Ferret Legging: Uncertainty Down The Trouser

Tonight I happened upon the invaluable article How to Make Your Ferret Smell Better.”

This heart warming advice column for ferret owners everywhere has some top tips for tending to the ripe weaselly little animals.Advice includes spraying the ferret daily with deodorant; removing its pungent earwax – which, the article informs us, can be remarkably musky; and use of ferret ear-cleansing-drops.

Knowing the ferret’s infamous temperament this does not sound an easy option. One might prefer to live with the smell.

Here in Britain there is one surefire way to ensure they smell better: namely, refrain from putting them down your trousers.

I refer to that time-honoured pastime of miners from the old Yorkshire collieries. After a long day down the mine, they liked nothing better than to come home, put on baggy trousers and head up to the pub for a spot of Ferret Legging.

Contestants in a ferret legging contest ย would first tie string round their waistband and the bottom of their trousers, the better to stop a nippy ferret from a waist-to-socks dash and a frenzied bid for freedom.

A large and unruly audience was customary: and I can see why. I would not be at the back of the room should my husband attempt to put two feisty ferrets down his chinos.

No contestant was permitted to wear any underwear or protection. This, bearing in mind the temperament of a confined ferret, was foolhardy in the extreme.

But there were emergency procedures. The sport had its organisational structure: namely stewards standing by with buckets of cold water, sharp scissors, a first aid box and a pint of the strongest ale.

The winner was the man who kept a ferret down each leg for the longest period.

The sport has been around for centuries but miners in the ’70s gave it a raucous new Elizabethan revival, and records have been kept since then.

In 1972 the record for the longest timeย with a ferret down one’s trousers stood at a ginger 40 seconds.

The records crept up over the following years, to a minute. Contestants must have practiced hard for it leapt to 90 minutes, and then Edward Simpkins from the Isle of Wight confounded all other by setting a record of five hours and ten minutes in 1977.

Purists will dispute his claim: he only had one ferret down his trousers for four of those hours, and only graduated to two in the final hour and ten minutes.

Respect is due, however, because he managed to play a creditable game of darts during the record attempt.

It was in 1981, at the Annual Pennine Show in Holmfirth, Yorkshire that retired miner Reg Mellor from Barnsley smashed through the ferret legging ย barrier by keeping the requisite double-ferret combination in place in his trousers for five hours and twenty-six minutes.

Reg was a lifelong ferret legger.

Long had he strode across those Yorkshire Dales outside Barnsley, using his ferrets to help him hunt. They were not partial to the rain so he used to pop them in his slacks to keep them dry, he confided. They were accustomed to being in his trousers as a matter of comfort.

But his surefire secret of success? Feed those ferrets well before you put them down your trousers.

No one has managed six hours yet. It is the holy grail of the ferret legger. A retired headmaster did manage five hours and thirty minutes in 2010, though.

These days, ferret legging doesn’t get much attention. They’re all doing that new-fangled ferret racing through tubes now.

I wonder which the ferrets prefer.

With thanks to the North Pennine Ferret Welfare site for the low-down on ferret legging.

Image source here


50 thoughts on “Ferret Legging: Uncertainty Down The Trouser

  1. Boys games! How often they offer risk to portions of the anatomy.

    I need to go wash out my eyes and mind with bleach as I imagined the enthuastic crowd in the pub checking there was no protection being worn.

  2. The animal lovers around here would have those men’s hides! I think I know what the ferrets would prefer…free range with smelly ears. ๐Ÿ˜€

  3. My cousin’s ferrets used to try to crawl up the inside of my bluejeans legs, and that didn’t feel good at all, so I can’t imagine constructing barriers to keep them there. Except for the retired headmaster. He was probably used to a life of daring.

    1. There. Someone who has sampled a real life ferret; or whom a real live ferret has attempted to sample. And in Texas…thank you, Kathy, for a first hand account….ferrets like trousers, then: they are their medium of choice?

  4. When I lived in Richmond North Yorkshire, I was unfortunate enough to see a man with a ferret down his trousers. He was in training, and was sat in a pub: playing Dominos. I was traumatised.

  5. All I ever wanted to know about ferrets and was afraid to ask! Oh well, Kate, as the saying goes “boys will be boys”.

    Our Kate once had a prairie dog for a pet. I’m still trying to figure out how I let her talk me into that one.

  6. Good grief, woman. Is there no end to the fascinating bits of knowledge you dig up? This post confirms my conviction that men are just little boys in grown-up clothes.

  7. Goodness knows if this will work, but here goes!
    (Sorry Kate, I’m having extreme connection issues at present with WordPress and my connection keeps failing)
    I couldn’t be a ferret legger myself – I don’t have the time! And, it’s actually a wonder others can nowadays as well, what with the fashion of wearing one’s trousers with the waist around the knees… I don’t do that either, by the way…

  8. Dear Kate, truly, this sounds like one of those tall tales you wrote about last week! I’ve never heard about ferret legging before. Maybe that’s because ferrets aren’t the companion of choice in the United States! But maybe I’m just behind times. Ah well.


    1. I don’t think you need berate yourself for not knowing about this bizarre sport, Dee ;-D Ferret legging does happen in Virginia, I believe, and our own Kathy has brought testimony that ferrets in Texas seek trousers as a favoured habitat….but it will always be a marginal attraction, for obvious reasons…

  9. Well who knew! Surely I did not! I am a bit amazed at this story and can’t imagine what inspired the first person to decide putting a ferret down his pants was a good idea! Yikes! Ferrets cannot be kept as pets in California, so unfortunately I cannot relate to the musky smell! With your usual posts, Kate, I wish I could join in! Today’s has me comfortable at a distance ๐Ÿ™‚ Debra

  10. Kate, these bizarre tangents are so entertaining. My husband has a typically schoolboy theory as to how all those record-makers kept the ferrets down their trousers ๐Ÿ˜‰

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