Binturong kits in Perth (they smell like popcorn!)

I’ll never forget the first time I saw a binturong (Arctictis binturong) though I can’t remember the zoo where I saw it. My first thought was “what the hell is this thing?” The label said it was a binturong, also known as a “bearcat.”

A binturong

Well, it’s neither a bear nor a cat, but a viverrid: in the family Viverridae (and order Carnivora) along with civets and genets. It’s an arboreal omnivore found in Southeast Asia, and this is its range:

Two fun facts: binturongs have prehensile tails, and they smell like popcorn (that’s their pheromones). The non-fun fact is that they’re threatened by habitat loss, hunting, and use in “traditional medicine.”

You really need to know what this animal is, because it’s unique: the only species in its genus, and something you wouldn’t be able to place if you saw it.  And this is a good excuse to show the video of two baby binturongs born September 6 at the Perth Zoo. Go to ZooBorns to read more:

And a binturong interacting with a human in Australia:


  1. Randall Schenck
    Posted November 9, 2017 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    Amazing animal and since it is called a bearcat I must mention – The University of Northwest Missouri, at Maryville, Mo. has for it’s sports teams, the Bearcats. I have no idea where they came up with the name but that is it.

    • chrism
      Posted November 10, 2017 at 5:47 am | Permalink

      How about Grumman naming the F8F ‘Bearcat’? Apparently the Chinese words for a Giant Panda translate as ‘bear cat’ but I don’t think that can be the origin, as I found a reference to a silent western movie from 1922 called ‘The Bearcat’ and I doubt Hollywood knew about pandas. Anyway, Stutz first referred to their roadster as a ‘Bear Cat’ (later ‘Bearcat’) in 1912. The bearcat mascot of the university of Cincinnati was named after a coach Leonard ‘Teddy’ Baehr. Local to me in Nova Scotia there is a hockey team from Truro called the Bearcats and their logo is a polar bear!
      The origin, somewhere in the 1890’s, seems to be as a slang portmanteau of bear + cat, and meant a person of tough, courageous or pugnacious character (this is likely the usage in the 1922 movie). Later the meaning was extended to mean something of extra-high quality. Which means that the F8-F was the only Grumman named after a non-existent cat.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted November 10, 2017 at 6:32 am | Permalink

        The Grumman “Cats” in order – the “Hellcat” seems to be the first made-up-name cat, unless it’s a colloquial term for some species of cat

        Grumman F4F Wildcat
        Grumman F6F Hellcat
        Grumman F7F Tigercat
        Grumman F8F Bearcat
        Grumman F9F Panther
        Grumman F9F, F-9 Cougar
        Grumman XF10F Jaguar
        Grumman F-11 Tiger
        Grumman F11F-1F Super Tiger
        Grumman F-14 Tomcat

  2. Posted November 9, 2017 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    Jerry I enjoy the rare and often endangered animals that you show on this site. Now if you can just have a story about numbats (Myrmecobius fasciatus)….


  3. Mark R.
    Posted November 9, 2017 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t heard of this beastie. Thanks for sharing another evolutionary marvel.

  4. busterggi
    Posted November 9, 2017 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    Smells like popcorn?

    With or without butter?

    • Janet
      Posted November 9, 2017 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

      I had a dog whose feet smelled like popcorn.

    • Janet
      Posted November 9, 2017 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

      I had a dog whose feet smelled like popcorn.

  5. Michael Fisher
    Posted November 9, 2017 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    Cincinnati Zoo binturong is the mascot of the various UC Bearcat teams: [] com/watch?v=JRi_a6wypJU

    The US Navy Grumman F8F Bearcat WWII carrier fighter s/was a beautiful ‘plane – held the ‘time to climb’ to 10,000 ft [from standing deck start] record for almost a decade after the war – beaten then by jets. To achieve this superb rate of climb the wings were built light & the wingtips sacrificially snapped off at over 7.5g to save the whole wing from snapping…

    The ‘plane could fly home sans tips

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted November 9, 2017 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

      Unfortunately, the F8F was too late to take part in WWII. However, it was very successful at the Reno air races primarily one called Rarebear. This one set speed records for a piston engine plane of well over 500 MPH.

    • barn owl
      Posted November 9, 2017 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

      I was trying to determine whether the bearcat mascots for other university teams (e.g. Willamette University and Northwest Missouri State U) were binturongs. From the logos, they look like some sort of unspecified wildcat.

      Or perhaps Wolverine from X-Men.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted November 9, 2017 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

        The original ‘bearcat’ mascot logo for UC, 95 years ago, had nothing to do with the binturong – it was a drawing of what looks like a grizzly [to me] up on its hind legs – no cat features at all despite being called a bearcat.

