FERRET. The female is less than the male; and, when in season, is so extremely ardent, that she dies if her desires are not gratified. They produce twice a year, and the female goes six weeks with young. Some of them devour their young as they are brought forth, instantly come again in season, and have three litters, which generally consist of five or six, and sometimes of seven, eight, or nine. They are used for hunting rabbits; and, as in this country, they are apt to degenerate, warreners cross the breed by an intercourse between a female ferret and a male polecat, by leaving the former, when in season, near the haunts of the latter. The produce is of a much darker colour than the ferret, having a great resemblance to the polecat. This animal is a natural enemy to the rabbit. W hen a dead rabbit is for the first time presented to a young ferret, he flies upon it, and bites it with fury ; but if it be alive, he seizes it by the throat or the nose, and sucks its blood. When let into the burrows of rabbits, he is muzzled, that he may not kill them in their holes, but only drive them out, to be caught in the nets. If the ferret is let in without a muzzle, he is in danger of being lost; for, after sucking the blood of the rabbit, he falls asleep ; and even smoking the hole is not a certain method of recalling him, because the burrows have often several entries which communicate with each other, and the ferret retires into one of these when incommoded by the smoke. Ferrets are also used for catching birds in the holes of walls or old trees. The ferret, though easily tamed and rendered docile, is exceedingly irascible; his odour is always disagreeable, but when irritated it becomes more offensive. All his movements are nimble, and he is at the same time so vigorous, that he can easily master a rabbit, though four times larger than himself.
Coping the Ferret.—The following method is practised by Mr. Cator's keeper at Beckenham, Kent:—A piece of soft string, not too thin, is tied round the neck of the ferret, close to the head, leaving two longish ends; another piece of string is tied round the under jaw, passing it under the tongue, and brought round over the upper jaw, and tied there, leaving the ends long. This will keep the mouth closed. The four ends are then brought together, and tied in one knot on the top of the head: this makes all safe from slipping. This gives the animal no pain, as they appear to hunt as eagerly as without a muzzle.
Harewood, Harry. A Dictionary of Sports. London: T. Tegg and son, 1835.
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