Bolton Ferret Welfare

In Praise of Albinos

by Dr June McNicholas

Why have albino ferrets become the second class citizens of the ferret world? Why are they the least preferred of all the ferret colours? Are they less affectionate? Less healthy? Less able to work? Or are they simply thought of less attractive? The situation has become so bleak for albinos that rescues are full of them. They are very hard to rehome, too. People who are happy to offer a home to a rescued ferret cheerfully say they don't have a colour preference - providing it's not an albino.

Those people could be missing out on a lot. Let me give you my views on albinos.

OK, they are not as striking as a silver or a dark polecat to look at, but believe me, an albino in top condition takes a hell of a lot of beating at shows. Time and time again, I have seen top honours go to a 'plain' albino, despite tough competition from stunning coloured ferrets. Perhaps it's a real case of 'less is more' when it comes to looks. An albino has nothing to distract in its looks, it's an honest 'what you see is what you get' animal. When it's good, it's damned good.

Then there's working. All ferrets should be able to do a day's work, but albinos have the edge if only because they are easy to spot. Yes, I work my black-eyed whites as well, but this is really an extended preference for light coloured ferrets in the field.

And there's no problems with health, either. Albinism may be associated with reduced sensory acuity in some animals - slightly poorer eyesight, hearing etc, but this isn't as marked in ferrets as in some other species of animals with albinism. A healthy happy albino will give any polecat, sandy, silver or mitt a run for its money in the racing tubes or in a bury.

On top of that, albinos have every bit as nice a character as any ferret - dare I say even more? Well, maybe I won't go that far, it's too much of a sweeping generalisation, but I can honestly say that most of our sweetest natured, most patient, most playful of PR ferrets are albinos. Come to that, so have many of our most memorable, loveably lunatic characters. And do you know what? Children love albinos for the simple appreciation of their white fur and appealing faces.. 'Out of the mouth of babes etc etc'.

So take another look at the albino. Top show winner, great worker, healthy, happy nature. Yes, coloured ferrets are gorgeous, but you can't improve on perfection.

(First published October 2003)

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