Cuvier considered the ferret an albino form of the polecat (M. putoria). It is a native of Barbary, naturalized in Spain, where it was introduced to rid that country from the multitudes of rabbits. The colour of its whole body is a pale yellow, nose sharp, ears round, and eyes red and fiery. It is lively and active, and an inveterate destroyer of rabbits and rats. If a dead rabbit or rat be presented to a young ferret for the first time he will fly at it with great fury; but if a young rabbit or rat be presented alive, the ferret will seize it by the throat and suck its blood. The inherent tendency thus passes from parent (Fig. 139) to offspring in a very decisive manner.

Ferret and Rat.

Fig. 139. - Ferret and Rat.

Great numbers of these animals are imported into or bred in this country for the purpose of driving rats from buildings, corn-stacks, etc., also rabbits from their burrows. In such cases the ferrets are muzzled, otherwise they would destroy the rats in their retreats and rabbits in their holes. The rat-catcher has dogs to worry the bolted rats and the warrener places nets over bolt-holes, shoots bolted rabbits, and digs out unbolted, the direction being indicated by a string attached to the ferret. Where ferretting has been practised, both rats and rabbits fight shy of the retreats or burrows thus tainted for some time.

The ferret breeds freely, bringing forth five to nine young; but the white ferret is apt to degenerate and lose its savage nature in this country. Warreners, therefore, prefer the English ferret, a cross between the white ferret and polecat; this animal is darker in colour, smaller in size, hardier in constitution, more active inhabits, and keener in ferocity. On account of the fierceness in attack of the ferret, great care must be exercised to insure its safe custody. Hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus). This well-known animal does not mount fruit trees and descend with apples, pears, etc., stuck upon its bristles, or suck cows and injure their udders; but is undoubtedly an enemy to young game and rabbits, and even to young poultry. It also feeds largely on ground insects or their larvae, and has been employed to some extent for destroying cockroaches, etc., in dwellings, bakeries, plant-houses, etc., with more or less satisfactory results.

Hedgehog at Work.

Fig. 140. - Hedgehog at Work.

The hedgehog (Fig. 140) suffers no inconvenience from the croton bug or German cockroach {Phylodromia germanica), oriental cockroach (Peripluneta orientalis), and house cricket (Gryllus domesti-cus), and Pallas remarks that this animal can eat hundreds of cantharides without suffering from them, whilst a single one of these acrid insects will cause horrid torments in cats and dogs. It may be kept in any wire-netted garden or pleasure grounds, where no harm appears to result to useful plants or crops, and coleopterous insects certainly are not nearly as much in evidence. Semi-wild places, however, are more to the hedgehog's taste; and if male and female are introduced they increase, four or five young being produced at a birth, and these soon become covered with prickles. The hedgehog wraps itself in a warm nest composed of moss, dried grass and leaves on the approach of winter, and remains torpid till the return of spring. When, therefore, the animal is kept in captivity such material must be provided in a secluded and dry place for its hibernating use.

If kept in close quarters, the hedgehog must be properly fed with flesh - raw or cooked - fallen fruits, roots of plantain, milk-sopped bread, etc. When placed in a building for the destruction of cockroaches, feed sparingly, but always afford it a supply of water in a shallow vessel, introducing the hedgehog in the evening and withdrawing in the morning to a place where not likely to be visited by terriers or other dogs. Cats give hedgehogs a wide berth, but some cats are adepts at capturing and eating house crickets.