The ferret (Mustela putorius furo) is the domesticated form of the European polecat, a mammal belonging to the same genus as the weasel, Mustela, in the family Mustelidae. Their fur is typically brown, black, white, or mixed. They have an average length of 51 cm (20 in), including a 13 cm (5.1 in) tail, weigh about 1.5–4 pounds (0.7–2 kg), and have a natural lifespan of 7 to 10 years. Ferrets are sexually dimorphic predators, with males being substantially larger than females.
The history of the ferret's domestication is uncertain, like that of most other domestic animals, but it is likely that they have been domesticated for at least 2,500 years. They are still used for hunting rabbits in some parts of the world, but increasingly they are kept only as pets.
Being so closely related to polecats, ferrets easily hybridize with them, and this has occasionally resulted in feral colonies of polecat–ferret hybrids that have caused damage to native fauna, especially in New Zealand. As a result, New Zealand and some other parts of the world have imposed restrictions on the keeping of ferrets.
M. p. furo
|Mustela putorius furo|
Mustela furo Linnaeus, 1758
The name "ferret" is derived from the Latin furittus, meaning "little thief", a likely reference to the common ferret penchant for secreting away small items. The Greek word ictis occurs in a play written by Aristophanes, The Acharnians, in 425 BC. Whether this was a reference to ferrets, polecats, or the similar Egyptian mongoose is uncertain.
A male ferret is called a hob; a female ferret is a jill. A spayed female is a sprite, a neutered male is a gib, and a vasectomised male is known as a hoblet. Ferrets under one year old are known as kits. A group of ferrets is known as a "business", or historically as a "busyness". Other purported collective nouns, including "besyness", "fesynes", "fesnyng", and "feamyng", appear in some dictionaries, but are almost certainly ghost words.
Ferrets have a typical mustelid body-shape, being long and slender. Their average length is about 50 cm (20 in) including a 13 cm (5.1 in) tail. Their pelage has various colorations including brown, black, white or mixed. They weigh between 0.7 and 2.0 kg (1.5 and 4.4 lb) and are sexually dimorphic as the males are substantially larger than females. The average gestation period is 42 days and females may have two or three litters each year. The litter size is usually between three and seven kits which are weaned after three to six weeks and become independent at three months. They become sexually mature at approximately six months and the average life span is seven to 10 years. Ferrets are induced ovulators.
Ferrets spend 14–18 hours a day asleep and are most active around the hours of dawn and dusk, meaning they are crepuscular. Unlike their polecat ancestors, which are solitary animals, most ferrets will live happily in social groups. A group of ferrets is commonly referred to as a "business". They are territorial, like to burrow, and prefer to sleep in an enclosed area.
Like many other mustelids, ferrets have scent glands near their anus, the secretions from which are used in scent marking. Ferrets can recognize individuals from these anal gland secretions, as well as the sex of unfamiliar individuals. Ferrets may also use urine marking for sex and individual recognition.
As with skunks, ferrets can release their anal gland secretions when startled or scared, but the smell is much less potent and dissipates rapidly. Most pet ferrets in the US are sold descented (anal glands removed). In many other parts of the world, including the UK and other European countries, de-scenting is considered an unnecessary mutilation.
If excited, they may perform a behavior called the "weasel war dance", characterized by frenzied sideways hops, leaps and bumping into nearby objects. Despite its common name, it is not aggressive but is a joyful invitation to play. It is often accompanied by a unique soft clucking noise, commonly referred to as "dooking". When scared, ferrets will hiss; when upset, they squeak softly.
Ferrets are obligate carnivores. The natural diet of their wild ancestors consisted of whole small prey, including meat, organs, bones, skin, feathers, and fur. Ferrets have short digestive systems and quick metabolism, so they need to eat frequently. Prepared dry foods consisting almost entirely of meat (including high-grade cat food, although specialized ferret food is increasingly available and preferable) provide the most nutritional value and are the most convenient, though some ferret owners feed pre-killed or live prey (such as mice and rabbits) to their ferrets to more closely mimic their natural diet. Ferret digestive tracts lack a cecum and the animal is largely unable to digest plant matter. Before much was known about ferret physiology, many breeders and pet stores recommended food like fruit in the ferret diet, but it is now known that such foods are inappropriate, and may in fact have negative ramifications on ferret health. Ferrets imprint on their food at around six months old. This can make introducing new foods to an older ferret a challenge, and even simply changing brands of kibble may meet with resistance from a ferret that has never eaten the food as a kit. It is therefore advisable to expose young ferrets to as many different types and flavors of appropriate food as possible.