        The name grew from UC football fullback and team captain, Leonard “Teddy” Baehr. During a football game against the Kentucky Wildcats on Oct. 31, 1914, Norman Lyon, a UC cheerleader and editor of the student paper, created the name Bearcat through a play on words, using the Wildcat’s name against them. He chanted in support of Baehr, referring to him as a “Baehr-cat”

        For the Nov. 3, 1914, issue of the UC student paper — cartoonist John Reece drew a depiction of an animal, named Cincinnati Bearcat, chasing away an animal named Kentucky Wildcat.

        At no point in 100 years has the mascot looked the least bit like a binturong. A shame really that nobody has made the effort to ‘appropriate’ the real deal for the mascot. 🙂

        Source of the above:

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted November 9, 2017 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

        I think for Northwest Missouri State University is was just an accident and had nothing to do with this binturong. If you go down 4th street in Maryville toward the school there are cat paws or bear paws painted in the street. They are nuts for their bearcats.

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted November 9, 2017 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

          I should also say they have won many national championships in division they play in.

      • barn owl
        Posted November 9, 2017 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

        I like unusual mascots for teams, like the Southern Illinois Salukis, or the Texas A&M Kingsville Javelinas. There are Texas high schools with mascots such as Sand Crabs, Zebras, Hippos, or Unicorns.

  6. Posted November 9, 2017 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    Nice introduction, and indeed a good excuse to show the young ones. 🙂 The jolly music made it a bit odd when he was talking of the habitat loss and their decline.

  7. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted November 9, 2017 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    OK, first there was Planet Earth. Then, a unicorn bird, and then this. And that’s it. Done. We’re done – there can’t possibly be anything else. We reached the end of the list.

  8. David Coxill
    Posted November 9, 2017 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    Hi ,off topic ,just been over at Cats ,Beavers and Ducks ,they mentioned a word Blep .
    Never heard of it ,it means a Cat with it’s tongue out.
    Anyone else heard of this ?

    • enl
      Posted November 9, 2017 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

      yup. Not the only vocabulary you learn when in a relationship with a crazy cat person, either.

      • David Coxill
        Posted November 10, 2017 at 7:03 am | Permalink

        What other words are out there ?

  9. lkr
    Posted November 9, 2017 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

    Disgusting that ‘traditional medicine’ continues its hold — especially among well-educated people in Asia. I suspect it’s as much a form of conspicuous [and knowingly wasteful and immoral] consumption as any real belief that the results are better than the latest from Big Pharma..

    Most of these ‘medicines’ seem to be competing with Viagra. Which I gather does work and does not contribute to the Sixth Extinction.

    • Posted November 9, 2017 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

      It’s very concerning that “traditional medicine” doesn’t have to demonstrate its efficacy prior to being accepted, and is even taught in universities.

      • BJ
        Posted November 9, 2017 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

        You’re just a colonialist white supremacist trying to delegitimize native traditional ways of knowing to center whiteness and uphold the western medical industrial complex


        • David Coxill
          Posted November 10, 2017 at 7:02 am | Permalink

          No,he is saying that native medicine is killing off Tigers and Rhinos and who knows what else.

  10. revelator60
    Posted November 9, 2017 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

    Bear cats are also mentioned in Rufus Thomas’s 1953 blues song “Tiger Man”:

    “Well, I get up on the mountain and I call my bearcat back
    My bearcat comes a-running and the hound-dog get way back”

    The best version of the song is probably the live one Elvis sang during his 1968 Comeback Special:

  11. Posted November 9, 2017 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

    Speaking of traditional medicine, I wonder if I should save up my nail clippings, grind them up, and sell it as “powdered rhino horn”.

  12. BJ
    Posted November 9, 2017 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

    I just watched the videos and this is one of the cutest animals I’ve ever seen. It’s so damn unique. I’ve never seen anything like it, and it just makes my heart glow for some reason. I know I’m anthropomorphizing, but the way it looks and acts just makes it seem so sweet.

  13. stuartcoyle
    Posted November 9, 2017 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

    I will have to go and see them when I next visit my parents in Perth.

    I always remember seeing squirrels around Perth Zoo. Apparently, they were early escapees that inhabited the area around the zoo in South Perth. That was in the seventies so maybe they are no longer around.

  14. Posted November 10, 2017 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    PCC would not have to go far to see one. They are at the Brookfield Zoo. They also have two cubs born in mid-September (not named yet that I know of) as well.

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