The ferret was domesticated over 2 millennia ago, especially spotted for its ability to hunt rodents. Today it has become the third pet after dogs and cats. Taking an interest in the different varieties and colors of the ferret also means getting to know this animal better, and being able to look at it closely to appreciate its beauty. We give you here key elements to find your way around the different designations.
Designations difficult to make
For dogs and cats, there are beauty contests and therefore nomenclatures on which the observation of coat colors can be based. While there is nothing very specific for the ferret, there are patterns that repeat themselves. But the names of colors remain subjective and vary according to the authors.
To designate the variety of a ferret, there are usually different elements:
- the color of the hair, eyes and nose,
- hair distribution,
- the length of the hairs.
Around the eyes, the hairs may be a different color from the hairs covering the head. This is called the “mask”.
The color of the ferret
Three terms are used to designate the color of ferret hair:
- albino (white),
- sable (between brown and black),
- And champagne (between blond and red).
Between each of them, there are all kinds of shades, depending on whether the hair tends more or less towards a shade, or if it is more or less diluted. The color of the eyes and the nose is also taken into account and can vary the way the animal is designated.
The albino color is due to a genetic mutation that limits the production of melanin and therefore pigmentation. This absence of pigmentation extends to all the body. When the ferret is albino, not only is its hair white, but its eyes are red and its nose is pink. When the animal is not well washed, the sebum of the skin gives a yellow orange appearance to the logically white coat.
The sable color is the one that most closely resembles the color of the wild polecat from which the ferret comes. The ferret’s guard coat is between brown and black, its nose can be pink, black or mottled, and its eyes are black. When the coat is brown, the ferret is sable. When the coat is black, the ferret is said to be “sable sable”, “dark sable” or “black”.
When the ferret is champagne colored, the guard hair is between yellow and beige. The nose is pink and the eyes are black or dark purple.
Among the most common shades you will find the terms chocolate and cinnamon.
The distribution of ferret hair
There are four main hair distributions.
The distribution of hairs which most closely resembles that of the wild polecat is called “standard”. The coat on the body is paler than that on the tail and legs. The mask is often marked and full.
The so-called “full” ferret has a hair color distributed evenly over the entire body, tail and legs. The mask is discreet.
The “Siamese” or “polecat” ferret has, like the standard, a lighter body color than that of the legs and tail. But the mask is not necessarily present and the head may be light and the lower back may be darker.
Finally, the roan ferret has a mixed coat where white hairs, which are not those of the undercoat, mix with colored hairs. We must distinguish this pattern from the bleaching of hair due to age.
Marking designates white color features, distinct from the base color.
- white feet (the ferret is said to be “Mitts”),
- a white bib on the chest (the ferret is called “bib”),
- the presence of the feet and the white bib (the ferret is said to be “harlequin),
- a thin white flame on the head, in addition to the white legs and bib (the ferret is said to be a “flame harlequin”),
- a large white band on the skull, in addition to the white legs and flank (the ferret is called a “burger”),
- finally the head is completely white, in addition to the end of the legs white (the ferret is said to be “panda”).
The length of the ferret’s hair
Ferrets are short-haired, with the exception of Angora ferrets. These, like cats, rabbits, and Angora guinea pigs, have long hair. These ferrets were obtained by selection in Swedish farms. All colors exist.
The angora ferret cannot be identified by the length of its hair alone. It also has a bifid truffle. It is a little more voluminous because of an extra skin. In some individuals, it appears to be deformed. On the other hand, while the truffles of other ferrets are free from it, it can be covered with hair. These ferrets are more prone to respiratory problems than others.
Many possible variations in ferrets
We have given you some guidelines to better understand the beautiful variety of coats in ferrets. But we advise you not to choose your animal on too rigorous criteria, at the risk of being disappointed.
First, the animal’s coat varies between summer and winter because it consists of two parts:
- a very fine white, cream or gray undercoat,
- and a guard hair, longer than the undercoat, and colored.
And in summer, the undercoat becomes thinner, which darkens the perception of the guard coat.
Second, a ferret’s color can vary as it ages, with the seasons, during molting, or after neutering.
So stay flexible and learn to love your ferret as he is!