The Ferret

II.–CHARACTER AND APPEARANCE.

 

Every individual ferret has a character and distinct look of its own,

although there are some ugly, scarred, and bony specimens with game legs

and glass eyes, still the ferret, when in good condition, is a pretty

little animal, with soft fur and kittenish ways, and can be handled and

fondled after you have become mutually acquainted, the same as a cat. It

can never be made as trustworthy as a dog, because it does not possess

as much intelligence. The general colors are white, yellow, and a

mixture of black, brown, gray, and tan, varied with gray and white

patches over and under the neck and body. _The tint runs according to

the predominance of either mink, marten, fitch, or polecat blood._ The

ferret is essentially a _useful_ animal, and is not valued for its good

looks, but the purely colored, pink-eyed, white ferret, with its plump

form and beautiful, glossy coat of a creamy shade, does certainly not

present an ungainly appearance. The dark ones are a sprightly company,

too, with their friendly, sparkling black eyes and social nature. There

is no standard size–there are large and small breeds, the age having

nothing to do with its inches. Some ferrets never get to be bigger than

a size beyond a dock rat, while I have had others as large as a full

grown cat. There are ferrets more valuable as hunters than others on

account of their wiry forms, their age, experience, and intelligence. I

have small, homely ferrets, which persons not understanding ferret

peculiarities would pick out as the most miserable and stupid of a lot,

but which in reality are choice hunting stock. There is no preference

for small or large ferrets, as they are both good for different

purposes. Ferrets are cleanly animals both in appearance and in their

habits. Their jumping and climbing powers are limited. There is a

curious thing about the ferret that reminds us of its kinsmanship with

the gentle-tempered skunk, for _when it is teased or aggravated_

(showing this also by bristling up the hair of its tail) it emits a

pungent odor from a gland it has underneath the tail. This only happens

in extreme cases, otherwise it is peaceful enough except toward its

natural prey. _Different lots of ferrets, strangers to each other, will

not agree, and should not be put together, as there is a risk of a

deadly battle._ It is a pleasant enough thing to watch a number of

healthy ferrets at their antics. On the writer’s breeding grounds, where

the pens are always kept neatly painted and the sawdust carefully

leveled on the floor, making it look like a lawn in yellow, they

generally huddle up in a snug heap, presenting a confused jumble of

heads, tails, blinking eyes, and indistinguishable masses of fur. This

is during the daytime, after they have been fed. Toward dusk, or when

they are hungry again, they disentangle themselves from the bunch, one

by one, and after they have properly yawned and stretched themselves

they are very lively. They frisk and gambol about like lambs in a

pasture, without the odd, long-legged appearance of the lamb, but they

make up for this by humping up their backs like small dromedaries. They

get to tumbling over one another in a comic, clown-like way, they run,

galop, trot, and hop, and sit erect on their haunches. This latter

action they perform in expectation of a mouse, a special delicacy with

them, though but a mouthful, from the keepers leaning over the pens

above. Upon the whole they seem to be enjoying life immensely,

presenting quite a study of animal contentment and happiness.

 


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