The real-world tanuki, or raccoon dog, is not a raccoon -- it is a wild dog with markings similar to a raccoon's. The raccoon is a member of family Procyonidae, as are the coati, the kinkajou and possibly the red panda. The tanuki is a member of family Canidae, alongside dogs, wolves, and foxes.

The raccoon is native to North America. The raccoon dog is native to Asia; while most famous in Japan, it is also known in Korea, China, and Siberia. It was introduced to Europe by Russian fur farmers in the early 20th century, and since then has been found in Eastern Europe and Scandinavia.