Weasel

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Mustela africana
Mustela altaica
Mustela erminea
Mustela eversmannii
Mustela felipei
Mustela frenata
Mustela itatsi
Mustela kathiah
Mustela lutreola
Mustela lutreolina
Mustela nigripes
Mustela nivalis
Mustela nudipes
Mustela putorius
Mustela sibirica
Mustela strigidorsa
Mustela subpalmata

Weasels are mammals forming the genus Mustela of the Mustelidae family. They are small, active predators, long and slender with short legs.

Weasels vary in length from 12 to 45 centimetres (5 to 18 in), and usually have a red or brown upper coat and a white belly; some populations of some species moult to a wholly white coat in winter. They have long slender bodies, which enable them to follow their prey into burrows. Their tails may be from 22 to 33 centimetres (9 to 13 in) long. As is typical of small omnivores, weasels have a reputation for cleverness and guile.

Weasels feed on small mammals, and have from time to time been considered vermin since some species took poultry from farms, or rabbits from commercial warrens. Certain species of weasel and ferrets have been reported[by whom?] to perform the mesmerizing weasel war dance, after fighting other creatures, or acquiring food from competing creatures. In folklore at least, this dance is particularly associated with the stoat[citation needed] .

Weasels occur all across the world except for Antarctica, Australia, and neighbouring islands.

Contents

Terminology

The English word "weasel" (pronounced /ˈwiːzəl/) was originally applied to one species of the genus, the European form of the Least Weasel (Mustela nivalis). This usage is retained in British English, where the name is also extended to cover several other small species of the genus. It is thought that the name "weasel" comes from the Anglo-Saxon root "weatsop" meaning "a vicious bloodthirsty animal". However, in technical discourse and in American usage the term "weasel" can refer to any member of the genus, or to the genus as a whole. Of the 17 existant species currently classified in the genus Mustela, ten have "weasel" in their common name. Among those that do not are the stoat or ermine, the polecats, the ferret, and the European Mink (the superficially similar American Mink is now regarded as belonging in another genus, Neovison).

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