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Today's animal will probably be a familiar one, as they have become very popular pets in the last 30 or so years. But did you know that Ferret domestication goes back much, much further than a few decades? Through mitochondrial DNA testing, we know that Ferrets were domesticated from either the European Polecat or the Steppe Polecat (or a hybrid of the two) somewhere between 2,000 and 2,500 years ago!

The first domesticated Ferrets were used specifically for the hunting and capture of other small animals, and the name "Ferret" itself derives from the Latin word furonem-- "Thief". Wild Ferret relatives (like the aforementioned Polecats) are naturally good at moving their lean bodies through underground tunnels and burrows, flushing out prey like Rabbits and Moles. Domesticated Ferrets have the same skill set, and for hundreds of years were used to hunt small mammals and control rodent populations.

Ferret hunting does still exist in some areas, but it is much more controlled that it was previously (so as not to completely imbalance the rodent and rabbit populations). They are now kept as house pets, and are also common lab animals that have been used extensively in bio-medical research. Ferrets and humans share many metabolic and physiological features, which makes them ideal for studies dealing with (among others) heart disease, nutrition, and respiratory illness.

Did you know what Ferrets are one of the most popular pets in North America? However, they aren't for everyone! Ferrets are very active critters with big personalities and curious natures. They do best when allowed to roam outside of a cage, and also prefer to live in groups.

They are demanding pets that require attention and a large degree of maintenance to keep happy and healthy. For example, they have very quick metabolisms and have to eat roughly every four hours. They also require yearly medical checkups and vaccinations, and should be spayed or neutered. De-scenting is also a common medical procedure, as Ferrets naturally have anal musk glands that are used for mating and defensive purposes. If you can handle the Ferret lifestyle, they make for very interesting and engagement pets that can live as long as ten years.

Status : Domesticated
Location : Originated in Europe
Size : Length up to 20in (51cm)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Mammalia -- Order : Carnivora
Family : Mustelidae -- Genus : Mustela -- Species : M. putorius -- Subspecies : M. p. furo


  1. I love ferrets so much! My cousins had one once and he would always by running around the living room and sleep under the couches sometimes. He was also a really great swimmer. :)

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