Early invaders from Spain described a strange animal, farmed and raised by the Taíno people of Cuba. These “mute dogs,” as they were described, were friendly creatures that were small, agile, and extremely intelligent, but didn’t look like normal dogs and didn’t bark or howl. The indigenous people of Cuba raised them as pets and working animals, and also used them for their meat and fur. Many naturalists and historians believe that these “dogs” were not dogs, but a domesticated species, or subspecies, of raccoon.
Cuba’s native raccoons, both domestic and wild, are now completely extinct. Wild raccoons in Cuba were hunted to extinction for their meat by Europeans, and the “mute dogs” became extinct after disease and genocide destroyed the people who raised them. The animal pictured here is a related Caribbean raccoon.