What Is the Difference Between Ferret and Ermine?


Ferrets and ermines are both members of the Mustelidae family, which includes other popular carnivorous mammals such as stoats, mink, weasels, otters and badgers. Though they may look alike, ferrets and ermine have many differences that set them apart.

Physical Characteristics:

Ferrets are typically bigger than ermine with fully grown adults measuring between 18 and 28 inches long from nose to tail. Their coats are usually brown or black tinged with white mixed throughout, but albino ferrets also exist. Ermines tend to be on the smaller side, only reaching 13 inches in length as adults. They have a penchant for white fur during the winter months, becoming almost entirely white except for their black-tipped tails.


Ferrets can be found in Australia, Europe and the Americas where they like to dig intricate burrows where they can hide from predators or sleep away the day. Ermines can only be found in colder climates like Northern Europe and Russia because they prefer temperatures below 75 degrees Fahrenheit. During winter they burrow deep into snowdrifts as natural insulators against cold weather.

Ferrets are social animals who love being handled by humans but also need regular interaction with their own kind for mental stimulation; some even go so far as to form emotional bonds with their owners over time! Ermines show less enthusiasm when it comes to human interaction; however, they’re great hunters because of their agility and fast speeds (up to 30 mph!) which allow them to catch small prey easily.

Size and Coloration

The main distinction between ferrets and ermines is the size and coloration of their coats. Ferrets are larger in size than ermine, growing up to 20 inches long and 6-9 inches tall. They have soft fur which is usually cream or gray in color, with black highlights at their tail tips, ears, and legs. Ermines on the other hand, measure up to 15 inches from head to tail and weigh only 1-3 ounces. Their fur can be white or yellowish brown during winter months but turns white during summertime. Additionally, the fur of an ermine’s throat has a black patchy look whereas a ferret’s throat is always solid in coloration. Finally, ermines also have a distinct black circle outlining their eyes for greater visibility among snow covered terrain.

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Territorial Preferences

Ferrets live in a variety of habitats, ranging from woodlands and deserts to grasslands and mountains. Ermines primarily inhabit open grasslands, marshes and shrub lands.


A ferret has a long slender body, pointed face and dark eyes. Its ears are short and round with short fur marking its whole body. An ermine appears to have a similar body shape but with longer legs and a long bushy tail. Their fur is white except for the tip which is black. This can provide excellent camouflage in grassy areas and help them remain hidden from prey.

Hunting Methods

Ferrets use their keen senses of sight and hearing to hunt for food such as rodents, insects and small reptiles. Ermines are also incredibly adept hunters; they will stalk their prey silently before pouncing on it with lightning speeds making them difficult to catch or outwit.


The primary difference between a ferret and an ermine is their diet. Ferrets are carnivores, meaning they eat meat, while ermines are nimivores, meaning they feed on both plant matter and small animals.

Ferrets typically hunt small mammals like rabbits, conies (a species of rabbit), voles, and fieldmice. They are skillful hunters who use strategic pouncing to quickly capture their prey. Ermines mostly feed on lizards, birds-eggs, insects and other small invertebrates as well as fruits and seeds. They typically forage in their environment using scenting and visual searching to locate food or stalk prey on the ground or in trees.

As for how they hunt different types of food; ferrets primarily use scenting its prey to hunt while ermines rely more on visually spotting their target before pouncing. Because of this behavior distinction with respect to how they locate food, ferrets may be better hunters of larger mammalian prey such as rabbits while ermines excel at capturing smaller creatures such as insects or birds eggs.

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The temperament of ferrets is often seen as more playful and hyperactive compared to ermines. Ferrets are social creatures that enjoy interacting with humans and other animals. They crave companionship and will actively seek out human attention, whether through playtime or cuddling. Ermines, on the other hand, tend to be more solitary creatures and may not be as sociable.

Ferrets typically love playtime with their owners, enjoying activities like chasing after toys or running in a wheel. In comparison, ermines are likely to be more content spending time alone in their cage and prefer inactive environments over an active one.

When it comes to keeping these two small mammals as pets, it is important to take into consideration their different personalities so they can both have the best life possible.

Historical Significance

Ferrets and ermines (Mustela erminea) are both members of the Mustelid family, but they have some distinct differences between them. The primary distinction between ferrets and ermines is their size. Ferrets typically measure between 18 – 24 inches in length and weigh less than two pounds. Ermines, on the other hand, are much smaller; they usually reach a maximum length of eight to 10 inches and weigh less than one pound.

Ferrets have been domesticated since ancient times and have historically been used as hunting animals or kept as pets. They are known for their intelligence and curiosity, which makes them ideal companions in activities such as agility training. Ermines, on the other hand, have largely been kept by humans as a source of fur for coats or garments due to its softness. In certain parts of Europe, Iceland and Scandinavia especially, these coats are regarded as traditional symbols of royalty or status. In more recent decades, however, animal welfare groups have campaigned against this practice out of concern for wild animal populations.

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Ferrets and ermines are both related animals that belong to the weasel family. While they have similarities, there are also some noteworthy differences between them.

The most obvious difference is their size and color. Ferrets are much larger than ermines, reaching lengths of over 20 inches long. Ermines, on the other hand, are no more than 11 inches at adult size. Additionally, ferrets possess a yellowish-brown coat with black facial markings, but ermine molt to white fur in winter for better camouflage when hunting in icy environments.

In terms of behavior, ferrets are highly social animals who love interacting with their owners, while ermines tend to be solitary creatures who prefer living alone and shy away from human contact. Furthermore, ferrets can be trained to do simple tricks like walking in a circle or sitting on command whereas ermines cannot.

All in all, ferrets and ermines both resemble each other and share many similar characteristics; however they differ fundamentally in their size and coloring as well as their behavior towards humans – with ferrets being much more sociable overall.