The Countryman's Weekly


June 03
07:10 2020

Simple solutions to ‘smelly season’

By James McKay.

AS any ferret keeper will know all too well, it’s that time of year – breeding season. Or should that be ‘smelly season’?

Ferrets are photoperiodic (their oestrus cycle/heat is linked to the ratio of daylight to dark) and as spring approaches the jills will ‘come in season’, and so will the hobs. And both sexes will have just one thing one their mind – mating.

A prerequisite for such activities is, of course, a mate, and both sexes will do everything they can to attract a member of the opposite sex. In a very similar fashion to humans looking to attract a partner, ferrets use pheromones – smells.

We use perfumes and aftershave to help make us attractive, but ferrets produce their own aroma – eau de furet – from musk. Interestingly, many perfumes contain musk to help humans attract a mate, although most modern perfumes contain synthetic muscone or other musk-like synthetic materials. Some ultra-high-end perfumes, however, still use real musk.

It is from this musk ferrets get their Latin or specific name – Mustela putorius furo – thieving smelly weasel (putorius is the Latin root for putrid). The musk is produced by subcutaneous glands around the ferret’s body, particularly around the face. Anal scent glands are used to put musk on faeces to mark the ferret’s territory, but otherwise have no real effect on the overall smell of the animal.


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