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Long-tailed Weasel
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Mustelidae
Subfamily: Mustelinae
Genus: Mustela
Linnaeus, 1758

Mustela africana
Mustela altaica
Mustela erminea
Mustela eversmannii
Mustela felipei
Mustela formosana
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 in the genus Mustela of the Mustelidae family. Originally, the name "weasel" was applied to one species of the genus, the European form of the Least Weasel (Mustela nivalis). Early literary references to weasels, for example their common appearances in fables, refer to this species rather than to the genus as a whole, reflecting what is still the common usage in the United Kingdom. In technical discourse, however, as in American usage, the term "weasel" can refer to any member of the genus, or to the genus as a whole. Of the 16 extant 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 two species of mink, and the polecats or ferrets.

Weasels vary in length from fifteen to thirty-five centimeters (six to fourteen inches), and usually have a light brown upper coat, white belly and black fur at the tip of the tail; in many species, populations living at high latitudes moult to a white coat with black fur at the tip of the tail in winter. They have long slender bodies, which enable them to follow their prey into burrows. Their tails are typically almost as long as the rest of their bodies. As is typical of small carnivores, weasels have a reputation for cleverness and guile. They also have tails that can be anywhere from 22-33  cm long and they use these to defend the food they get and to claim territory from other weasels. The average weasels weighs about 3kg-5kg.

Weasels feed on small mammals, and in former times were considered vermin since some species took poultry from farms, or rabbits from commercial warrens. Certain species of weasel and ferrets, have been reported 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.

Collective nouns for a group of weasels include boogle, gang, pack, and confusion.

Weasels are found all across the world except for Australia and neighbouring islands.


The following information is according to the Integrated Taxonomic Information System, and IUCN 2006 for the extinct Mustela macrodon.

Mustela africana Desmarest, 1800 Tropical weasel South America
Mustela altaica Pallas, 1811 Mountain weasel Europe & Northern Asia
Southern Asia
Mustela erminea Linnaeus, 1758 Stoat
Short-tailed weasel
Australia (non-native)
Europe & Northern Asia
North America
Southern Asia (non-native)
Mustela eversmannii Lesson, 1827 Steppe polecat Europe & Northern Asia
Southern Asia
Mustela felipei Izor and de la Torre, 1978 Colombian weasel South America
Mustela formosana Lin et Harada, 1998 Taiwan high-mountain least weasel Taiwan
Mustela frenata Lichtenstein, 1831 Long-tailed weasel Middle America
North America
South America
Mustela itatsi Temminck, 1844 Japanese weasel Japan & Sakhalin in Russia
Mustela kathiah Hodgson, 1835 Yellow-bellied weasel Southern Asia
Mustela lutreola (Linnaeus, 1761) European mink Europe & Northern Asia
Mustela lutreolina Robinson and Thomas, 1917 Indonesian mountain weasel Southern Asia
Mustela nigripes (Audubon and Bachman, 1851) Black-footed ferret North America
Mustela nivalis Linnaeus, 1766 Least weasel Europe & Northern Asia (non-native)
North America
Southern Asia (non-native)
Mustela nudipes Desmarest, 1822 Malayan weasel Southern Asia
Mustela putorius Linnaeus, 1758 European Polecat Europe & Northern Asia
Mustela sibirica Pallas, 1773 Siberian weasel Europe & Northern Asia
Southern Asia
Mustela strigidorsa Gray, 1855 Black-striped weasel Southern Asia
Mustela subpalmata Hemprich and Ehrenberg, 1833 Egyptian weasel Egypt

1 Europe & Northern Asia division excludes China.

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