World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article


Article Id: WHEBN0000534345
Reproduction Date:

Title: Mustela  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Mustelidae, Stoat, Ferret, Mink, Black-footed ferret, European polecat, Long-tailed weasel, Least weasel, European mink, Weasel (disambiguation)
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


For other uses, see Weasel (disambiguation).
Least weasel
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Suborder: Caniformia
Family: Mustelidae
Subfamily: Mustelinae
Genus: Mustela
Linnaeus, 1758

Mustela africana
Mustela altaica
Mustela erminea
Mustela eversmannii
Mustela felipei
Mustela frenata
Mustela itatsi
Mustela kathiah
Mustela lutreola
Mustela lutreolina
Mustela nigripes
Mustela nivalis
Mustela nudipes
Mustela putorius
Mustela sibirica
Mustela strigidorsa
Mustela subpalmata

File:Mustela range.png
Mustela range

Weasels /ˈwzəl/ are mammals forming the genus Mustela of the Mustelidae family. The genus includes the weasels, European polecats, stoats, ferrets and European minks. They are small, active predators, long and slender with short legs. The Mustelidae family (which also includes badgers, otters and wolverines) is often referred to as the weasel family. In the UK, the term "weasel" usually refers to the smallest species Mustela nivalis (also known as the least weasel).[1]

Weasels vary in length from 173 to 217 mm (6.8 to 8.5 in),[2] females being smaller than the males, and usually have red or brown upper coats and white bellies; some populations of some species moult to a wholly white coat in winter. They have long, slender bodies, which enable them to follow their prey into burrows. Their tails may be from 34 to 52 mm (1.3 to 2.0 in) long.[2] Weasels have a reputation for cleverness, quickness and guile.

Weasels feed on small mammals, and have from time to time been considered vermin, since some species took poultry from farms, or rabbits from commercial warrens. They can be found all across the world except for Antarctica, Australia, and neighbouring islands.


The English word "weasel" was originally applied to one species of the genus, the European form of the least weasel (Mustela nivalis). This usage is retained in British English, where the name is also extended to cover several other small species of the genus. However, in technical discourse and in American usage, the term "weasel" can refer to any member of the genus, or to the genus as a whole. Of the 17 extant species currently classified in the genus Mustela, ten have "weasel" in their common names. Among those that do not are the stoat, the polecats, the ferret, and the European mink. (The superficially similar American mink is now regarded as belonging in another genus, Neovison.)


The following information is according to the Integrated Taxonomic Information System.

Mustela africana Desmarest, 1800 Amazon weasel South America
Mustela altaica Pallas, 1811 Mountain weasel Europe & Northern Asia
Southern Asia
Mustela erminea Linnaeus, 1758 Stoat
Short-tailed weasel
Europe & Northern Asia
North America
Southern Asia (non-native)
New Zealand (non-native)
Mustela eversmannii Lesson, 1827 Steppe polecat Europe & Northern Asia
Southern Asia
Mustela felipei Izor and de la Torre, 1978 Colombian weasel South America
Mustela frenata Lichtenstein, 1831 Long-tailed weasel Middle America
North America
South America
Mustela itatsi Temminck, 1844 Japanese weasel Japan & Sakhalin Is. (Russia)
Mustela kathiah Hodgson, 1835 Yellow-bellied weasel Southern Asia
Mustela lutreola (Linnaeus, 1761) European mink Europe & Northern Asia
Mustela lutreolina Robinson and Thomas, 1917 Indonesian mountain weasel Southern Asia
Mustela nigripes (Audubon and Bachman, 1851) Black-footed ferret North America
Mustela nivalis Linnaeus, 1766 Least weasel Europe, Northern Asia
North America
Southern Asia (non-native)
New Zealand (non-native)
Mustela nudipes Desmarest, 1822 Malayan weasel Southern Asia
Mustela putorius Linnaeus, 1758 European polecat
Domesticated ferret (ssp. furo)
Europe, northern Asia
New Zealand (ssp. furo) (non-native)
Mustela sibirica Pallas, 1773 Siberian weasel Europe, northern Asia
Southern Asia
Mustela strigidorsa Gray, 1855 Back-striped weasel Southern Asia
Mustela subpalmata Hemprich and Ehrenberg, 1833 Egyptian weasel Egypt

1 Europe and northern Asia division excludes China.

The extinct "sea mink" was commonly included in this genus as Mustela macrodon, but in 1999 was moved to the genus Neovison.[3]

Cultural meanings

Weasels have been assigned a variety of different cultural meanings. In Greek culture, a weasel around the house is a sign of bad luck, even evil, "especially if there is in the household a girl about to be married", since the animal (based on its Greek etymology) was thought to be an unhappy bride who was transformed into a weasel[4] and consequently delights in destroying wedding dresses.[5] In neighboring Macedonia, however, weasels are generally seen as an omen of good fortune.[4][5]

In North America, native Americans deemed the weasel to be a bad sign; crossing its path meant a "speedy death".[6] According to Daniel Defoe also, meeting a weasel is a bad omen.[7]

In early modern Mecklenburg, Germany, amulets from weasels were deemed to have strong magic; the period between August 15 and September 8 was specifically designated for the killing of weasels. In Montagne Noire (France), Ruthenia (Eastern Europe), and in the early medieval culture of the Wends, weasels were not meant to be killed.[8]

Japanese folklore

In Japan, weasels (鼬、鼬鼠 itachi?) were seen as yōkai from time immemorial, and they cause various strange occurrences. According to the encyclopedia Wakan Sansai Zue from the Edo period, a nate of weasels would cause conflagrations, and the cry of a weasel was considered a harbinger of misfortune. In the Niigata Prefecture, the sound of a nate of weasels making a rustle resembled 6 people hulling rice, and therefore was called the "the weasel's six-person mortar," and it was an omen for one's home to decline or flourish. It is said that when people chase after this sound, the sound stops.[9]

They are also said to shapeshift like the fox (kitsune) or tanuki, and the nyūdō-bōzu told about in legends in the Tōhoku region and the Chūbu region are considered weasels in disguise, and they are also said to shapeshift into ōnyūdō and little monks.[9]

In the collection of depictions, the Gazu Hyakki Yagyō by Sekien Toriyama, they were depicted under the title 鼬, but they were read not as "itachi" but rather as "ten,"[10] and "ten" were considered to be weasels that have reached one hundred years of age and became yōkai that possessed supernatural powers.[11] Another theory is that when weasels reach several hundred years of age, they become mujina.[12]


Main article: Kamaitachi

Kamaitachi are a phenomenon where when one is not doing anything, suddenly one would get injured as if one's skin was cut by a scythe.

In the past this was thought to be "the deed of an invisible yōkai weasel." However, this has been established as a physiological phenomenon that dried skin that receives a shock would tear off.

Also, there is the theory that "kamaitachi" are derived from "kamae tachi (構え太刀 "stance sword"?)," and therefore were not originally related to weasels at all.

In popular culture

In Kenneth Grahame's classic children's book of 1908, The Wind in the Willows, a pack of armed weasels overrun Toad Hall, and have to be ejected by Badger, Mole, Ratty and Toad.

Weasels Ripped My Flesh is the title of a 1970 album by Frank Zappa, with artwork by Neon Park parodying a 1950s razor advertisement.

Main article: List of fictional mustelids § Weasels, Stoats, Ferrets



External links

  • Template:Sister-inline
  • Template:Sister-inline

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.