Ferrets have four types of teeth (the number includes maxillary (upper) and mandibular (lower) teeth) with a dental formula of 220.127.116.11:
Ferrets are known to suffer from several distinct health problems. Among the most common are cancers affecting the adrenal glands, pancreas, and lymphatic system. Viral diseases include canine distemper and influenza. Health problems can occur in unspayed females when not being used for breeding. Certain health problems have also been linked to ferrets being neutered before reaching sexual maturity. Certain colors of ferret may also carry a genetic defect known as Waardenburg syndrome. Similar to domestic cats, ferrets can also suffer from hairballs and dental problems. Ferrets will also often chew on and swallow foreign objects which can lead to bowel obstruction.
In common with most domestic animals, the original reason for ferrets being domesticated by human beings is uncertain, but it may have involved hunting. According to phylogenetic studies, the ferret was domesticated from the European polecat (Mustela putorius), and likely descends from a North African lineage of the species. Analysis of mitochondrial DNA suggests that ferrets were domesticated around 2,500 years ago. It has been claimed that the ancient Egyptians were the first to domesticate ferrets, but as no mummified remains of a ferret have yet been found, nor any hieroglyph of a ferret, and no polecat now occurs wild in the area, that idea seems unlikely.
Colonies of feral ferrets have established themselves in areas where there is no competition from similarly sized predators, such as in the Shetland Islands and in remote regions in New Zealand. Where ferrets coexist with polecats, hybridization is common. It has been claimed that New Zealand has the world's largest feral population of ferret-polecat hybrids. In 1877, farmers in New Zealand demanded that ferrets be introduced into the country to control the rabbit population, which was also introduced by humans. Five ferrets were imported in 1879, and in 1882–1883, 32 shipments of ferrets were made from London, totaling 1,217 animals. Only 678 landed, and 198 were sent from Melbourne, Australia. On the voyage, the ferrets were mated with the European polecat, creating a number of hybrids that were capable of surviving in the wild. In 1884 and 1886, close to 4,000 ferrets and ferret hybrids, 3,099 weasels and 137 stoats were turned loose. Concern was raised that these animals would eventually prey on indigenous wildlife once rabbit populations dropped, and this is exactly what happened to New Zealand's bird species which previously had had no mammalian predators.
For millennia, the main use of ferrets was for hunting, or ferreting. With their long, lean build, and inquisitive nature, ferrets are very well equipped for getting down holes and chasing rodents, rabbits and moles out of their burrows. Caesar Augustus sent ferrets or mongooses (named viverrae by Plinius) to the Balearic Islands to control the rabbit plagues in 6 BC. In England, in 1390, a law was enacted restricting the use of ferrets for hunting to the relatively wealthy:
it is ordained that no manner of layman which hath not lands to the value of forty shillings a year shall from henceforth keep any greyhound or other dog to hunt, nor shall he use ferrets, nets, heys, harepipes nor cords, nor other engines for to take or destroy deer, hares, nor conies, nor other gentlemen's game, under pain of twelve months' imprisonment.
Ferrets were first introduced into the New World in the 17th century, and were used extensively from 1860 until the start of World War II to protect grain stores in the American West from rodents. They are still used for hunting in some countries, including the United Kingdom, where rabbits are considered a plague species by farmers. The practice is illegal in several countries where it is feared that ferrets could unbalance the ecology. In 2009 in Finland, where ferreting was previously unknown, the city of Helsinki began to use ferrets to restrict the city's rabbit population to a manageable level. Ferreting was chosen because in populated areas it is considered to be safer and less ecologically damaging than shooting the rabbits.
In the United States, ferrets were relatively rare pets until the 1980s. A government study by the California State Bird and Mammal Conservation Program estimated that by 1996 about 800,000 domestic ferrets were being kept as pets in the United States.
Like many household pets, ferrets require a cage. For ferrets, a wire cage at least 18 inches long and deep and 30 inches wide or longer is needed. Ferrets cannot be housed in environments such as an aquarium because of the poor ventilation. It is preferable that the cage have more than one level but this is not crucial. Usually two to three different shelves are used.
Ferrets are an important experimental animal model for human influenza, and have been used to study the 2009 H1N1 (swine flu) virus. Smith, Andrews, Laidlaw (1933) inoculated ferrets intra-nasally with human naso-pharyngeal washes, which produced a form of influenza that spread to other cage mates. The human influenza virus (Influenza type A) was transmitted from an infected ferret to a junior investigator, from whom it was subsequently re-isolated.
