The New International Encyclopædia/Fur-Bearing Animals

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FUR-BEARING ANIMALS. The group of animals whose pelts are utilized as fur garments or ornaments, forming the carnivorous family Mustelidæ. This family, which includes, besides its typical weasels (Mustelinæ), the skunks (Mephitinæ), the badgers (Melinæ), the otters (Lutrinæ), and the sea-otters (Enhydrinæ), the honey-badgers, ratels, etc., is world-wide in its spread outside of Australia. It is in the Northern Hemisphere, however, that the family is now most numerous and well represented; and it is in response to the demand of the cold winters of the subarctic regions, to which the most valuable of these animals are confined, that their coats have become the warm felts which mankind finds so serviceable and attractive. All are small animals, the largest (the wolverene) being only about three feet long. Their bodies are in most cases slender, their legs rather short, their heads round, with very powerful jaws and teeth, and their tails (except in the skunks) are rather short. Great strength, nimbleness, and courage characterize them, and many exhibit a blood-thirst beyond that of any other carnivore; nevertheless, they have been tamed. Weasels have always acted as mousers in the East, and were so used in ancient Greco-Roman civilization. Ferrets still serve as vermin-catchers, and otters have been taught to fish, while badgers were formerly used in cruel sport. Most of them are terrestrial and live in burrows of their own digging, but some are arboreal. They feed upon small mammals, birds, birds' eggs, fish, crustaceans, and insects; and all possess, in a greater or less degree, anal glands, from which they can discharge at will (sometimes shooting it a long distance) an acrid fluid, which is intensely offensive to the nostrils and mucous membrane of other animals. The chase of the leading members of this family has long been and still is an important industry on the frontiers of Europe and North America, and thousands of pelts have been gathered annually without exterminating any of the race, though the habitats of many species have been much reduced. Statistics of the trade in furs in London show that during the last century the receipts of pelts there of Mustelidæ alone, from North America exclusively, amounted to about 3,250,000 sables, 1,500,000 otters, 100,000 wolverenes, 3,000,000 minks, 25,000 sea-otters, 500,000 skunks, and 500,000 badgers, besides an unknown number of ermines, fishers, etc. “The scientific interest with which the zoölogist, as simply such, may regard this family of animals, yields to those practical considerations of every-day life which render the history of the Mustelidæ so important.” Consult authorities mentioned under Mammalia, especially Coues, Fur-Bearing Animals (Washington, 1877). See Badger; Ermine; Ferret; Fisher; Marten; Otter; Polecat; Sable; Sea-Otter; Skunk; Weasel; Wolverene; and similar titles.


FUR-BEARING ANIMALS

NIE 1905 Fur-Bearing Animals.jpg
1. WEASEL (Mustela erminea),
in white winter or Ermine dress.
3. SABLE (Mustela zibellina).
4. WOLVERENE OR GLUTTON (Gulo luscus).
2. WEASEL (Mustela erminea),
in brown summer or Stoat dress.
5. FERRET OR POLECAT (Mustela putorius).
6. SEA OTTER (Latax lutris).
7. AMERICAN PINE MARTEN (Mustela Americana).