Unlike dogs and cats, who have dozens of different breeds, there is only one breed of domesticated ferret. That fact may be surprising to you because you've probably seen ferrets with different color coats and with different markings on their fur. But these are all the same breed of ferret which is classified in zoological nomenclature as Mustela putorius furo. That translates roughly into Stinky Mouse Catcher Thief...how perfect is that?
If you've been very lucky, you may have seen a special type of ferret with long silky or bushy hair, like the one pictured here.
Austin, a full angora ferret
This is called an Angora ferret. They are not classified as a separate breed of ferret but rather just a ferret with a special type of fur that grows longer than the standard ferret's fur.
Angora ferrets arose from a genetic mutation discovered in some regular ferrets at a facility in Europe. The owner noticed that some ferrets were growing up with longer hair on parts of their bodies. After many years of selective breeding -- only allowing long-haired ferrets to have babies together -- the Angora ferret's hair became more and more luxurious. Modern Angora ferrets now have hair that is 2 to 6 inches long.
Underneath their long beautiful fur, Angoras are almost identical to standard ferrets. One unique feature in full Angora ferrets is that they often have a special cleft nose with an extra curl in the nostril. They may have tufts of fur coming out of their nose too. Some ferret breeders feel this is a desirable trait while others would prefer a standard or "perfect" nose.
Look at my fuzzy nose!
Sadly, Angora ferret jills (females) have a hard time making enough milk to feed their kits (babies). Sometimes another mother ferret who already has kits or is lactating can raise the babies. This is sometimes called a wet nurse or milk mother. Sometimes baby angora ferrets have to be bottle-fed by a human to get enough to eat in order to grow and thrive. Angora ferret breeders are working on reducing this negative genetic trait in their litters so future Angora moms can raise their kits themselves without help.
To maintain strong bloodlines, Angoras are bred with standard ferrets and produce 1/2, 3/4 and 1/4 Angora kits, which as just as adorable as full Angora ferrets. Their fur is not as long as a full Angora but not as short as a full standard.
Filippa, a baby semi-angora ferret
If you want to buy an Angora ferret, you might be shocked at how expensive they are. Angora ferrets cost more because they are rare. There are more breeders of Angoras in the United Kingdom (UK), Europe, and China than in the United States so Americans may have a hard time even finding an Angora to purchase, and the price of an Angora ferret can be $500 or more.
Menace, a full angora ferret
Angora ferrets come in all the same colors as standard ferrets: sable, albino, dark-eyed white, black, chocolate, and sandy. They can have the various ferret markings to complement their base fur color such as mitts, bibs, and blazes. You can read more about ferret colors here.
Would you like to read more about Angora Ferrets? Try these links!