If you ask any ferret owner what makes their pet ferret unique, odds are you’ll learn there are distinctive traits that set each one apart from the next. A ferret’s personality is one of its most endearing qualities. Genetics relates to heredity and how organisms are similar or different based on genes. Most owners know that ferrets are prone to certain health issues based on genetics. Genetics, however, can also influence why ferrets act the way they do. To those familiar with ferret breeding, it’s apparent that genetics play a key role in not only a ferret’s looks and health, but also in a ferret’s behavioral disposition.
The Evolution Of Ferret Breeding
The ferrets that melt people’s hearts today are quite different from their ancestors. Some of this can be attributed to the selective and purposeful breeding of ferrets.It’s come a long way, twenty- thirty years ago, if you would say the word ferret, people automatically thought they were mean, stinky and not a good pet. Much of this is because the purpose behind ferret breeding was different than it is today.
Back then ferrets were bred for multiple purposes including rodent extermination, It was an animal that could seek, hunt and kill … that was a different purpose. So back when ferrets were raised for rabbit hunting, which was popular in the early 1900s, the animals were bred for going into burrows, chasing out game, attacking, killing.
Ferret breeding in the past was similar to the breeding of today’s sporting dog, which is trained and bred for a specific purpose. That aggressive gene have we bred away from. Now more than 100 years later it may be hard to imagine these lovable creatures acting in such a way. Now ferrets probably want to jump in and play with the rabbit …That’s how far away we've come.
The blueprint of what ferrets were, are or will be can all be attributed to genetics.
Almost all aspects of ferrets — physical and behavioral — are inherited. Environment plays a role too. Behavior problems can occur from lack of socialization or other issues, such as neglect, abuse, lack of training or discipline. If a ferret is well-socialized and receives proper care and attention with good discipline then genetics could account for a behavior problem. Check back in the lineage to find out where the behavior might have come from.
A ferret’s coat color can be white, champagne, chocolate, sable or black. Noses come in a variety of colors, including pink, brown, black, freckled or outlined. Even eyes have become more colorful after years of breeding. Ferret’s eyes can be red, burgundy, brown, black or blue.
Genes may be dominant or recessive, the recessive genes remaining dormant unless the mating involves the pairing of two recessive genes. Dark coats appear to be influenced by pairings of dominant genes, whereas albinism is the pairing of certain recessive genes. Animals may carry recessive genes that may be passed on in subsequent matings. Thus polecat to polecat matings may produce a percentage of albinos if both parents carry the recessive gene for albinism. At this level it is really a question of knowing the breeding history and parentage of the animals selected for breeding.
Albinism is a genetic trait. Breed two albinos and one can expect to get mostly albinos. Breed two ferrets with it in their background and you may get one or two albinos in the litter.
Dwarf ferrets are not common but they do exist. If there are dwarf ferrets it is [a result of] a mutation, a runt or a conscious effort to breed down from the normal size of ferrets. This would take generations of line breeding and inbreeding to establish a line that would breed this trait over time. It’s not something that should be a goal.
The Inner Beauty Of Ferrets
While many people look to genetics to determine ferret appearance, a ferret’s real beauty exists inside.
As with other mammals coat color in ferrets is dependent on the genetic information passed from both parents to their offspring. Animals may have the same phenotype or physical appearance but different genotype or genetic information so the gene pairings may not produce the anticipated outcomes if only parental color is taken into account.
It’s not so much the color aspect. Some want to produce a great color, but are not looking at temperament and temperament is definitely affected by genes.
Genetics can definitely play a factor in temperament and health. You can have genetically high-strung individuals and it is usually a good idea to cross those with a more laid-back line. It’s always a good idea as a ferret breeder to track temperament and health in lines. Tracking these temperaments and health lines is what genetically sets some ferrets apart from others. The investment might be a little more but you are getting a better quality animal, you are paying for the generations.