The ferret (Mustela putorius furo) is the domesticated form of the European polecat, a mammal belonging to the same genus as the weasel, Mustela of the family Mustelidae. They typically have brown, black, white, or mixed fur. 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.
Several other Mustelids also have the word ferret in their common names, including an endangered species, the black-footed ferret.
The history of the ferret’s domestication is uncertain, like that of most other domestic animals, but it is likely that ferrets 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, some parts of the world have imposed restrictions on the keeping of ferrets.
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 ictisoccurs 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.
“There was a word for what he was that nice people didn’t say except in the dirtiest jokes. He knew. Always had. There was no need for more of him. His life was a gross testament to cowardice and repugnance.”
Sam Tallent’s Half Hour Prophecy Ep. 43: Ferret Sweats
Sam Tallent is a comedian and writer from Denver, Colorado. He lives in Las Vegas, Nevada with his wife and dog. His interests include Southern Gothic fiction and the “death” of Elvis Presley. He enjoys slow simmered suppers and writing in the third person.
Audio Mixing by Wally Wallace
A Sexpot Comedy Production