The Ferret



Ferrets are extensively used to drive out rabbits from their holes,

although the laws are very stringent against this sport. For this

purpose they are generally muzzled, which is a cruel and unnecessary

practice. All that is required of the ferret is to drive and scare

out–the rabbit being then caught or shot. A bell around the ferret’s

neck will scare off the rabbit immediately, because the ferret is slow,

and the rabbit will hear him coming from a distance. A properly trained

and handled ferret needs no harness of any kind. Never muzzle a ferret

for rats, as he may be savagely attacked where the rats are thick, and

then be unable to defend himself. Ferrets are muzzled by tying their

jaws, so that they can not bite, with waxed cords, etc. There are also

muzzles like those made for dogs, only fitted to the ferret’s size.


A writer in a certain New York paper has put the ferrets to a peculiar

use, on account of their flexible bodies. The following is quoted from a

supposititious interview with the present writer: “A gentleman purchased

a ferret, and became greatly attached to it. To show me how well he had

trained him since the purchase, he called Pet (as he had dubbed him) to

his side, and, dropping his pencil behind a large immovable desk, where

it would be almost impossible to get it again, he merely said, “Get it!”

In an instant the ferret was off, and soon back again with the pencil in

his mouth. The gentleman said that he had been of great service to him

in that way, and he recommended them to all old ladies who are in the

habit of losing thimbles and spectacles in out-of-the-way nooks and

holes.” We can not help remarking, that this certainly imputes a trifle

too much intelligence to the animal.


There seems to be a curious superstition regarding the ferret amongst

the lower classes of people from England, Ireland, and Scotland, to the

effect that the ferret possesses healing properties. I have numbers of

people come to me with pans of milk, part of which they want the ferrets

to lap up, reserving the other half for medicine. They firmly believe

this an infallible cure for whooping-cough in children. On some days so

many people come for this purpose, with milk in all sorts of vessels,

that the ferrets would certainly have burst their buttons, if they had

any, in trying to do justice to all of it. The people wait their turn

patiently, and come any day I appoint to have the ferrets drink some of

the milk. I have heard many miraculous accounts from them of Mrs.

So-and-so’s baby who was down “that sick” with the whooping-cough, and

the “doctors givin’ her up, and she comin’ to directly by a drop o’ the

milk the blessed little craythurs had been lappin’ at; and it’s the only

rale rimedy yer can put intire faith in.”


The following is an extract from a Kansas newspaper: “An old Englishman

is now traveling through the country with two pair of ferrets, with

which he is making money by killing prairie-dogs. He has his pets in a

wire cage, and, going to a ranch where there are indications of

prairie-dogs, he offers to clean out the dog-town for 1 cent per dog.

The price appears so very small, that the ranchman does not hesitate to

accept the offer. One ferret will clean out from twenty to fifty dogs

before he tires out, or, rather, before he gets so full of blood of his

victims that he can’t work well. When one is tired out, a fresh one is

put into service; and so on until the town is rid of dogs.”




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