The Raccoon’s Fur, Hair, and Tail (And Your Questions Answered)

Raccoons are medium-sized mammals that are found in North America. Typically, they are found in deciduous forests and in colder climates. For this reason, they have specialized fur that is specifically beneficial for their habitat.

Raccoons are mostly dark gray with a black and white mask and a striped tail. Their fur is soft, warm, dense, and fluffy. They have evolved their markings to help them during nocturnal hunting.

In this article, we will unmask this masked mammal, and uncover the truth about the fur, hair, and tail of the raccoon, while answering your questions about their strange coloration.

What Type Of Fur Do Raccoons Have? 

Raccoon fur is made up of two components. First, there is an underlayer of dense underfur. This underfur is vital in keeping raccoons warm during the winter. It acts as a layer of insulation to prevent heat loss. The other layer of fur is more hairlike and is called “guard hairs”.

A raccoon’s fur consists of long guard hairs that are relatively coarse and stinging to the touch, and an under-coat of shorter, more dense fur with hairs of about 1 inch in length.

While a raccoon sheds a lot of its under-coat in summer, making it look less plush, it remains relatively coarse to the touch all year round.

The guard hairs of the raccoon protect the skin and underlayer from exposure to the elements, like rain and snow. Raccoons have “true fur” because their fur contains both crucial elements: underfur and guard hairs. 

Humans have used raccoons for their pelts because of their warm, heat-insulating properties. Raccoon hats, coats, scarves, and blankets have been traded for centuries, although today there are many other alternatives.

Are Raccoons Soft? 

Raccoons are very fluffy, but their guard hairs are not. The fur of a raccoon consists of two layers: one layer of underfur, which is soft, and one layer of guard hairs, which are thick and coarse. In the summer, the fur of a raccoon is thinner, because they would overheat if they still had their full winter coat.

You might like to cuddle up with a raccoon because they are quite cute, but it would be better to choose a dog or a cat, as they are probably much more friendly and way softer!

Raccoons Aren’t As Soft As You Might Think

Even though raccoons may look like little, comfortable fur-balls, they aren’t actually that soft. They do have a very dense undercoat of soft fur that helps them stay warm and comfy, but this soft fur is hidden behind a protective coat of long guard hairs.

The long guard hair is much thicker and stiffer than the undercoat. These help keep the raccoon dry, and it protects the animal from mud and dirt that would otherwise get caught in the dense inner fur.

And while the guard hairs aren’t that soft to the touch, they’re an important part of what makes a raccoon a raccoon. It’s the guard hair that has the dark and gray patterns and stripes that make raccoons so recognizable.

What Color Is Raccoon Fur?

Raccoon fur is a dark gray-brown. They have black and white masks and they have black and white striped tails. Some raccoons may be more gray than brown, while others will be more brown than gray. Some may even look completely black.

Can Raccoons Have Other Colors? 

Although the most common color seen in raccoons is gray, there are other variations. In nature, different conditions and mutations can cause raccoons to have different colors, including all black, white, red, blonde, and brown.

Albinism is a mutation that causes the animal to be born without pigmentation. Albino raccoons are all white, with no stripes or masks. They will have gray eyes and a pink nose.

Melanism is basically the opposite of albinism. Melanism causes the animal to have all black features, typically, however, they retain their mask.

Erythrism is another genetic condition that causes red pigmentation. These raccoons will have a cinnamon-red or blonde-colored coat.

Just like humans, raccoons come in a variety of different colors. Variations of gray, brown, and black are way more common than genetic conditions, and differences in their masks can help researchers identify different raccoon individuals.

Do Albino Raccoons Suffer From Bad Health or Blindness? 

Like all animals with albinism, albino raccoons can suffer from health issues and blindness. Additionally, as nocturnal animals, their white color can make them vulnerable to being easily spotted by predators or be seen by their prey.

Albino raccoons are very rare and it is unlikely for someone to spot one.  Native Americans believed that seeing an albino raccoon would bring luck and wisdom, so be sure to keep your eye out!

An albino raccoon stands out in another way in the forest.

Does Raccoon Fur Change Its Color? 

During the winter raccoon coats will look slightly darker, and during the summer their coats can be slightly lighter. In warm climates in the south, the raccoons will have lighter fur. In colder climates, in the north, the raccoon has darker fur. 

Baby raccoons are the same grayish brown as their parents with a bright white and black mask. However, they usually have no stripes on their tail or a less defined striping. As they get older, they will develop more solid stripes.

Do Raccoons Shed Their Fur? 

In late winter and early spring, the raccoon begins to shed its coat. This helps it to stay cool during the summer.

In the fall, their coats will begin to grow thicker once again. Many mammals that live in climates with distinct seasons will follow this path, including squirrels, foxes, bears, rabbits, and more.

Do Fur-less Raccoons Exist? 

In rare cases, raccoons can be found with alopecia or other genetic conditions that make them lose their hair. This can be problematic for the raccoons as they will not be able to correctly regulate their body temperature. It also may be a sign of another health issue.

During times of stress, raccoons will sometimes lose their fur which creates bald patches. 

Is Raccoon Fur Hypoallergenic? 

