic habitats, zoos and fur farms. It located that wild animals acknowledged to be eaten by human beings, which include raccoon dogs, carried 102 various viruses from 13 viral families.

Twenty-just one of all those pose a high chance to individuals, scientists stated, possibly due to the fact they had contaminated people today prior to or experienced a historical past of leaping in between species with ease.

Raccoon canines specially carried 4 canine coronaviruses that had been genetically equivalent to those discovered in human beings. They also carried enteric viruses, or viruses that are transmitted when infected fecal issue enters the mouth or nose.

Scientists claimed this proof confirms the threat of live marketplaces like the just one in Wuhan.

“It can be difficult to think of a much more efficient way to ignite and admirer the flames of an epidemic,” evolutionary biologist and co-writer of the study Edward Holmes told the journal Science. “We continue to keep permitting these things to prosper and it can be only a make any difference of time ahead of we get yet another outbreak and possibly a different pandemic.”

Even now, they are so cute! Can I retain one particular?


Raccoon puppies are wild animals, not domesticated pets. They stay in significant property ranges, this means they will need lots of room and are challenging to deal with in enclosures or other smaller spaces, in accordance to the U.K.’s Royal Modern society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

They also have a sturdy odor since they use scent to converse, building them a weak indoor residence guest.

And, if a raccoon pet escapes or is released into the wild, it can threaten indigenous wildlife in the sections of the world it isn’t native to.

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