Basic Ferret Facts
Males (hobs) - average 3-5lbs, 17-24" length
Females (jills) - average 1-3lbs, 12-16" length
Average lifespan - 8-10 years, although 14 years has been recorded.
Ferrets are members of the Mustelidae family that also includes weasels, stoats, polecats, martens, mink, badgers, and otters. Ferrets are a domesticated species of polecat, originally intended for the control of vermin. They may have been kept by the Ancient Egyptians over 3000 years ago and were brought to Britain almost 2000 years ago by the Romans.
Like the other members of the Mustelid family, ferrets are lively, fun-loving creatures with a highly developed sense of curiosity. They are not the vicious, smelly creatures of music hall jokes; indeed, in America they are one of the most popular domestic pets.
They are gaining popularity in Britain, too, where many people are recognising the appeal and intelligence of these often maligned little animals. With responsible care and gently handling, ferrets can be excellent family pets and can live up to ten years or more.
Most people are familiar with the white albino ferret, but there are a number of other coat colours. True albino ferrets have pale coats ranging from pure white to almost primrose yellow but will always have red eyes. Less common are the dark eyed whites that are pale coated with black or dark blue or brown eyes.
Silver ferrets are pale coated with darker tips to each hair, giving a silvered, frosted appearance. Often with very dark eyes, they are striking ferrets and were once sought after for their attractive appearance, although they are now much less rare.
Polecat ferrets are not so called because they are bred from true polecats, but rather because they have the same markings as wild polecats. They have a dark mask across the eyes and dark coloured limbs and tail. The body colour may also be very dark, but can be just dark guard hairs over a light undercoat.
Silver-mitt ferrets are recognised by their white feet, although they can also have polecat markings. Some have white bibs or throat flashes; some may have pale face markings or a blaze like a badger.
Sandy ferrets can range from pale gold to deep red, sometimes carrying a polecat style mask.
At ferret Shows it is common for classes to be held for albinos and polecats, with other colourations being classed as 'coloured ferrets'.
Coat colour has little to do with character, personality or working ability. Some working ferreters do prefer albino or light coloured ferrets but this is likely to be only a matter of convenience since they are easier to see against the dark background of rabbit holes and hedgerows. Albino animals of all types are often said to be docile and gentle, although there is little evidence to support this. Sometimes, however, albinism is related to poor vision and/or hearing deficiency and this could explain the apparent docility of these animals. But, on the whole, coat colour is a matter of preference. A healthy ferret will be a lively, fun loving and affectionate companion whatever his/her colour.
Similarly, there is little difference between male ferrets (hobs) and female ferrets (jills) in temperament and character. Hobs can be twice as large as jills, and can seem lazier and more placid, whilst jills can be daintier little quicksilver creatures, but there is probably more variation between individuals than there is between the sexes.