Last Reviewed and Updated on January 21, 2023
Binturongs, also known as bearcats, are fascinating animals that are native across a wide range of Asia but are uncommon in their range. Although they are not as well-known as many other tropical animals, many interesting facts about binturongs are worth learning. From their unique scent to their reproduction and climbing skills, binturongs are truly unique and fascinating creatures
About the Binturong
Bearcats, or binturongs (Arctictis binturong), are native to South and Southeast Asia, where they live primarily in rainforests, mangroves, and other tropical habitats; they are uncommon across their habitat range, though. They are typically found in trees and spend most of their time in the canopy.
There are nine known subspecies of binturongs.
They are medium-sized mammals that resemble a cross between a bear and a cat, with thick, black fur, short, stout legs, and long tails.
Binturongs are omnivores, eating fruits, insects, small mammals, birds, fish, crabs, and small reptiles.
Due to habitat destruction and hunting for the pet trade, binturongs are considered a vulnerable species.
Facts About Binturongs
Now let’s explore some of the most unique and fascinating facts about binturongs.
1. Binturongs smell like popcorn
We’re starting this list with one of the most fun facts about bearcats; they smell like popcorn or corn chips. The smell is produced by scent glands near their reproductive organs. It can be quite intense and persistent and can linger on clothing and other items that come into contact with it for a long time.
Several animals have a strong smell similar to food or spices. This is a characteristic of animals that use scent marking to communicate with each other.
2. Binturongs or bearcats aren’t closely related to bears or cats
The closest relatives of binturongs are palm civets. They are all part of the suborder feliformia, which is a group of cat and cat-like carnivores.
So while they aren’t closely related to cats, they are in the same suborder as cats.
3. Binturongs have prehensile tails
Their tails are nearly as long as their heads and bodies. Some species of animals, binturongs included, have prehensile tails, meaning they use their tails as the fifth limb. The tail is adapted to grasp and hold objects; binturongs use their tails to help them move around the trees.
4. They are skilled but slow climbers
Binturongs are skilled climbers with no issues moving about in tree canopies (their tails help them a lot).
They don’t generally jump from tree to tree; they climb down the tree and move from tree to tree on the ground.
5. They are essentially arboreal
While they do move on the ground, they spend most of their time living and feeding on the trees.
6. They play a key role in spreading the strangler fig seeds
Binturongs play a crucial role in seed dispersal, especially for strangler figs.
7. They are active during the day and at night
Many animals are most active during a specific time of the day, be it at night (nocturnal), day (diurnal), or twilight (crepuscular). Studies showed binturongs are active both day and night, although most are active at night.
8. They have a gait similar to bears
Binturongs walk in a way where their toes and “palms” are all touching the ground, meaning their whole hand, throughout its length, is touching the ground. This gives them a side-to-side gait similar to that of a bear. This could be one of the reasons for these animals being nicknamed bearcats.
9. Females can control their reproduction cycles
Female binturongs have the ability to delay pregnancy, a phenomenon known as delayed implantation. This means that the fertilized egg does not immediately implant in the uterus and begins to develop. Instead, it can remain in a dormant state for a time. The exact length of time can vary, depending on the species.
This ability allows species like binturong to synchronize the timing of their pregnancy with the most favorable conditions (avoiding droughts etc.).
10. They communicate with noises, and their tails
When communicating, binturongs use a variety of noises as well as the movement of their tails.