Ferrets vs. polecats


What is the difference between the wild European polecat (Mustela putorius) and the domestic ferret (M. p. furo)?

I’ve seen pictures of polecats, and to me they look identical to sable ferrets. They seem to be about the same size, too. Apart from the fact that ferrets have been bred for different coat colours, is there any physical difference between the two animals?

How about tempermentally? I expect that polecats wouldn’t be as affectionate or controllable as ferrets, since they don’t have thousands of years of selective breeding for docile behaviour, but just how unfriendly or vicious would one be if it were raised by humans as a pet?

Here is a Report done for the state of California’s Game and WIldlife Dept. It basically says they’re one and the same.

The report says no such thing. It’s not even a report – it’s just a bibliography with abstracts.

Quotes from a few of the abstracts

There are a few more but they pretty much say the same thing.

A user-friendly pictoral discussion:

More detailed version:
Note that there are two contenders for ferret ancestors, one that looks like the sable, and one that looks more like the cinnamon: (more academic)

(more on chromosomes in similar species [term used loosely by me]:

–Merrily, domesticated by 3 ferrets

Yes, and none of these quotes say, as you contend, that a ferret is the same thing as a polecat. No one in their right mind would say that dogs and wolves are identical just because the former is descended from the latter, so why do you claim this for ferrets and polecats?

I’m sorry for my original post. It should have said that they’re taxonomically one and the same. The difference being that they have domesticated just like your example between wolves and dogs.