Knowing the Difference Between Ferrets and Weasels

Ferrets and weasels are two different species but they came from the same family of Mustelidae and the same genus of Mastela.  Although ferrets and weasels belong to the same family and they look really similar, there are certain things that you need to know so you would be able to differentiate one when you see one.

Identifying these two animals is very important to avoid confusion and of course to know the behavior of these two species. This knowledge is important should you consider any of these species as pets.


ferrets lying on the grass

Photo: Tetting | Flickr


Identifying Ferrets vs Weasels

  • Ferrets legs are quite longer than a weasel’s legs. 
  • Ferrets have shorter tail while a weasel’s tail is relatively longer. 
  • Ferrets have longer body than the weasel but the shape and form are very similar.
  • Ferrets are usually brown to black in color, they also have mixed white species and pure white breeds (albino species). Weasels are normally brown in upper coat with pure white belly fur.
  • Ferrets love to be in companionship or in groups with other ferrets while weasels are more of a solitary animal. Weasels can be in group too sometimes but they have more tendencies of fighting with each other. They are mostly alone when they hunt for food.
  • Ferrets are sexually dimorphic. Identifying their sexuality is easier. A ferret’s gender can be determined by examining their genitals. This could be quite an effort though as ferrets, when active, could not stay in one place for a period of time. It would be best to observe them when they sleep. Moreover physical characteristics is also a factor in identifying their sexes. While in weasels, they all look similar which is very hard to identify.
  • Ferrets are more of a crepuscular to nocturnal animals while weasels are the opposite as they are normally active within the day to hunt for food and sleeps throughout the night.
  • Ferrets have been long domesticated (more than 2000 years). They are not as aggressive to humans and is a popular household pet because of their very entertaining personality. Although the two species share the same kind of predator instinct, weasels, on the other hand, are relatively wilder. It would be hard for a human to keep a weasel as pet especially the matured ones.
brown weasel standing

Photo: Minhaj | Flickr

  • Weasels are considered as pests in some places particularly in farms and poultries as these animals attack poultry animals and steal eggs and other livestock, whereas ferrets are considered as companion animals.
  • Weasels have longer snouts than ferrets.
  • Ferret experts can identify the difference between the two by just looking at them, particularly when their fur texture is compared. Ferrets have more fuzzy fur that weasels. Weasels fur is a bit shorter and thicker in strands while ferrets are fluffier and have thinner and a more velvety ends.
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By knowing these differences, you would be able to have the knowledge to identify these species. This is important in case you see a weasel or a ferret on the loose. Most probably, when you see a ferret wandering in your neighborhood, most likely it just escaped from its owner whereas when you see a weasel, it most likely got lost  from the wild.

It is also important that you know how to handle these animals to avoid getting injured. As to weasels, since they are most common in the wild, handling them is quite different because they can be very aggressive to humans. Moreover, some weasels could carry diseases like rabies or other infectious disease.

However, there are weasels that can also become pets especially if the pet owner is eager to tame their wild behavior and domesticate them to become gentle companions. Weasels, when acquired at such a young age has the more possibility to become pets rather than a weasel that are already matured.

Always bear in mind that even if animals could belong to the same species, they still have certain differences that we need to further look into not only for our safety but also to the safety of the animal itself. Always consult an expert about these animals and get the proper knowledge and safety precautions on how to handle them as well as how to care for them.

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