Dog vs raccoon: Ancient grudges in the animal kingdom

  • Animals
  • Thursday, 31 Dec 2020

Dogs will chase squirrels, voles and rabbits but they get very aggressive with raccoons. — Dreamstime/TNS

There are famous grudges in history: Rome vs Carthage, Tesla vs Edison, Minnesota vs Wisconsin. You can explain them with history, politics, human nature. Nothing explains the vicious quarrel between dogs and raccoons.

Nothing we know, that is.

Dogs will chase squirrels and voles and rabbits, but it’s just business as usual. Nothing personal.

But raccoons seem to bring out some primal hatred in dogs that turns them into spittle-flecked maniacs, and makes you realise that beneath your pet’s lovable-goofus personality is bloodlust born of an ancient feud.

A few nights ago, our dog Birch bolted from the back stairs to the big tree, where I saw a huge striped beast going up the trunk. This guy was set for a long winter. He was so big that I could almost hear his belly slosh as he climbed. When he got to a fork in the branches, he peered down with aloof indifference at Birch, who was barking unceasingly.

I got out a flashlight to see if the raccoon had wandered up and away. They sometimes seem to climb up until they disappear from view entirely, a trick only otherwise accomplished by college administrators. But, no, there he was, glaring down at the dog and me.

Eventually, the dog calmed down and the peril passed, as they all do. We went inside so Birch could nurse his grievance – until he fell asleep.

A few hours later, he wanted to go out because Out is where dogs want to be, so they can decide that they would rather be In.

A few minutes after I let him out, I heard my wife call my name in alarm from downstairs. People in the plane passing overhead heard her. Whales in the deep Pacific heard her. I ran out to find Birch and the raccoon combined in a snarling, spitting, screaming ball of murder.

The first thing I thought: rabies!

I was thinking of the dog, at first. And then I started to wonder if I was supposed to get rabies shots. Were they like flu shots?

And then I remembered the stories from childhood about the kid who got bit by a rabid dog and had to have 12 painful shots in the stomach!

That took about five seconds.

Then I grabbed Birch by the tail and collar and yanked him back without him biting me. But the raccoon lunged forward to keep the fight going.

Finally got Birch restrained, and the raccoon lumbered away, screaming curses.

We went inside, where I got antibiotic salve and tended to Birch’s cuts. In a way, I felt proud of the hound. Eating a bunny last summer, that was stupid. This was an epic battle against a serious foe.

The next day, I took Birch to the vet, just in case.

He didn’t have any bites and his shots were up to date. But the vet decided to give him some distemper meds, just in case.

The vet said rabies wasn’t common in Minnesota raccoons this time of year, but distemper, maybe.

Distemper was a good characterisation of the entire engagement.

“My golden isn’t bothered by anything, ” one of the vet assistants chimed in. “Squirrels, other people, he’s ‘Whatever’. But a raccoon makes him turn into a feral beast.”

We might never know why.

It’s possible raccoons smell like mail carriers. It’s possible that mail carriers smell like raccoons. It’s possible that a mail carrier who showed up wearing an eye mask, a striped shirt and a bushy tail would make even an elderly rug-dog go for the neck. But mail carriers never dress like that.

Perhaps they know something we don’t about ancient grudges in the animal kingdom. – Star Tribune (Minneapolis)/Tribune News Service

Article type: metered
User Type: anonymous web
User Status:
Campaign ID: 1
Cxense type: free
User access status: 3

pets , dog ,


Did you find this article insightful?


Next In Living

Keep your cat away from plants
7 aquarium plants for beginners
Malaysian entrepreneur upcycles kimonos into clothes, bags and accessories
Helping a cat and dog live under one roof - with no fighting
Penang retired teacher transforms used, but cleaned, face masks into aprons, bibs and flower pot covers Premium
Odie the Shih-Poo brings happiness and love to his humans
Yard sale find turns out to be artifact worth up to US$500,000
Cities and towns in Germany weigh how to handle racist place names
Europe's largest urban farm in Brussels protects the planet one step at a time
London street signs on sale at auction

Stories You'll Enjoy