A Twitter account that recently surfaced is taking the Internet by storm, but it belongs to a different kind of celebrity. As in, not a human one. Tanu the tanuki is a “raccoon dog” who moved in with his adoptive human after he was found abandoned last June.
There’s been a lot of debate over whether this (admittedly adorable) creature is in fact a type of dog, or if he belongs to the raccoon or badger family. As it turns out, the former is true. Tanuki are canids, same as dogs and wolves, though their physical features just scream Rocket Raccoon.
Tanu won’t bark or howl, though he has the appetite of his masked doppelgängers. His Twitter account frequently features him about to chow down on a variety of meals.
Tanuki are den creatures, often hijacking shelter previously dug by foxes or badgers. But since Tanu is in a home, with his own space heater, pee pads, and blankets, he’s decided that these alternatives suit him just fine. In fact, he belongs to the only members of the canid family who go into torpor—a less intense version of hibernation.
According to the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums, torpor is a “stage of inactivity.” The animals’ body temperature drops and allows them to conserve energy in colder months, but if a warm day comes along they’ll wake up in search of food.
Much to our delight, Tanu’s Twitter shows him in quite…
… a bit…
… of torpor.
In addition to being real-life, yet mysterious, animals, tanuki are also quite a famous part of Japanese folklore. They are described as shapeshifters who use their powers to deceive people, and can transform into humans, other animals, and even inanimate objects.
The image above refers to a story called Bunbuku Chagama. In this tale, a tanuki attempts to help a farmer by turning into a teapot which the man then sells. When the new owner begins to heat the pot, the tanuki can’t handle the temperature and sprouts arms and legs, running away with his teapot torso.
Fortunately, the only thing Tanu will be turning into is a slightly goofier version of himself.
Continue to follow Tanu’s adventures on Twitter!