The Ferrets Behavior
Characteristics and Domestication

Whether you own ferrets as pets or as working animals, it’s important you understand them. Despite their size they are fairly complex.


With an average length of 15 inches (20 inducing the tail) and  weighing from one and a half pounds all the way up to 4 pounds, the ferret is a relatively small mammal. The male is normally much larger then the female and is the dominant sex. Thirty-six teeth are used to feed the carnivore (survive solely off meat, bones, fur etc) and are also its main defensive and offensive weapon. The fur can be yellow or a mixture of brown, black, white and other tones.


One of the biggest misunderstanding is the correct name for each gender. Males are called hobs. Females are called jills. It is common that males are called bucks and females are called does, these are the gender names for rabbits. The babies (under one year old) are called Kits. A group is called a business. And if you want really annoy people with your knowledge, a vasectomised male is a hoblet and a neutered male is know as a gib.

If the ferret has yellow fur and blood red eyes is know as a albino. If they have a mixture of fur they are commonly called polecats. This isn’t strictly true, as they are a hybrid and aren’t ‘true’ polecats but are a Descendant of them. You can also find silver backs, who have a shiny streak of fur on there shoulders and back.

Behaviour and Activity

Although playful and social, they will normally spend 14 to 18 hours a day sleeping. When awake they buzz with energy and will find great pleasure in exercise. When you match this with their naturally curiosity it’s easy to understand why they make such great hunters.

You might be lucky enough to see “The Weasel war dance”. Its a lot like drunken dancing, as the excited animal arches its back and opens it jaw wide before jumping from side to side. Some dances will include brief eye contact between frantic head movements. This is used to signal “I want to play” and some believe it is also to temp a mating partner.

When agitated, it’s likely to see a stiff back and a lowered head. Just like a dog. Hissing is also a clear sign of distress and will normally mean you should keep your fingers well away.

Have you ever wondered what the strong spell that ferrets give off is? A scent gland near the tail end is used for scent marking. This smell is used to recognize individuals and define gender. Its also common for urine markings to take place for the same reasons. And as a warning, they may dispel this scent if frightened.


Although we know our little friends are descendants from polecats, we are not sure which. It could be the steppe polecat or the European polecat, possibility a mix of the two. DNA testing suggests that selective breeding to domesticate started about 500 years BC. We do know that Romans were most likely to be the first who went ferreting, but many paintings and documents suggest that Egyptians had weasel-like pets. These pets are unlikely to be polecats or their descendants as no mummified remains or hieroglyphs are known.

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