Ferret shows are a great way to meet other ferret owners and show off your pets. Some people take ferret shows very seriously and only keep ferrets for showing purposes, whereas others such as myself see shows as a bit of fun for them and their pet ferrets.
I went to my first ferret show last week and it was great chatting with the other owners and eyeing up the competition! To start with you need to enter your ferret(s) to be judged. They need to be entered into the appropriate classes. If you are a member of a ferret club or group then entry into shows is often free as this is covered in the membership costs, however if you attend open shows then you may be expected to pay a small fee for entry. Typical classes that they can be entered into include the colour classes (Albino, polecat, dark polecat, sandy, silver, coloured, mitt and copper) which are then separated into male and female of that colour, kits, veterans, disabled, matching pairs and working ferrets. I have two albino males, one of which is blind in one eye. So I entered one in the albino hob class, and the other in the disabled class. I also entered them both in the matching pairs class. You normally record on a form what classes you are entering your ferrets into, this is then taken and sometimes returned with a number next to each ferret. The ferrets are all numbered for each class and the judges will see them in numerical order. In the case of blind judging, the stewards who come to collect each ferret may use their name or number to identify them.
The show I attended had blind judging, which means that the judges are located in a separate room/marquee to the main room/marquee that the ferrets and their owners are in. Stewards are used to take ferrets from the owners to be judged and vice versa. The other common types of judging are ring judging, where judges examine each ferret, going from one ferret to another and the other type is where the judge sits at a table and has the owners bring their ferrets to him/her for inspection.
The judges look for certain qualities in each ferret, the most common being good muscle tone, good temperament and alertness, coat in nice condition and generally signs of being a healthy ferret. A ferret having these qualities is one that is obviously well cared for and handled, but judges can tell when ferrets have been 'spruced up' for a show. To be honest my ferrets' claws needed cutting around the time of the show, I had done them the week before but the front claws do tend to grow quite quickly. Anyway I decided to leave them longer than I would have liked, as often when you first cut claws they can be scratchy and sharp for a couple of days, which wouldn't leave a very good impression. Not only does this indicate that you have cut them purely for the show but it can indicate that you let them get too long in the first place and left it till the last minute. So we put up with longer nails and cut them when we got home from the show. It is best to cut them around 5 days before a show, judges typically look for well rounded nails that are about 2-4mm in length from the quick.
If your ferrets need to be bathed before a show then it's best to do it a few days beforehand, judges can tell if you have just bathed them and it can reflect badly. They will want to see that your ferret is clean but not in a 'just bathed' way. This proves that you are taking care to keep their homes in a sanitary condition. Ears should be clean but not over-done so that they are bright pink and sore. Your ferret's teeth should also be clean and well cared for. Ferrets can be disqualified for biting, although this will depend on the individual judge and the severity of the bite. The ferrets age will also be taken into account, as young ferrets tend to nip.
Once the judging has been completed the results are given. There are usually prizes such as rosettes for 1st down to 3rd or 4th place for each class. The winners from each class then get re-assessed to compete for the title of best in show and reserve best in show. Prizes that can be won are typically rosettes, medals and certificates.
I am very proud that my boys came away with three rosettes from their first show. Shiro won 2nd place in the albino hobs class, Alfie won 3rd place in the disabled class and they won 3rd place in matching pairs.
We are now looking forward to the next show, even if we don't come away with any rosettes we will have had a great day out and will still be very proud.
To find out about ferret shows near you contact your local club or society, or you could search via the internet.