Taichung’s Houfeng Bikeway has gained an unlikely ambassador — a pet raccoon named Mantou (饅頭).
Su Tzu-hung (蘇子宏), who runs a bicycle rental shop, is often seen with Mantou at the bikeway, drawing throngs of cyclists who line up to take pictures with the raccoon.
Mantou follows him everywhere, Su said, adding that he has outfitted his bicycle with a large basket that Mantou likes to ride in.
Photo: Ou Su-mei, Taipei Times
When he is at the shop, Mantou helps him greet customers, Su said.
Mantou came to live with Su five years ago after his friend — who had adopted the raccoon when it was born — found that he could no longer take care of it, Su said.
Mantou was one year old at the time, weighed 8kg, and was very wild and aggressive, he said.
Su patiently trained Mantou, using food and other rewards to aid him in the process, he said.
Now six years old and weighing 20kg, Mantou is well-behaved and follows commands, he said.
A North American raccoon, Mantou is omnivorous, Su said, adding that he usually feed him cat food.
“But he loves sweets, and at home he often turns the place upside down looking for snacks,” he said.
Su said his choice of “Mantou” — the Chinese word for steamed bun — as a name was based on the raccoon’s appearance and laziness.
“He does not like to exercise. Every time I take him out for a stroll he walks two steps and then sits down, refusing to move,” he said. “The more he eats, the more he looks like a mantou.”
Su said he had to have a special basket built for his bicycle to hold Mantou, because he grew too fat to fit in the standard bicycle basket.
Su also had a special bed made for Mantou, who often lies on it zoned out while stuffing his face with food.
Raccoons generally live to about 20 and are highly intelligent animals, but will throw tantrums if provoked, Su said.
They can recognize their name and respond to commands, but if unhappy they will simply ignore you, he added.
Mantou likes air-conditioning and soaking in the pool in the summer, as well as having his chin rubbed, Su added.
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