Most ferrets are either albinos, with white fur and pink eyes, or display the typical dark masked sable coloration of their wild polecat ancestors. In recent years fancy breeders have produced a wide variety of colors and patterns. Color refers to the color of the ferret's guard hairs, undercoat, eyes, and nose; pattern refers to the concentration and distribution of color on the body, mask, and nose, as well as white markings on the head or feet when present. Some national organizations, such as the American Ferret Association, have attempted to classify these variations in their showing standards.
There are four basic colors. The sable (including chocolate and dark brown), albino, dark eyed white (DEW) (also known as black eyed white or BEW), and the silver. All the other colors of a ferret are variations on one of these four categories.
Ferrets with a white stripe on their face or a fully white head, primarily blazes, badgers, and pandas, almost certainly carry a congenital defect which shares some similarities to Waardenburg syndrome. This causes, among other things, a cranial deformation in the womb which broadens the skull, white face markings, and also partial or total deafness. It is estimated as many as 75 percent of ferrets with these Waardenburg-like colorings are deaf.
White ferrets were favored in the Middle Ages for the ease in seeing them in thick undergrowth. Leonardo da Vinci's painting Lady with an Ermine is likely mislabelled; the animal is probably a ferret, not a stoat, (for which "ermine" is an alternative name for the animal in its white winter coat). Similarly, the ermine portrait of Queen Elizabeth the First shows her with her pet ferret, which has been decorated with painted-on heraldic ermine spots.
"The Ferreter's Tapestry" is a 15th-century tapestry from Burgundy, France, now part of the Burrell Collection housed in the Glasgow Museum and Art Galleries. It shows a group of peasants hunting rabbits with nets and white ferrets. This image was reproduced in Renaissance Dress in Italy 1400–1500, by Jacqueline Herald, Bell & Hyman.[a]
Gaston Phoebus' Book of the Hunt was written in approximately 1389 to explain how to hunt different kinds of animals, including how to use ferrets to hunt rabbits. Illustrations show how multicolored ferrets that were fitted with muzzles were used to chase rabbits out of their warrens and into waiting nets.
The exotic species listed below, except where otherwise noted, may not be held as pets in Georgia. [...] Carnivores (weasels, ferrets, foxes, cats, bears, wolves, etc.); all species. Note: European ferrets are legal as pets if neutered by 7 months old and vaccinated against rabies.
Badgers are short-legged omnivores in the families Mustelidae (which also includes the otters, polecats, weasels, and wolverines), and Mephitidae (which also includes the skunks). They are not a natural taxonomic grouping, but are united by possession of a squat body adapted for fossorial activity. All belong to the caniform suborder of carnivoran mammals. The 11 species of mustelid badgers are grouped in four subfamilies: Melinae (4 species, including the European badger), Helictidinae (5 species of ferret-badger), Mellivorinae (the honey badger or ratel), and Taxideinae (the American badger); the respective genera are Arctonyx, Meles, Melogale, Mellivora and Taxidea. Badgers include the most basal mustelids; the American badger is the most basal of all, followed successively by the ratel and Melinae; the estimated split dates are about 17.8, 15.5 and 14.8 million years ago, respectively. The two species of Asiatic stink badgers of the genus Mydaus were formerly included within Melinae (and thus Mustelidae), but more recent genetic evidence indicates these are actually members of the skunk family.Badger mandibular condyles connect to long cavities in their skulls, which gives resistance to jaw dislocation and increases their bite grip strength. This in turn limits jaw movement to hinging open and shut, or sliding from side to side, but it does not hamper the twisting movement possible for the jaws of most mammals.
Badgers have rather short, wide bodies, with short legs for digging. They have elongated, weasel-like heads with small ears. Their tails vary in length depending on species; the stink badger has a very short tail, while the ferret badger's tail can be 46–51 cm (18–20 in) long, depending on age. They have black faces with distinctive white markings, grey bodies with a light-coloured stripe from head to tail, and dark legs with light-coloured underbellies. They grow to around 90 cm (35 in) in length including tail.
