The European polecat (Mustela putorius) — also known as the black or forest polecat (as well as a host of other names) — is a species of mustelid native to western Eurasia and North Africa. It is of a generally dark brown colour, with a pale underbelly and a dark mask across the face. Occasionally, colour mutations, including albinos and erythrists, occur. Compared to minks and other weasels — also fellow members of the genus Mustela — the polecat has a shorter, more compact body a more powerfully built skull and dentition, and is less agile.
It is much less territorial than other mustelids, with animals of the same sex frequently sharing home ranges. Like other mustelids, the European polecat is polygamous, though pregnancy occurs directly after mating, with no induced ovulation. It usually gives birth in early summer to litters consisting of five to 10 kits, which become independent at the age of two to three months. The European polecat feeds on small rodents, birds, amphibians and reptiles. It occasionally cripples its prey by piercing its brain with its teeth and stores it, still living, in its burrow for future consumption.
The European polecat originated in Western Europe during the Middle Pleistocene, with its closest living relatives being the steppe polecat, the black-footed ferret and the European mink. With the two former species, it can produce fertile offspring, though hybrids between it and the latter species tend to be sterile, and are distinguished from their parent species by their larger size and more valuable pelts.
The European polecat is the sole ancestor of the ferret, which was domesticated more than 2000 years ago for the purpose of hunting vermin. The species has otherwise been historically viewed negatively by humans. In the British Isles especially, the polecat was persecuted by gamekeepers, and became synonymous with promiscuity in early English literature. During modern times, the polecat is still scantly represented in popular culture when compared to other rare British mammals, and misunderstandings of its behaviour still persist in some rural areas. As of 2008, it is classed by the IUCN as Least Concern due to its wide range and large numbers.
Other articles related to "european polecat, polecat, polecats":
... Buffon's illustration of a polecat in volume 4 of Natural history, general and particular Skulls of a black-footed ferret (1) and European polecat (2), as illustrated in Merriam's ...
... The earliest true polecat was Mustela stromeri, which appeared during the late Villafranchian period ... smaller than the present form, thus indicating polecats evolved at a relatively late period ... The steppe polecat's closest relatives are the European polecat and black-footed ferret, with which it is thought to have shared Mustela stromeri as a common ...
... The species is very close to the European polecat in general appearance, proportions and habits, though its body seems somewhat more elongated, due to its shorter guard hairs ... The skull is heavier and more massive than that of the European polecat, having more widely spaced zygomatic arches and more strongly developed projections, particularly the sagittal crest ... noticeable differences between them being the steppe polecat's much longer and softer fur, shorter ears, and shorter postmolar extension of the palate ...
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