How Strong Are Raccoons? [Details & Facts]

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Raccoons are adept at getting into garbage cans, attics, pools, and more while people are sleeping.

In the wild, they can be observed resting in trees, swimming, running, and standing up to predators showing versatility and strength.

Raccoons demonstrate that they can carry out physically demanding tasks, often pushing, pulling, or manipulating objects as they maneuver and climb up and down them. Due to the lack of opposable thumbs, they cannot lift heavy objects easily, but will find other methods to move something heavy or restrictive. Raccoons are also strong swimmers, climbers, and runners.

Read on to learn more about exactly how strong raccoons can be in using their bodies to navigate and survive.

6 Ways Raccoons Demonstrate Strength

The name “raccoon” comes from the Powhatan term arahkunem (ahrah-koon-em), meaning “scratches with hands”.

Raccoons belong to the Procyonidae family, which also includes coatis, kinkajou, cacomistle, the New World ringtail, and olingos. There are 7 species, with 35 subspecies. 

Male raccoons weigh more than females, and across the species, they can weigh from 12 to 35 pounds.  

Their bodies may seem lightweight, but raccoons demonstrate strength through their ability to successfully access food and escape predators.

1. Ambidextrous And Sensitive Hands

Most people are not ambidextrous, meaning that one hand is significantly weaker or unable to perform the same tasks as the dominant hand. 

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However, raccoons can use both paws to adeptly open and pry objects to get to food sources. 

Nearly two-thirds of the raccoon’s cerebral cortex in the brain is for interpreting tactile situations. Their sense of touch is not adversely affected even in water below 50 °F. 

Raccoons’ hands have over 10 times more nerve endings than humans’ hands. 

Raccoons do not have opposable thumbs and therefore cannot grip in the same way as animals that do have them. 

This, however, does not prevent them from manipulating objects. Raccoons can open things such as latches, locks, and move weights placed on top of garbage cans for food sources. They can successfully climb into secured attics and chimneys for nesting.

2. Land On Feet From Great Heights

Raccoons can twist and turn while falling to land on their feet. 

As long as they do not break a bone, raccoons can walk away from falls from heights 130 feet up in the air, without poor effects or injury. 

3. Strong Climbers

Raccoons can climb moving forward and backward, with the ability to descend head-first down trees and obstacles. 

When moving down head-first, raccoons can rotate their hind legs 180 degrees. This demonstrates a strong grip and strength to support their body weight.  

Also read: Can Beavers Climb Trees?

4. Power In Water

Raccoons use water for a variety of reasons, most often for sensory purposes, for defecation, escape from predators, and as a food source. 


It may appear as if raccoons are washing their food, but they are trying to gain sensory data about it. Water wets the thin and bumpy layer in their paws, making them pliable, thus stimulating the nerve endings in their hands.  

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This helps them to easily feel and understand the food in their hands, as they learn about it and memorize its texture to search for it again in the future.  

Swimming From Predators And For Food

The water gives raccoons an incredible advantage in getting away from predators since they can swim quickly for long periods. They can also hold their breath underwater for a long time.

Raccoons can swim for extended periods, at an average speed of 3 miles per hour (mph). They may swim up to 15 mph when escaping predators such as alligators, wolves, hawks, and more.

Raccoons are omnivorous, eat plants and animals, and are opportunistic in eating garbage as well. They also capture small fish, frogs, or crayfish in the water, and can dive down approximately 5 feet to obtain them. 

Raccoons can hold their breath for up to 15 minutes underwater. Their thick fur insulates them in cold water, but also makes them easily float. 

Raccoons must use strength to counteract floating to stay under as they search for food or hide from predators.

5. Fast Runners

Raccoons are also fast runners, capable of running up to 15 mph. Considering their small stature and short legs, this is relatively fast. 

Raccoons will run to escape startling noises or lights or to escape predators.

Also read: Are Hippos Faster Than Horses?

6. Strong Bite Force

If a raccoon cannot escape a predator, it will stand up to make itself bigger, while producing defensive sounds, such as hissing, shrieking, or growling.

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While raccoons will run, swim, climb, or make noises to fend off a threat, they can also bite with sharp teeth and powerful jaws. 

One study found that raccoons had an average of 346 Newtons of bite force, which converts to over 77 pounds of biting power. Paired with razor-sharp teeth, raccoons create a painfully strong bite.

Learn about: How Strong Are Lions?

In Conclusion

Raccoons show their strength in multiple ways. 

Despite their lightweight and stocky bodies, they are ambidextrous and agile. 

Raccoons can manipulate and climb objects to gain access to food or nesting sources and can land on their feet if falling from great heights. 

Raccoons can also swim and run for extended periods and up to 15 mph. 

If raccoons cannot escape a predator, they will stand up to them and can deliver a powerful bite.

Learn More About Raccoons:

  1. 8 Types of Raccoons
  2. Do Raccoons Eat Apples?
  3. Can Raccoons Regenerate Limbs?
  4. Do Raccoons Have Thumbs?

James Ball

James has had a lifelong passion for animals and nature, tracing back to his childhood where he first began fostering intimate knowledge and connection with pet frogs and snakes. He has since honed this interest into a career as a trained Wildlife Biologist, specializing in Biogeography, sustainability and conservation. In addition to his professional pursuits, James maintains an active lifestyle, regularly indulging in outdoor activities such as hiking, and musical pursuits like playing piano and swimming.

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