Monday, June 22, 2009

Domestication of Mustela purtorius furo

The family of Mustelidae consists of animals that have a musky scent. These include otters, minks, weasels, polecats, martens, badgers, wolverines, and used to include skunks until DNA testing put them in a different family the Mephitedae.    


  It is believed that the domestic ferret has been domesticated for over 2000 years and is a descendant of the Western European polecat and came from Libya where they bred them to hunt rabbits. It is unclear of how the domestic ferret ended up in England but wherever rabbits were introduced, the ferret wasn’t far behind.

     The domestic ferret was introduced to the United States in 1875 as a form of rodent control. Ferrets were often used on ships to keep the rat and mouse populations down. The USDA promoted the use of ferrets as rodent control until chemical rodenticides were developed then the practice died out. Hunting with ferrets was made illegal in most states in the Twentieth century and ferret fur farms never took hold in the United States.

     In the mid twentieth century saw the ferrets embraced as companion animals and are ranked as the third most popular pet to own. First and second are the dog and cat. Ferrets have held a number of jobs from hunting to running telephone and electrical line.

     Large scale of breeding facilities can produce healthy ferrets in large numbers is the reason ferrets are used in Biomedical research. One of the first uses was with the study of the human influenza virus, because of their susceptibility to it. Ferrets are also used in the study of virology, toxicology, pharmacology, reproductive physiology, endocrinology, physiology, teratology, and anatomy.

These studies have helped us get a better understanding of the ferrets anatomy, physiology, and ferret disease. It is these same facilities that also produce the pet ferrets.


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