Minks and ferrets are two adorable, somewhat similar members of the weasel family Mustelidae, which includes polecats, minks, stoats, martens, badgers, and wolverines. But while minks are of the genera Neogale and Mustela, ferrets are a subspecies of Mustela only. There are some other important, different features between the two mustelids, too.
Ferrets are domesticated European polecats (Mustela putorius), and only ferrets are kept as pets. Minks are too wild to be pets, although they are used for ratting, and European minks (Mustela lutreola) are more related to polecats than to North American minks (Neogale vision). They also have distinctions in appearance and behavior. Let’s go over all their differences below!
Comparing Mink vs Ferret
|Taxonomy||Family Mustelidae; genera Neogale and Mustela||Mustela furo|
|Body||Slender, long, small round ears, pointed faces & sharp teeth||Slender, long, small round ears, pointed faces & sharp teeth|
|Coat||Pale white, chocolate brown, dark black, including mixed colors & markings||Pale white, chocolate brown, dark black, including mixed colors & markings|
|Tail||5-10 inches||5.1 inches|
|Length/weight||12-20 inches; 2-7lbs||18-24 inches; 1.5-4.5lbs|
|Used for||Fur farming, mink oil, ratting||Hunting burrowing animals, pet|
|Diet||Carnivorous; larger prey||Carnivorous; smaller prey|
|Behavior||Territorial, solitary, nocturnal, semiaquatic||Territorial, social, crepuscular|
|Habitat||Dens in coasts & marshlands in North America & around the world||Tunnels in grassy plains in the wild|
|Lifespan & health issues||5-11 years; UTIs, mastitis, hemorrhagic pneumonia & other bacterial illnesses, Aleutian disease, influenza, mink viral enteritis||5-10 years; dental & heart issues, parasites, adrenal cancers|
The 5 Key Differences Between Mink and Ferret
Mink vs Ferret : Taxonomy
These two mammals are related in that they are both members of the weasel or mustelid family Mustelidae. Minks can either be of the genera Neogale or Mustela, but ferrets are only of Mustela. The genus Mustela includes minks, polecats, lesser weasels, ferrets and stoats. It also includes the European mink (Mustela lutreola), the ferret (Mustela furo), the black-footed ferret (Mustela nigripes), and the European polecat (Mustela putorius). The genus Neogale has mustelid that is native to the Americas, also known as New World weasels, including the American mink, Neogale vison.
Mink vs Ferret : Tail
Ferrets and minks have very similar body shapes, proportions, length, and weight, especially if they are raised in similar conditions. Domesticated ferrets and farm-raised minks tend to be heavier than their wild counterparts. Minks’ tails, however, tend to be longer than ferrets’ tails.
Mink vs Ferret : Used for
Both related mustelid species can get into tunnels, find and fight small burrowing animals, and they have similar fur. The mink can take down bigger prey animals than the ferret can, just as when hunting for food. But whereas the ferret became a popular pet, the mink continued to be used for fur farming, mink oil, and ratting.
Mink vs Ferret : Behavior
Minks and ferrets can both be territorial and fight over space. Ferrets need less space, though, and they are also more social, doing best when living in groups and needing 2 hours of exercise or more a day. Minks are solitary except for mating or raising offspring, will easily fight other minks, but need only an hour of exercise a day. They also come out at night, while ferrets come out at dawn and dusk.
Mink vs Ferret : Habitat
The biggest difference in these mustelids’ habitats is that minks live near water and ferrets are land-dwelling. This feature determines where and how they live, as minks create dens on coasts and marshlands. Compare with ferrets who live in tunnels, often taking up the burrows of other small mammals in grassy plains.
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FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Ferret vs mink what's the difference?
They are both similar members of the weasel family Mustelidae, but their classification is different. Ferrets are Mustela furo and minks are either of the genera Neogale or Mustela.
Are minks a type of ferret?
No, minks and ferrets are different species. However, ferrets are domesticated polecats and European minks are more similar to polecats than to North American minks.
Do ferrets smell like minks?
Yes, both have musk glands near the anus that secrete a strong-smelling oil. Both can be deglanded.