Do Raccoons Have Hands or Paws? (Interesting Findings)


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If you love watching raccoons do their thing, it’s probably made you ask at some point, do raccoons have hands or paws?

Many people assume that these cute little creatures have paws, and they have been called both hands and paws by people describing them.

But the truth is that most experts consider them raccoon hands because of their shape and because there are five very distinct fingers attached to them. They do not look just like a human’s hand because there is no thumb, which affects how they pick up objects, but calling them raccoon paws isn’t really accurate.


Raccoon Hands: How Do They Work?

Raccoons are notorious for breaking into all sorts of places when they’re foraging for food. If you’ve ever been camping, you know what we’re talking about.

No garbage cans, campground coolers, or chimney flues are safe from the average raccoon, and the fact that they are very smart makes it even more difficult to keep them away from your food, regardless of what it is or where it is located.

The fingers on a raccoon’s hands are long and tapered and come complete with long nails. Without thumbs, raccoons don’t grab hold of things the way humans do, but they make do nonetheless.

Using both forepaws, raccoons lift and manipulate objects such as food, which is why they are considered to be problem solvers.

This is also why these animals are adaptable and can survive in the cities, suburbs, and all sorts of other manmade habitats.

raccoon eating a banana

Some people believe that raccoons wash their food, but this is a myth. Instead, they wet their food items in order to “see” them.

Simply put, a raccoon’s tactile ability greatly increases when their food has any type of water on it. To raccoons, touch is as important a sense as all of the others.

And if you’re wondering how raccoons developed incredible hands that are very similar to a human’s hands in many ways, the answer is simple.

Raccoons evolved in South America around lake and river banks and therefore, they needed their hands and fingers to find food that was often buried in mud and silt.

If you look closely at raccoon hands, you’ll notice the fingers are very well padded. They also have a lot of sensitivity — more so than most other animals, with the exception of humans and other primates.

The mechanoreceptor cells allow raccoons to detect things such as pressure changes, which puts them ahead of other animals that might be trying to look for food.

What Can Raccoons Do with Their Hands?

Raccoons are omnivores, and a lot of researchers believe that this is why a raccoon’s brain is so well developed.

When children learn, their sense of touch is crucial to developing abstract understanding, and a raccoon’s drive to acquire a wide variety of food items has pushed their brain development and made it as effective as it is today.

In other words, between their incredibly well-developed brain and their sensitive forepaws, raccoons are able to do a lot more with their hands than most people realize.

This includes the following things:

  • Scratching. In fact, their name roughly translates into “animal that scratches.”
  • Climbing. With their hands or forepaws, raccoons can climb very high indeed.
  • Digging. If raccoons see something slithering in your garden, they will immediately start to dig so they can get at it.
  • Swimming. Raccoons swim, on average, at the rate of three miles per hour, which is roughly half the rate of humans.
  • For protection. With their long nails, raccoons use their hands to protect themselves against predators.
  • Increasing their sense of touch. Raccoons have a heightened sense of smell and touch, and they’ll even rub their hands together to increase their sense of touch.
  • Grabbing, holding, and even opening objects, including food items they are trying to get to.

Raccoons’ sense of touch is also a lot more developed in their forepaws than they are in their back paws, which is why they can do so many things with them and are able to get to nearly any type of food that they’re looking for.

When it comes to raccoons, their hands are amazing, and while many people call them raccoon paws, they are usually called hands simply because they are so similar to a human’s hands in so many ways.


While you can call these appendages raccoon hands or raccoon paws, they are definitely more like hands because they have five fingers and are padded just like a human’s hands are.

Between the dexterity they exhibit and their super developed brains, raccoons are a force to be reckoned with, in part because they are able to find, get into, and eat all types of food that you may have considered to be for you and your family only.

Fortunately, they are unable to open a latch on a food container, but as smart as they are, they may be able to do this one day!

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