by JoAnne Woodward
Recently, I was asked to judge a ferret show. I had been away from shows for some time, as other commitments were more pressing. The day itself was enjoyable despite atrocious weather, but what struck me afterwards were comments to the effect that no one complained about the standard of judging or which ferret won. It is sad to think that many shows are blighted to be a haphazard and, at times, an entirely biased affair.
This started me thinking that possibly it is time some sort of standard was set for what judges should look for. Not only would this give competitors a better understanding of what judges want to see, it would also give judges some guidance in what to look for when judging.
I know that many people will think it impossible to set a standard for judging ferrets because they come in such a variety of shapes and sizes. In fact, part of the beauty of ferrets is this variety. Still there are certain points that are common to all ferrets:
These should be clear and bright, clean with no matter in the corners, they should be neither too small nor protrude too much.
There is no right size or shape for these, they should be open and free from any dirt or mite.
There should be no overbite or underbite, these should meet evenly, teeth should be clean and straight. If any teeth are missing, cracked, broken or discoloured, enquiry should be made into the animal's age.
Again, cleanliness is important, nails should not be too long and toes should be straight.
It is difficult to judge coats in summer when ferrets are shedding or have shed, still cleanliness is the important fact with clean skin as well as hair, the coat should be free from fleas and the skin free from ticks and mites.
Overall conformation means looking at the ferret for shape, ribs should be well sprung but not protruding, the spine should be straight. When set down, the ferret should stand up on its legs and move freely, the body should be extremely supple and flexible.
Ferrets should slim yet not skinny, it is fairly easy to spot a fat ferret and this is not desirable either, there should be a general air of health and vitality.
Some ferrets are more squirmy than others. Generally, ferrets should be curious and have a wish to investigate, all the same it should be possible to hold a ferret and examine it, the ferret should be happy for you to hold it and offer no direct threat to fingers or any other bit of bare skin. By looking at these common points, it is possible to compare one ferret to another on an equal basis.
Personally, I score each of these points out of five and add the score up to make a total score for each ferret. The ferret with the highest score wins the class and in the event of a tie, I bring each ferret back and look again. When choosing champions, I re-mark each class winner as if I am marking a separate class. In this way, hobs and jills can be equally marked against each other as can a small 'greyhound' type ferret against a larger cousin.
This is a system I use and it works well for me. In all fairness to both judges and competitors, I truly believe it is time a standard system of marking was introduced into ferret shows.