der Waschbär

The other day, a television vet was called out to examine a young Waschbär. What kind of “bear” is this? It’s the kind known for waschen–washing its food. Der Waschbär is a raccoon. Wild raccoons don’t ordinarily wash their food, so the reason behind the washing is a mystery. But der Waschbär has very sensitive front paws and likes to manipulate objects with them, and it also does a lot of fishing and hunting in the water of riverbanks for its prey. So when a captive raccoon takes its food to its bowl to “wash” it, it’s probably acting out normal hunting techniques. Interestingly enough, our word “raccoon” comes from a Powhatan term for “the one who scratches or scrubs”–in other words, der Waschbär.

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