The European badger is one of the largest; the American badger, the hog badger, and the honey badger are generally a little smaller and lighter. Stink badgers are smaller still, and ferret badgers smallest of all. They weigh around 9–11 kg (20–24 lb), with some Eurasian badgers around 18 kg (40 lb).Black-footed ferret
The black-footed ferret (Mustela nigripes), also known as the American polecat or prairie dog hunter, is a species of mustelid native to central North America. It is listed as endangered by the IUCN, because of its very small and restricted populations. First discovered by Audubon and Bachman in 1851, the species declined throughout the 20th century, primarily as a result of decreases in prairie dog populations and sylvatic plague. It was declared extinct in 1979 until Lucille Hogg's dog brought a dead black-footed ferret to her door in Meeteetse, Wyoming in 1981. That remnant population of a few dozen ferrets lasted there until the animals were considered extinct in the wild in 1987. However, a captive breeding program launched by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service resulted in its reintroduction into eight western states, Canada and Mexico from 1991 to 2009. There are now over 1,000 mature, wild-born individuals in the wild across 18 populations, with five self-sustaining populations in South Dakota (two), Arizona, Wyoming and Saskatchewan. It was first listed as "Endangered" in 1982, then listed as "Extinct in the Wild" in 1996 before being downgraded back to "Endangered" in 2008.The black-footed ferret is roughly the size of a mink, and differs from the European polecat by the greater contrast between its dark limbs and pale body and the shorter length of its black tail-tip. In contrast, differences between the black-footed ferret and the steppe polecat of Asia are slight, to the point where the two species were once thought to be conspecific. The only noticeable differences between the black-footed ferret and the steppe polecat are the former's much shorter and coarser fur, larger ears, and longer postmolar extension of the palate.It is largely nocturnal and solitary, except when breeding or raising litters. Up to 91% of its diet is composed of prairie dogs.Bornean ferret-badger
The Bornean ferret-badger (Melogale everetti), also known as Everett's ferret-badger or the Kinabalu ferret-badger, is a member of the family Mustelidae. The scientific name commemorates British colonial administrator and zoological collector Alfred Hart Everett.
It is nocturnal and mostly carnivorous but may eat some plants; with their diet including insects, snails, earthworms, lizards, small birds and rats (including carcasses) and fruit. Given its varied diet, it was recorded foraging in a small roadside dump site in 2003. The only known conservation measures are that it is protected by Sabah Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997 as "Melogale personata" and it occurs in Kinabalu Park.Burmese ferret-badger
The Burmese ferret-badger (Melogale personata), also known as the large-toothed ferret-badger, is a species of mammal in the family Mustelidae.Chinese ferret-badger
The Chinese ferret-badger (Melogale moschata), also known as the small-toothed ferret-badger is a member of the Mustelidae, and widely distributed in Southeast Asia. It is listed as Least Concern by IUCN and considered tolerant of modified habitat.Col Ferret
The Col Ferret (Petit Col Ferret) (el. 2490 m.) is an Alpine pass between the canton of Valais and the Aosta Valley. This pass separates the Mont Blanc Massif from the Pennine Alps.Dancing Ferret
The Dancing Ferret entertainment group is an unofficial collective name for Dancing Ferret Discs and Dancing Ferret Concerts. It was started by Patrick Rodgers (a.k.a. DJ Ferret) in 1995 with the formation of Dancing Ferret Concerts. The company markets bands from the gothic rock, heavy metal, alternative rock, neo-Medieval, trip hop, and industrial genres of music.
In July 2008, Dancing Ferret Discs made the decision to cease releasing new material on their label starting in November of that year. However, they stated that they would continue to distribute all of their previous releases. The label's last official new release was "Sverker" by Corvus Corax.European polecat
The European polecat (Mustela putorius) – also known as the common ferret, black or forest polecat, or fitch (as well as some other names) – is a species of mustelid native to western Eurasia and north Morocco. It is of a generally dark brown colour, with a pale underbelly and a dark mask across the face. Occasionally, colour mutations, including albinos and erythrists, occur. Compared to minks and other weasels – fellow members of the genus Mustela – the polecat has a shorter, more compact body; a more powerfully built skull and dentition; is less agile; and it is well known for having the characteristic ability to secrete a particularly foul-smelling liquid to mark its territory.
It is much less territorial than other mustelids, with animals of the same sex frequently sharing home ranges. Like other mustelids, the European polecat is polygamous, though pregnancy occurs directly after mating, with no induced ovulation. It usually gives birth in early summer to litters consisting of five to 10 kits, which become independent at the age of two to three months. The European polecat feeds on small rodents, birds, amphibians and reptiles. It occasionally cripples its prey by piercing its brain with its teeth and stores it, still living, in its burrow for future consumption.The European polecat originated in Western Europe during the Middle Pleistocene, with its closest living relatives being the steppe polecat, the black-footed ferret and the European mink. With the two former species, it can produce fertile offspring, though hybrids between it and the latter species tend to be sterile, and are distinguished from their parent species by their larger size and more valuable pelts.The European polecat is the sole ancestor of the ferret, which was domesticated more than 2000 years ago for the purpose of hunting vermin. The species has otherwise been historically viewed negatively by humans. In the British Isles especially, the polecat was persecuted by gamekeepers, and became synonymous with promiscuity in early English literature. During modern times, the polecat is still scantly represented in popular culture when compared to other rare British mammals, and misunderstandings of its behaviour still persist in some rural areas. As of 2008, it is classed by the IUCN as Least Concern due to its wide range and large numbers.Ferret-badger
Ferret-badgers are the five species of the genus Melogale, which is the only genus of the monotypic mustelid subfamily Helictidinae.
