Reproduction of the female ferret (Mustela putorius furo)

Reprod Domest Anim. 2008 Jul:43 Suppl 2:150-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1439-0531.2008.01155.x.


The domestic ferret is a seasonally polyoestrous species. Females reach puberty at the age of 8-12 months. Females exhibit a constant oestrus between late March and early August if they are not bred. Increasing tumescence in the pink-coloured vulva is a sign of pro-oestrus. Oestrus can persist for up to 5 months, but once ovulation is induced, either pregnancy or pseudopregnancy ensues. Follicular development and atresia overlap in such a manner that there is a recent cohort of follicles available for ovulation whenever copulation might occur. Copulation may last from 15 min to 3 h, the average being 1 h. Ovulation is induced by pressure on the cervix associated with copulation. After sufficient LH release, the pre-ovulatory follicles mature and an average of 12 oocytes (5-13) per female are ovulated 30-40 h after copulation into the ovarian bursa. The ferret oocytes are most capable of being fertilized up to 12 h after ovulation, i.e. 42-52 h after copulation. Ferret oocytes ovulate at the metaphase of the second meiotic division (MII) embedded in three layers of corona radiata cells. Embryos enter the uterus over a period of several days starting on day 5 after mating. Between days 12 and 13 after mating, the embryos have become implanted in the endometrium. Implantation in the ferret is central with rapid invasion of the uterine epithelium by the trophoblast over a broad area that eventually becomes a zonary band of endotheliochorial placenta. Gestation length is 41 days (39-42 days). The domestic ferret gives birth to an average of eight kits (1-18 kits), which weigh 6-12 g at birth.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Domestic
  • Copulation / physiology*
  • Estrus / physiology*
  • Female
  • Ferrets / physiology*
  • Litter Size
  • Ovulation / physiology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Reproduction / physiology*
  • Time Factors