Superbly adaptable and incredibly wide ranging, raccoons seem to be able to adapt to any habitat and eat almost anything. We can relate so easily to this surprisingly sociable, inquisitive and intelligent animal, yet we still don't know what it's closest ancestor is.


Raccoon "dousing" in water


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Procyonidae
Species: Procyon lotor


The first part of their genus, Procyon, loosely translates as "before dog". However, taxonomic data from their tooth and skull suggest a relation to weasels, while genetic data suggest a relation to bears. The jury is out as to where they actually sit in the tree of life, with the consensus being somewhere in between.

Habitat and Diet

Superbly adaptable, they are able to survive in wide range of environments and habitats, from towns and cities to the highest mountains. Raccoons are also mainly nocturnal and are omnivorous - they can slink around in the shadows and will eat almost anything!


Raccoons have a grey coat, dark face mask and a black and white ringed tail. The dark mask may help to reduce glare, allowing them better acuity at night. This is a similar principle to sports players daubing the underneath of their eyes.

A raccoon in a tree

A raccoon in a tree

Hands and Feet

Raccoons can rotate their hind feet so that they face backwards, a tactic also used by squirrels. This allows them to descend trees easier.

They are are also known to have incredibly dexterous front paws that are hyper sensitive touch. A large part of their brain’s processing power is used for the interpretation of signals from the nerves in the paws.


As raccoons have a horny covering over their paws, which is made softer when dipped in water, they take their food to water in order to get a more tactile feel of their food. This explains their unusual behaviour of "dousing". In French this behaviour has led to them being referred to as the "washing rat", while their specific name lotor, meaning wash, also hints at this behaviour.