Polecat (species)

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The polecat is any of a group of Old World's mammals of the genera Mustela or Vormela of the weasel family.


Polecat refers to the species the European polecat (Mustela putorius), which is the wild ancestor of the domesticated ferret, the marbled polecat (Vormela peregusna) and the Steppe polecat (Mustela eversmanii) There is also another genus, Ictonyx, that includes two species, the striped polecat, also known as the zorilla (Ictonyx striatus) and the Saharan striped polecat (Ictonyx libycus), both of which resemble skunks and are native to Africa. This term is also used to apply to the 'black-footed ferret, (Mustela nigripes) which is native to North America.

Polecats are so-called for their reputed habit of predation on domestic fowl (poules in European French) and are known for their pungent musk. The latter may have led to applying the term "polecat" which is sometimes used as a colloquial nickname for the New World's skunks, which are distant relatives that belong to the family Mephitidae.

It bears noting that the European polecat usually has no white markings, albino individuals are not unknown, and they have a raccoon mask-like marking across their face.

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