What You Though You Knew About Ferrets But Didn’t
Contrary to unpopular beliefs, domestic ferrets have been “a useful member of the human household for a few thousand years. They have reached true companion animal status and are appreciated throughout much of the world. “
Source of Domesticated Ferrets
Ferrets are members of the family Mustelidae “which includes weasels, minks, otters, skunks, ermines, fishers and many others. Their closest relative is the European polecat (Mustela putorios putorius). “ The domestic ferret is scientifically known as Mustela putorius furo. The endangered Black Footed Ferret (Mustela nigripes) is a distant cousin of the domestic ferret even if they almost look alike.
They come in a variety of colors and patterns. The albino is the most original color. Others include “sable (with raccoon-like mask), chocolate (brown), silver (white with sprinkling of black hair and black eyes), and cinnamon. Patterns are mitts (white feet), panda (white head), badger (white blaze) and Siamese (dark legs and tail).”
But where do the domestic ferrets come from? Studies have been done such as “comparing skulls structure, coat color and behavior in all three species even with little archaeological evidence. Many researchers believe it originated from Northern Africa then spread to Europe with Roman and/or Norman invasions.”
How long have ferrets been domesticated?
A domesticated animal is defined as “one that has been tamed for man’s use and which has been accustomed to home life.” Because there is no enough evidence regarding the ferret’s relationship to humankind, the argument of when the ferrets were first domesticated is still unresolved.
According to Dr. Freddie Hoffman, “Man’s use of the ferret as a hunter of rodents and rabbits can be traced back as far as the 4th century B.C.” Bob Church said, “Historical documents from Greece mention the ferret about 450 B.C., and Roman documents mention the use of ferrets to hunt rabbits at about the time of Christ, but these were already domesticated animals.”
Coming to America
Ferrets were first introduced to America by “the first English settlers during the 16th and 17th centuries.” They were used to keep the rat and mouse populations in ships under control. With that, the popularity of ferrets began. Europeans breed them for the fur in 1800s and in the US in 1900s. In 1915, a town was even named “Ferretville”. In the mid-20th century, ferrets were “readily embraced as companion animals by Americans and this continues to be the role of the ferret in the US today.
The Modern Ferret
At present, aside from being used as a companion animal, ferrets are also used as working animals, in sporting events and shows. In industrial applications, it is also used in biomedical and medical research. They have also been widely featured in television and film, literature and modern games.
Ferrets may be subject to a range of laws regulating the ownership of exotic animals. Major places allow ferrets to become pets but there are some exceptions like New York City and California. Future ferret owners are encouraged to check their local regulations before buying one.
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