In defence of Mustelids

Ding, Kylie (KAM.RIC) Kylie.Ding at
Mon Jul 7 15:16:24 EDT 2003

> Not liking the Mustelidae in general (Badger and Otter 
> excepted) is a very
> reasonable thing for any country-dweller, anyhow, without any 
> stuff about
> them representing the working classes.  

Well maybe stoats and weasels but ferrets are a useful working animal.

They are smelly, vicious,
> unreasonable creatures with sharp teeth, in the main, and 
> have a reputation
> (which they absolutely deserve) for going into a mindless 
> killing frenzy
> when they have once shed blood and smelt it. 

Not the mustelids that I know and love.  They are fat, cuddly, lazy and cute.  But smelly.  I admit the smelly.  

Okay, so that's just the ferrets I have, but I have come across so much ignorance when it comes to ferrets that I'd bet stoats and weasels have been tarred with the same brush.  The David Attenborough documentary I saw on stoats made them out to be rather nice animals.  Of course if you just had one go through your chook yard you may not feel the same way...

The only portrayal of mustelids I have seen in literature stereotypes them in the ways that you have just listed.  Okay, so maybe the wild ones are killers, but they are carnivores, they have to eat.  Ferrets certainly don't deserve to be the villains every time.  Apparently the only mustelids that appear in Brian Jacques' Redwall series are stereotyped much as the Wind in the Willows ones are.  I guess if you are a writer and you need animal villains it is just easy to go with the stereotypes...

Oh, hang on, thought of an exception.  Robin Hobb does a heroic ferret and a pet stoat.  I wish there were a few more portrayals like that around!

> (I think I prefer the idea of a sudden shot and death to the 
> idea of slow
> death in a trap or having a ferret introduced into the warren 
> to slaughter
> the rabbits underground; 

This is another common misunderstanding about what ferrets do.  They aren't introduced to slaughter the rabbits, they are introduced to chase the rabbits out of the burrow.  If they kill and eat the rabbits you are left with nothing for the pot and a ferret that has a nice full tummy and has gone to sleep in very inaccessible underground place.

I'm not sure how the rabbits are actually killed as the only time I tried working my ferrets I wimped out and let the rabbits go.

Taking this on topic, it would be interested to see what DWJ did with ferrets in a book.  If she had all the facts on them :)



Has some pics of me and the mustelids in my life.  Cute, aren't they??

To unsubscribe, email dwj-request at with the body "unsubscribe".
Visit the archives at

More information about the Dwj mailing list