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What Are the Different Ferret Breeds?

By Sarah R. LaVergne
Updated Mar 05, 2024
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Three different ferret breeds are European, Siberian and domestic. All three ferret breeds have the same general body description. A ferret has soft fur that covers a long, slender body. Short legs with unretractable claws, a flexible spine and a long, thick neck are also common body descriptions. The fur on the body of a ferret grows vertically. All ferret breeds have a set of musk glands which sends out a strong, sometimes repulsive, odor.

European ferrets are typically found in Western and Central Europe and parts of Asia. This first type of the ferret breed lives in large groups in forests and meadows. They are considered carnivores, so they will usually feed on rodents, ground squirrels and any other animal they can overpower. The life span of a European ferret is approximately five to eight years.

At just 14-18 inches (35.56-45.72 cm) in length and weighing two to four pounds (0.91-1.81 kg ), the European can ferret seem small in stature. Outer fur is brown to dark brown in color while the undercoat is a creamy buff tone. A white, creamy, yellowish patch is usually found around the mouth and nose area with a dark brown tip on the nose.

As the name suggests, Siberian ferrets are commonly found in Siberia, but can also live in China and Russia. Siberian ferret breeds live in grasslands and arid regions. Mostly carnivorous by nature, their diet consists of possums, rabbits, eggs and birds. A Siberian ferret can generally expect a natural lifespan of five to eight years. Like the European ferret, Siberians are approximately 14-18 inches (35.56-45.72 cm) in length and can weigh anywhere from two to four pounds (0.91-1.81 kg ).

Physical appearance is almost the same as the European ferret. One difference in appearance between Siberian ferrets and European ferrets is that the head and back area are generally completely white. The skull of a Siberian ferret appears heavier than that of the European ferret.

Domestic ferrets are bred by private and commercial breeders. Instead of living in the wild, these ferrets are bred as pets or hunters, so they usually live with humans. Unlike the European and Siberian breeds, domestics are mostly fed ferret food that can be purchased at a veterinarian's office or even a pet store. Seven to 10 years is the average lifespan of a domestic ferret, but it is possible for the ferret to live to an age of 14 years.

Physical descriptions of domestic ferrets differ due to crossbreeding. An adult male can grow to a length of 15.1-25.6 inches (38.4-65 cm) and weigh 1-1.55 pounds (0.5-0.7 kg), sometimes making them smaller than females. On the other hand an adult female can grow to a length of 10.9-20.7 inches (27.7-53.6 cm) and weigh in at .45-2.25 pounds (0.2-1 kg).

The appearance of the domestic ferret is based upon five characteristics: zone and color of nose, outer fur, undercoat, bandit mask and eye color. When these characteristics mix, three basic colors of domestic ferrets are created: dark, sable and albino. Up to 30 different combinations of colors under sable have been recorded including champagne, silver and chocolate.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many ferret breeds are there?

While ferrets are often referred to in terms of "breeds," the term is somewhat misleading. Unlike dogs or cats, ferrets are typically classified by their coloration and coat patterns rather than distinct breeds. There are several recognized color variations, including sable, albino, cinnamon, and chocolate, among others, each with unique markings and characteristics.

What is the most common ferret color?

The sable ferret, with its typical dark brown coat and mask-like facial coloring, is the most common and recognizable ferret coloration. This classic look is what many people envision when they think of ferrets, and it's a prevalent choice for pet owners.

Are there any rare ferret colors?

Some ferret colors are less common and considered rare, such as the black sable and the blaze pattern, which features a white stripe on the head. The panda pattern, characterized by a white head with dark eyes like a panda bear, is also quite rare and sought after by enthusiasts.

Do different ferret colors have different temperaments?

There is a common misconception that a ferret's color can determine its temperament. However, temperament is not linked to coloration but rather to individual personality, upbringing, and genetics. All ferrets, regardless of color, can be playful, curious, and affectionate with proper socialization and care.

Can you predict a ferret's adult coloration when it's a kit?

While you can get a general idea of a ferret's adult coloration when it's a kit, ferrets can go through a color change as they mature. For example, some kits may darken or lighten with age, and seasonal changes can also affect the richness and pattern of their coats.

Is there a difference in care requirements for different ferret colors?

Care requirements for ferrets are consistent across all color variations. They all need a balanced diet, regular grooming, vaccinations, and preventive medical care. It's important to provide them with a stimulating environment and plenty of opportunities for exercise and play, regardless of their color or pattern.

AllThingsNature is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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