Raccoons are hypoallergenic. This is why many people will keep them as pets (in areas where it is legal to keep a raccoon as a pet). They actually make a fairly decent alternative to cats and dogs which, as we know, pretty much always cause allergic reactions outside of some breeds.

Remember, being hypoallergenic doesn’t mean that they are guaranteed to not cause a reaction. It just means that they are less likely to cause reactions in people. So, while I can say that raccoons are hypoallergenic, it doesn’t mean everybody will be able to interact with one without the risk of an allergic reaction.

Remember, while we do say that people have allergies to pet fur, we actually mean to say that they have an allergy to pet dander. Pet dander is the small flakes of dead skin that sit upon the animal’s body. When we talk about animals being hypoallergenic, it means that they do not have these small flakes of dead skin.

Raccoons do not produce dander at all. If they do, it is so small that the chances of you getting an allergic reaction from it will be close to zero. This is because raccoons are not producing the protein that often causes this dander. 

Of course, this is talking about a raccoon that is completely clean. While a person may not necessarily be allergic to the fur of the raccoon, you have to remember that a wild raccoon goes through a lot in its day-to-day life. This means that they may often come into contact with things on their fur which you may be allergic to. Honestly, you probably shouldn’t be touching a raccoon at all unless you are 100% certain that it is safe to touch it. 

Why Do Raccoons Have “Mask” Markings On Their Faces? 

As a nocturnal animal, the mask markings of the raccoon help them to see in the dark. The black markings reduce glare and absorb light. This can help them hunt at night and sneak up on their prey.

If you’ve ever seen football players or other athletes use black paint under their eyes, they are taking a cue from the raccoon playbook!

There are some theories that suggest that raccoons use their masks to distinguish themselves from one another and determine who is who. This is because there are minor differences in coloration between individuals.

Is Raccoon Fur Used In The Fashion Industry?

If you’re anything like me, you’re probably not a fan of the fur industry. But raccoon pelts have actually been traditionally used for making hats, coats, and other garments for a long time.

In the 1920’s it became fashionable for men to wear raccoon fur coats. This fad kept going for about a decade and was made propagated by various artists and celebrities of the time who bought into it. In the 1950s the style had a short-lived comeback, but since then, raccoon fur has remained relatively unimportant in the fashion industry.

What Do Raccoons Use Their Whiskers For? 

So are the whiskers on a raccoons’ face some kind of decorative mustache? It sort of makes it look cute, but its real purpose isn’t so much to look adorable as to “feel” things.

The long hairs which make up the whiskers on a raccoon’s snout (as well as those it’s got on its paws) are connected to a great number of nerve cells in the skin. This means that whiskers, or vibrissae, as they’re also called, are much more sensitive to touch than normal hair would be. A raccoon uses this to identify food with its paws and mouth.

In part, a raccoon’s whiskers make up for its relatively bad eye-sight, and it helps it study things that are up close, which actually is hard for a raccoon to see because of its big nose! (No, I’m not kidding!)

Raccoon whiskers are very sensitive and they help the raccoon to navigate in the dark. If they are trying to fit into a small hole in a tree, they will use their whiskers to judge the distance of the hole’s opening. Whiskers are really called vibrissae, a Latin word that means “stiff nostril hair”.

Do Raccoons Have Whiskers On Their Feet? 

Unlike cats, raccoons have 2 types of whiskers: one set on the face and another set on their front feet.

These whiskers on their hands are located right behind their claws and are very useful to the critters. Since raccoons have poor eyesight, they use their sensitive whiskers to learn about the world around them.

Raccoons can tell what an object is before they even touch it by holding out the whiskers, or vibrissae, on their hands. Along with their long nails and fingers, the vibrissae make the raccoon hand a very special thing!

How Do Raccoons Use The Whiskers On Their Paws?

Most people, when imagining an animal who has whiskers, think about the whiskers that cats have on the sides of their faces. Raccoons, however, also have whiskers on their paws. Just behind the claws on their little hands.

These whiskers help raccoons to make their hands extra sensitive. You’ll often see a raccoon feeling objects, food, and their surroundings with their hands and this is actually to better understand the things around them!

Something that makes their hands even more sensitive, is when they’re wet, which is why you’ll often see raccoons dipping things in the water. A common myth about raccoons states that they like to wash things or that they wash all kinds of objects.

While their digestion probably improves from soaking their meal in water, the real reason for it is to better feel what they have between their hands and to really identify if it’s actually edible!

You can see this in action in the video below, where a raccoon wets some grapes before eating them!

What Do Raccoons’ Tails Look Like?

Raccoon tails are fluffy and bushy and they have black and white stripes. They are usually thicker at the base and then taper out to a point at the end.

Why Do Raccoons Have Rings On Their Tails?

There are many guesses as to why raccoons have rings on their tails. One commonly accepted theory is that a predator would be more likely to spot the raccoon’s tail in the dark. So, instead of grabbing the raccoon’s face or body, the predator would grab the tail, making it easier for the raccoon to escape.

On the other hand, stripes, spots, and other patterns might actually have the opposite effect, making a moving target harder to see for other animals, including potential predators.