Difference Between Weasel and Ferret

Weasel vs Ferret

These are much-related animals in many aspects; therefore, it could lead to confusion if someone wants to observe the differences between them. Because of the close relationship between these two interesting animals, the distinctions are important to consider. This article aims to address those differences between weasels and ferrets.


Weasels are mammals of the Family: Mustelidae, and they include some species of the Genus: Mastela. There are 17 species described under this genus, but only ten of them being called as weasels. They are small animals with long and slender bodies that measure between 12 and 45 centimetres from nose to the base of tail. Weasel legs are very small, but their tails are very long and can measure up to 33 centimetres. Their upper coat is brown while the belly is mostly white. Weasels are predators and their long slender body helps them to go into the hiding burrows of prey animals. They have a wide distribution throughout the world except unique Australia and Antarctica. Weasels are solitary animals but sometimes live in communal groups. They usually inhabit wooded areas, but not common in thick and dense forests. However, they do not have a good reputation among farmers, as weasels are not domesticated and notorious for stealing poultry and eggs.


Ferret is a domesticated mammal belongs to the same genus as weasels, Mustela putorius furo. However, it is not a completely solved query that whether ferrets are a domesticated form of Steppe polecat or European polecat. They became domesticated around 2,500 years ago. Ferrets are sexually dimorphic and their males are larger than females. The colouration of their fur is brown-black with white. An average adult ferret would measure around 50 centimetres in body length with a 13-centimetre long tail. Ferrets are nocturnal animals, but they spend 14 – 18 hours sleeping (crepuscular animals). Ferrets prefer to be in groups called business. They protect their business territories, and like to sleep under shelter. They are obligate carnivores, meaning ferrets completely depend on animal flesh for food. They are good hunters, and people use them to hunt rabbits and rats around human habitations. This rabbit or rodent hunting process, aka ferreting, has been very useful for people to chase or eradicate pests.

What is the difference between Weasel and Ferret?

· There are ten species of Mustela referred as weasels, while ferret is a subspecies of one of the polecats of the same genus.

· Ferrets are longer in body length, and a shorter in tail length compared to weasels.

· Ferrets are friends of man and domesticated animals, but weasels are pests and non-domesticated animals.

· Generally, weasels have a brown upper coat with a white belly, but ferrets are brown-black with white or mixed coloured animals.

· Ferrets are closer relatives to polecats than weasels.

· Both of them are carnivores, but ferrets are special being obligate carnivores.

· Ferrets are sexually dimorphic, but the weasels are not.

· Ferrets are nocturnal animals, while weasels are diurnal.

· Ferrets are crepuscular animals, but weasels are not.

  • sonali

    nicely done

  • Jasmine Norris

    You are getting things wrong ferrets are types of weasels. So get your facts right ._.

  • Jasmine Norris

    Also my ferret he is always awake. Not the female she always sleeps because she is pregnant.

    • Naveen Dissanayake

      Well, What Jasmine says is about her pet. There are always exceptions to the rule, and that cannot be avoided, but it is not true always. Ferrets like to sleep describes about one of their preferences, but not what they do always. We like to listen to music but we never put our radios to be always on. Ferrets must be engaging with other activities inside their niche and sleeping is one of those. However, because of the importance of sleeping as it lets the body to reorganize the warn out body parts and it helps avoiding predators (since inside the shelter) the animal benefits.

  • Pinkie Boadicea, PhD

    Imma side with Jasmine. Ferrets are not nocturnal for a second. And it is plainly false to say that ferrets are a type of polecat which is a type of weasel, and then to say that ferrets are closer to polecats than weasels. And since when are other polecats/weasels not obligate carnivores? That’s a claim clearly based on internet research, probably taken from ferret forums/blogs which cry out against manufactured products containing non meat ingredients being marketed to ferrets, rather than published sources.

    There’s also the fact that the American Ferret, which is not related to the domesticated ferret at all, is completely excluded from the discussion. It deserves at least a clarification point.

    • y001Thomas Grim

      Mine clearly does not exhibit nocturnal behavior but I am curious to know if you believe that ferrets benefit from non carnivorous food products such as grains?

  • y001Thomas Grim

    I feel that your article was most accurate and weasels clearly are different at least in several distinct areas; sexually dimorphic, domesticated etc, I simply haven’t experienced a true nocturnal picture from the few, I have owned. They certainly sleep more than they are awake in my experience then are very active while awake. Thanks for the great article.