Bassariscus is a genus in the family Procyonidae. There are two species in the genus: the ring-tailed cat or ringtail (B. astutus) and the cacomistle (B. sumichrasti). Genetic studies have indicated that the closest relatives of Bassariscus are raccoons, from which they diverged about 10 million years ago. The two lineages of Bassariscus are thought to have separated after only another two million years, making it the extant procyonid genus with the earliest diversification.
The name is a Greek word for fox ("bassaris") with a Latinized diminutive ending ("-iscus"). The genus was first described by Elliott Coues in 1887. He proposed the word "bassarisk" as the English term for animals in this genus. Its habitat includes semi-arid areas in the southwestern United States, the whole of Mexico, as well as moist tropical forests in Central America.