While your furry little love bug scurries around at your feet, you may only think of him as the wonderful, playful companion that he is. But there is a long history with ferrets that is quite interesting to look into – that is, if you can stop playing with your pet long enough to read this article.
Although there were references to an animal resembling a ferret as far back as 450 BC, whether or not those animals really were ferrets is unclear because the references did not include a detailed description of the animal. It wasn’t until sometime between 63 BC and 24 AD that more references of the ferret would be made. This occurred during a time when rabbits were overpopulating in the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean. The ravenous creatures were eating the crops to the point of causing a famine on the island. The animal that was brought in to chase pesky little rabbits out of their holes and into the hunter’s snare was one that exhibited the behaviors of a ferret. In fact, most of the early references to ferrets had to do with rabbits, as the animal was seemingly commonly used as a hunter. This makes perfect sense, since the ferret is closely related to the Mongoose, another great hunter.
What is so interesting about the ferret’s humble beginnings is that no one is really sure about the country of origin for this mischievous creature. Some believe they got their start in the Mediterranean, but because there is no solid evidence pointing to any one area, nothing has been proven. Also unclear is exactly how the ferret made its way to Europe. However, it does show that they were there in the early 1200s. The first references to ferrets in England were in 1223. In 1281, a member of the Royal Court kept a ferret companion.
The domesticated ferret quickly made its way through European countries, hot on the heels of wherever rabbits made a showing. Historically, our pal the ferret served as an elite member of the animal hunting population. Often, ferrets were used in conjunction with hawks for hunting purposes. The two worked side by side towards the end goal of catching their prey. The ferret would be released into the brush where it would scare out game into the open where the hawk would scoop it up and return the game to their master.
By the 1800s, the arrival of the domesticated cat pushed the ferret as hunter to the back of the bus. However, these sweet animals were still revered as household pets, even sitting with their owners for portrait paintings throughout that era. Modern day has seen ferrets serve as loving companion, movie star, and unfortunately even the components of a lovely fur coat. Luckily, the practice of making fur coats from ferret fur ended years ago, and the animal enjoys a time in history where they get to live in the lap of luxury that their loving owner provides for them.