Weasel vs. Ferret

Weasel and ferret are two confusing mammals, which are different from each other, but at the same time, they are closely related to each other.  They belong to the same scientific family, named Mustelidae. Weasels belong to one of ten species in the Mustelidae family, while ferrets are part of the subspecies within the polecat branch of the Mustelidae family.

Both animals are swift, have long tubular bodies but inevitably differ in size, behavior, habitat, reproduction, and diet. Apart from taxonomical classification, the other main difference between them is that around thousands of years ago, ferrets are domesticated for various purposes while weasels are non-domesticated animals.

There are many other notable differences between them that you can find out below:

Comparison Chart

Weasel Ferret
Origin Weasel comprises the majority of the Mustelidae family. Out of 17 species, they fall under the ten species of this family, which covers almost 50% of the total number of species belonging to this family. Due to this reason, often people call Mustelidae family as the family of the weasels The exact origin of a ferret is still confusing, and many experts debate to give precise information about the family tree of ferrets. However, many scientists and research studies state that the ferrets belong to a subspecies within the polecat branch of the Mustelidae family
Body Size They have long tubular bodies but not longer than the ferrets. They can grow up to 18 inches Ferrets are larger and can grow as long as 24 inches starting from nose till the tail
Tail The tail of a weasel can grow as long as their body and can grow up to 13 inches long Ferrets have a short tail that can grow up to 5 inches
Coat Color They have reddish-brown or completely brown topcoat with a white underbelly They have black-brown coats, white patch around the neck, white feet up to its ankle, and a solid color around one eye
Diet Weasels and ferrets both are carnivorous and love to eat meat. Weasels generally hunt and feed on small creatures like rats, mice, rabbits, snakes, birds, and insects Ferrets also eat all the small prey, but some wild ferrets are bloodthirsty and drink the blood of their prey
Habits Weasels are non-domesticated unsocial mammals and only interact during mating season The ferret was domesticated years ago, and now they are highly social creatures that offer companionship and can also be trained to do some tricks
Habitat Different types of weasels are found in various kinds of places. For example, mountain weasels are found in East Asia, African weasels are found in Africa, and tropical weasels are found in South America. Weasels are found in open areas, fields, woodland, roadsides, and farmlands Ferrets are usually kept as pets by farmers as they help to eradicate small rodents by killing them. Generally, they are kept in cages, but they roam around during the day outside of their cages
Temperament Weasels are well-known for their bad temperament. It is illegal to keep them as household pets. They are dangerous for the other pets, living beings, and even for the humans Ferrets have been kept as a household pet for over thousands of years as they are very friendly and do not pose any threat to the owner. They are naturally mischief and possesses a very entertaining personality
Hunt Weasels hunt and kill their prey during the day. They are also known as killing machines as they kill their prey even when their belly is full. They have a bloodthirsty nature and fast metabolism, which urges them to go for a hunt drive. Their hunting nature is quite different from ferrets. They immobilize the prey by wrapping around their body and biting the back of its head Wild ferrets, on the other hand, are nocturnal and spend their night by roaming around to catch their prey. They do not wrap around their prey and like to play with them before eating them
Offspring Both weasel and ferret give birth to babies, and their offspring are called kits. However, the number of kits, the duration of gestation, and sexual maturity are not similar. Weasels can give birth to 1 – 2 litters which contain 5 – 6 babies every year Ferrets give birth to 1 – 6 kits after a period of 35 – 45 days

What is Weasel?

A weasel is a small mammal with cute little faces and long slender body that belongs to the Mustelidae family of the Mustela genus. They may look cute and lovable, but they are also bloodthirsty and are well-known as killing machines.

There is a strange fact for weasels, even when they are full, a weasel can kill their prey. The reason for their blood lust nature is the super-fast metabolism and need to kill and eat about 40 – 60% of their body weight every day.

Weasels are usually brown, black, or grey with a white or yellowish underbelly. They become all white in winter though their fur glows a bright lavender color when exposed to ultraviolet light. Weasels come in a variety of sizes, but the most noteworthy is the least weasel that is the smallest carnivore in the world and weighs about 1 ounce and can grow up to 4 – 10 inches long.

Weasels are adaptable and can live in all over the world except Australia and Antarctica. For example, the long-tailed weasels are commonly seen in North America while the tropical weasels live in South America. Mountain weasels are found in east and central Asia while Japanese weasels are found in forests, villages, grasslands, and suburbs across Japan. They live in an extensive range of habitats such as coniferous forests, woodlands, farmlands, roadsides, and meadows.

They are fierce hunters and their diet mainly consists of rabbits, rats, lizards, hares, squirrels, frogs, birds, insects, and rodents. Weasels have a unique skill of hunting; they first intimidate their prey by hopping and dancing back and forth before killing them. They then hold tight on the prey’s neck and bite until the prey is dead.

What is Ferret?

The name ferret is the Latin word furittus, meaning “little thief”. This name refers to the common habit of a ferret that is secreting away small items.

Ferrets belong to the weasel family known as Mustelidae, which also includes polecats, ermines, and stoats. It is a small furry carnivore with a cone-shaped nose, long pear-shaped body with short legs, long claws, and long tail.

They domesticated about 2,500 years ago. Historically, ferrets were used for hunting rabbits and rodents. Their lean bodies and curious nature make ferrets naturals at getting down holes to chase rodents and rabbits out of burrows.  The domestic ferret can be seen in a variety of fur colors, including dark-eyed white, sable, black sable, silver, albino, cinnamon and chocolate. Black-footed ferrets are not nearly as colorful and are a pale color with white foreheads, muzzles and throats and black feet.

Ferrets are about the size and shape of zucchini and usually weigh around 1 to 5.5 lbs and have a head and body length of 8 to 18 inches. Their tails measure half their body length and range from 2.8 to 7.5 inches.

Domesticated ferrets commonly live in cages, but need at least two to three hours per day to run outside of their cages. They can also thrive in temperatures that are between 50 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Ferrets are carnivores, which mean they can eat only meat and mainly hunt small mammals, such as, rabbits, prairie dogs, possums, hedgehogs, and rodents.

Ferrets supplement their diet with amphibians, birds, bird eggs, fish, reptiles, invertebrates and carrion and usually eat between 1.8 to 2.4 ounces of meat per day.

A domesticated ferret typically eats factory-made chow. A healthy diet for pet ferrets consists of 35 percent protein, around 20 percent fats and is low in carbohydrates.

Key Differences

  1. Out of seventeen species of the genus Mustela ten species are classified as weasels while ferrets are the subspecies of polecats.
  2. Weasels are wild, non-domesticated, and bloodthirsty mammals while ferrets have been domesticated from around 2000 years ago.
  3. Weasels have long tubular bodies that measure in between 6 – 8 inches while ferrets can grow as long as 24 inches.
  4. Weasels may have a shorter body but their tail can be as long as their size of the body and can grow up to 13 inches long while ferrets have a short tail and can grow only up to 5 inches.
  5. Different types of weasels are found in different types of places. For example, mountain weasels are found in East Asia, African weasels are found in Africa, and tropical weasels are found in South America. Weasels are found in open areas, fields, woodland, roadsides, and farmlands while ferrets are usually kept as pets by farmers as they help to eradicate small rodents by killing them. Often, they are kept in cages, but they roam around during the day outside of their cages

Comparison Video


Weasels and ferrets belong to the same scientific family, Mustelidae, but their physical appearance, diet, temperament, and hunting behaviour are different.

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