Wondering What kind of an Animal is a Raccoon? Could they be Rodents or Marsupials or Perhaps even related to Bears?
In this guide you will learn:
- If Raccoons are Rodents , Marsupials or Vermins,
- What did the Raccoons Evolve From,
- All About Raccoon Animal family & If they are Related to Bears or Pandas.
The Raccoons classification has been stumping scientists for many years.
When Raccoons were first written about upon discovery of the Caribbean islands and the American Continents, many scientists were unsure as to what the raccoon actually was.
The Powhatan (North American Ancient Indian leader’s ) word for these animals “ah-coon-em” sounds eerily similar to the word raccoon and meant animal that scratches with its hands.
The mystery of the Raccoon has long been solved thanks to Carl Linneaus and Gottlieb Congrad Christian Storr, but scientists explored multiple paths before reaching their final conclusion.
Is a Raccoon a Rodent?
One option that they contested was that the raccoon belonged in the rodent family.
The largest animal in the rodent family is the Capybara. Weighing up to 100 pounds and standing at roughly 4 feet tall the Capybara is easily as large if not larger than a medium sized dog.
This makes it most definitely larger than a Raccoon.
Raccoons are a little bigger than the size of house cats, so it is quite easy to see that size could have been a factor when trying to figure out which family the Raccoon fits into.
Without the advancements of modern science, physical characteristics like their size and shape were key to helping scientists classify organisms.
Upon a closer inspection, scientists found that rodents have an upper and lower pair of continuously growing incisors.
Raccoons, however, share a similar mouth composition to that of Humans, dogs, and cats in that they have molars, canines, and smaller front incisors that do not continuously grow.
This main comparison of key characteristics confirms that Raccoons are definitely not Rodents and are not part of the Rodent Family like early historians suggested.
Are Raccoons Marsupials?
The next option that scientists entertained is that maybe Raccoons are marsupials.
Racoons have been known to keep their young with them after they are born however they carry their young until full gestation and then have their babies.
Marsupials have shorter gestation periods and then keep their young very close to them as they continue to develop. This is a big difference, however the main differences in telling them apart are again found in their mouths.
Marsupials do have front incisors, which is why they are classified as mammals, however, they are missing a key part in their mouth that would mean they belong to the Carnivora Order with Raccoons.
Marsupials do not have any canine teeth. Raccoons have the perfect canine teeth for tearing meat apart, but marsupials are missing this important characteristic.
Therefore Raccoons are NOT Marsupials!
This means that marsupials are in fact more herbivorous in the foods that they eat. Therefore marsupials are in a different order, the Therapsid order.
Read more: What do Raccoons eat
Are Raccoons part of the Bear Family?
The last possibility is that Raccoons belong to the bear family.
While Raccoons are not actually a part of the Bear family, they are said to have evolved from the bear species ursida.
Even Carl Linneaus’ early classifications of the Raccoon included names that meant long tailed bear and washer bear.
Both species walk on their feet leaving imprints behind them as they go, and have paws that have claws.
Bears however, have claws that are retractable while the Raccoons have claws that are not.
Are Raccoons related to Pandas?
The panda has also evolved down a different line from the bear species meaning that the Raccoon’s lovely moniker, the “trash panda,” does not completely come out of thin air.
In fact, the Red Panda is a very distant cousin to the Raccoon and was even categorized as a Procyonidid at one point in time.
The facial markings and the rings on its tail matched the general characteristics used for classifying the Procyonids.
The Red panda has since been moved into its own classification.
Are Raccoons Vermin?
While debates about the Raccoons genetic makeup have long been solved, another question about the raccoons looms on the horizon.
Are Raccoons vermin? Depending upon who or what you ask and where you look, the answer will vary greatly.
Dictionaries define vermin to exclude Raccoons, however many insurance policies have been recently changed to include Raccoons in the vermin category.
They were previously excluded, but claims from damage by Raccoons caused the Insurance Companies to look into their own wording.
Therefore, Raccoons are both Vermin and not Vermin, depending on the situation!
A Raccoon’s Classification: What kind of animal is a Raccoon?
Raccoons fall under the Mammalia Classification.
The main characteristics for this class include: the presence of hair or fur; oil/sweat glands; mammary glands used for feeding their young; a four chambered heart; special teeth that include incisors, molars, and canines; 3 middle ear bones; and a brain that specializes in seeing and hearing.
Other animals that fall into this category include squirrels, pandas, bears, lions, dogs, and even humans.
Raccoons then fall under the order Carnivora which means that they are mostly meat eaters and have special teeth.
These teeth move in an up and down motion and also consist of sharp canines on the side that are perfect for ripping and tearing their food apart.
Even though the Raccoon falls under the Carnivora Order, they are technically Omnivores, eating bugs, insects, plants, and trash or waste that they are able to find.
The family that Raccoons belong to is the Procyonidae family. This includes about 18 different animals.
Characteristics of this family are medium to long ringed tails, pointed noses, and rounded or pointed ears.
Coatis also fall into this family and share what looks like the markings of a mask just like the Raccoon.
This means that the Coatis and other ring-tailed animals are the closest relatives to the Raccoon.
The Raccoons Genus is Procyon which encompasses the different Raccoon Species all Native to the Americas.
Characteristics within the Procyon genus are very defined and include: colors of grays, whites, blacks, and browns; a mask like facial marking that covers the face; and nocturnal nature.
Raccoons are the ever curious little animals with their own mysterious past. They are native to the Americas and have been introduced into Russia and Germany since their discovery by Europeans who came to the Americas.
They are in some instances kept as pets or used for their fur.
Raccoons are very clever, can solve problems, and remember things that they have learned for up to 3 years.
They originally stumped the Taxonomy community but have since found their way.
Raccoons are not rodents, marsupials, or even bears, but their own special family, the Procyonidae family.