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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Animal & Veterinary

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Test your minor species knowledge with OMUMS!

By Dr. Melanie McLean, Senior Writer/Editor, Communications, with contributions from Dr. Margaret Oeller, Director, Office of Minor Use and Minor Species Animal Drug Development

CVM’s Office of Minor Use and Minor Species Animal Drug Development (OMUMS for short) works hard to make sure safe and effective drugs are available for minor species, like ferrets and pheasants.   

Fun Ferret Facts

  • Ferrets belong to the weasel family (Mustelidae), which includes polecats, stoats, and ermines.  Domesticated ferrets most likely descend from the European polecat.
  • Ferrets were domesticated about 2,500 years ago.  Historically, ferrets were used to hunt rabbits and rodents.  Their lean bodies and curious nature make ferrets naturals at getting down holes to chase rodents and rabbits out of burrows.  This is the origin of the expression “ferret out.”
  • From 1860 to the start of World War II, ferrets were widely used in the American West to protect grain stores from rodents.  They gained popularity as pets in the 1980s and 90s.
  • The name “ferret” is derived from the Latin word furittus, meaning “little thief.”  This name likely refers to the common ferret habit of secreting away small items.
  • A ferret’s normal heart rate is 200 to 250 beats per minute.
  • The average lifespan of a domestic ferret is 8 years.
  • Ferrets are most active at dawn and dusk.
  • An intact female ferret is a jill, and a spayed female is a sprite.  An intact male is a hob, and a neutered male is a gib.  Baby ferrets (less than 1 year) are kits.  A group of ferrets is a business or fesnyng (fez-ning)
  • All kits are born with white fur and get their approximate adult color at 3 weeks of age.
  • Ferrets can get heartworms from the bite of an infected mosquito.  Ferrets are similar to dogs in their susceptibility to heartworm infections, but their symptoms are more similar to those seen in cats.  For more information about heartworm disease and ferrets, please visit:  http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/ResourcesforYou/AnimalHealthLiteracy/ucm188470.htm.

Phun Pheasant Phacts

  • Pheasants are not native to North America.  They “immigrated” to the United States in 1881 when Judge Owen Nickerson Denny, a U.S. consul to China who liked the taste of pheasant meat, shipped 30 pheasants from China to his home in the Willamette Valley of Oregon.  Twenty-six survived the journey.
  • Seventeen of the 35 species of pheasant are on the endangered species list.  Conservation efforts and raising pheasants in captivity have, so far, prevented any from going extinct. 
  • The most abundant pheasant is the ring-necked or common pheasant.  The ring-necked pheasant is South Dakota’s state bird.
  • Pheasants nest on the ground, and when startled, will burst to the sky in a “flush."  They can fly fast (up to 48 miles per hour) for short distances, but prefer to run and can get up to speeds of 8 to 10 miles per hour. 
  • Pheasants do not migrate.  They stay local year-round. 
  • Male pheasants are roosters or cocks, and females are hens.  One rooster usually has a harem of three to seven hens.  A group of pheasants is called a nest, nide (nye), or bouquet.
  • Pheasants are hunted for sport and for meat.  Because of their attractive plumage, some species of pheasant are kept as ornamental birds.  There are both wild and farm-raised pheasants in the United States.
  • Pheasants are sexually dimorphic, meaning there are distinct differences between the sexes.  Males are brightly colored and larger than the smaller brown females. 
  • Pheasants are hardy birds, with an average lifespan of 15 to 25 years.
  • There are a small number of FDA-approved drugs to treat farm-raised pheasants that are sick.  Most of the drugs are used to kill parasites, but a few are used to treat bacterial diseases.  Pheasants are almost always given medication in their feed.  If a medication is put in their water, they detect the taste and will drink from puddles in the field rather than their regular water.  For more information about FDA-approved drugs for pheasants, please refer to Animal Drugs @ FDA at:   http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/animaldrugsatfda/.