I read somewhere a little while back that ferrets were making a comeback as Pets. Which got me to reminiscing of when my parents had ferrets. My family, and many of our relatives, had Ferrets many, many, many years ago. Not as pets but as working animals. Back in the 19050s and early 60’s before Myxomatosis come on the scene and greatly reduced the rabbit population very quickly, the main way rabbits were contained in our area was by hunting with dogs and Ferrets. Many a Sunday afternoon of my early childhood was spent out with the dogs and ferrets with both family and friends after rabbits. One dog we had, Bluey was very good at telling us if there was a rabbit down a burrow. When we came across a burrow we would get Bluey to sniff it out. If he sniffed and walked away, we would do the same. But if he started to bark and furiously dig away at the burrow we would pull him away and put the ferret to work. Sometimes the dogs would put up a rabbit away from its burrow and if they missed it on the run and it went down a burrow, we would then put nets around all the holes we could find in the immediate area and send the Ferret or ferrets down. Usually only one Ferret but occasionally you would send a second one down either to help the first or occasionally to enough the first one to come out again.
As hinted above Ferrets were very popular then and many had them or wanted them so my family would not only have ferrets for their own use but would also breed and sell them too. As at least 3 Uncles also had ferrets, there was a bit of swapping of Breeding Bucks and Does among the families to ensure strong blood lines.
Every year we would always have a half a dozen or so young ferrets for sale. In the early days Dad had the flat top of a five gallon oil drum with the wording “Ferrets for sale” on it and when he had ferrets for sale would nail it to a phone pole at the end of the drive up on the main Eltham -Yarra glen road to attract interested prospective buyers. In later years he hardly needed to put the sign up as he had regular people either coming back themselves or recommending him to their friends.
It was before my memory but when my older brothers were around 3 or 4, dad had quite a few young ferrets and my brothers, babies that they were, used to help my mother to feed them and thus handled them a lot. Well the story goes that one day someone stopped by to check out the ferrets and when the box was opened, all the baby ferrets swarmed out all over my brothers who were grabbing them by the armfuls without being bitten or scratched, much to the amazement of this Customer. He was amazed at their gentleness and ease of handling, as many ferrets can be nasty even to their handlers. He was so amazed that not only did he buy a couple there and then but through his word of mouth, all that year’s babies were sold to him and his friends.
As said above when myxo came in it greatly reduced the need of Ferrets. And in fact even before then, when my brothers went into shotguns and spotlighting, and so the Ferrets went out of favour almost everywhere in the mid to late 60’s including at our place.
Well that is enough reminiscing from me for now. Do you have any reminisces of Ferrets in your youth to share?