Bornean ferret-badger (Melogale everetti)
Chinese ferret-badger (Melogale moschata)
Javan ferret-badger (Melogale orientalis)
Burmese ferret-badger (Melogale personata)
Vietnam ferret-badger (Melogale cucphuongensis)Ferret Music
Ferret Music was an American independent record label, founded in 1996. The label is owned by NORA's vocalist, Carl Severson, and based in West Windsor Township, New Jersey. Ferret recently started an imprint called New Weathermen Records. Warner Music Group's Alternative Distribution Alliance acquired a stake in Ferret Music in August, 2006,
and as a result is currently distributed by Fontana Distribution, Alternative Distribution Alliance and eOne Music.
As of September 12, 2007, Ferret partnered with an uprising extreme metal and hardcore punk label out of the UK, Siege of Amida Records (S.O.A.R.). S.O.A.R will retain A&R responsibilities. In February 18, 2010 Carl Severson and his business partner at Ferret and ChannelZERO, Paul Conroy, announced their departure from the company to start Good Fight Entertainment, a management company with music and sports divisions along with a new record label. Ferret's official website was last updated in 2009, adding to speculation that the label is defunct. According to Scott Mellinger, lead guitarist for Zao, Ferret Records sold to Warner Music while Severson went on to start Good Fight.Ferret armoured car
The Ferret armoured car, also commonly called the Ferret scout car, is a British armoured fighting vehicle designed and built for reconnaissance purposes. The Ferret was produced between 1952 and 1971 by the UK company Daimler. It was widely adopted by regiments in the British Army, as well as the RAF Regiment and Commonwealth countries throughout the period.HMS Ferret (shore establishment 1940)
HMS Ferret was a shore establishment and naval base of the Royal Navy during the Second World War, located in Derry. It was given a ship's name as a stone frigate.Javan ferret-badger
The Javan ferret-badger (Melogale orientalis) is a mustelid endemic to Java and Bali, Indonesia. It is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List and occurs from at least 260 to 2,230 m (850 to 7,320 ft) elevation in or close to forested areas.Lège-Cap-Ferret
Lège-Cap-Ferret is a commune in the Gironde department in Nouvelle-Aquitaine in southwestern France. The commune stretches along the length of the Cap Ferret peninsula, from the village of Lège in the north to the point of Cap Ferret in the south.Mustelidae
The Mustelidae (; from Latin mustela, weasel) are a family of carnivorous mammals, including weasels, badgers, otters, ferrets, martens, mink, and wolverines, among others. Mustelids are diverse and the largest family in the order Carnivora, suborder Caniformia. Mustelidae comprises about 56-60 species across eight subfamilies.Val Ferret
Val Ferret is the name of the two separate valleys, departing from the Col Ferret on the border between Italy and Switzerland, on the southern and eastern sides of the Mont Blanc Massif. The Swiss valley drains northeastwards towards Orsières and on into the Rhône basin; whereas the Italian valley drains southwestwards towards Courmayeur and on into the Po basin.
The two valleys are connected by a mountain footpath through Col Ferret which forms part of the 170 kilometres (110 mi) circular Tour du Mont Blanc route. Access to Col Ferret is forbidden for private motor vehicles, on both sides.Vietnam ferret-badger
The Vietnam ferret-badger (Melogale cucphuongensis) is a member of the family Mustelidae native to Vietnam. It was described in 2011 and is known from only two specimens.Weasel
A weasel is a mammal of the genus Mustela of the family Mustelidae. The genus Mustela includes the least weasels, polecats, stoats, ferrets and minks. Members of this genus are small, active predators, with long and slender bodies and short legs. The family Mustelidae (which also includes badgers, otters, and wolverines) is often referred to as the "weasel family". In the UK, the term "weasel" usually refers to the smallest species, the least weasel (M. nivalis).Weasels vary in length from 173 to 217 mm (6.8 to 8.5 in), females being smaller than the males, and usually have red or brown upper coats and white bellies; some populations of some species moult to a wholly white coat in winter. They have long, slender bodies, which enable them to follow their prey into burrows. Their tails may be from 34 to 52 mm (1.3 to 2.0 in) long.Weasels feed on small mammals and have from time to time been considered vermin because some species took poultry from farms or rabbits from commercial warrens. They do, on the other hand, eat large numbers of rodents. They can be found all across the world except for Antarctica, Australia, and neighbouring islands.
Extant Carnivora species