If polo is called the sport of kings, then ferret legging should be called the sport of eunuchs. Should be, but it’s not. Eunuchs would only take the fun out of this manly sport, much as ferrets could take the manhood out of the man. As a sport, ferret legging really does not have a lot going for it, but then neither do the men who participate in it. As for the ferrets, one can only wonder what they ever did to deserve such a fate.
Ferrets, for those who don’t know, are weasel-like mammals that consist of 34 razor sharp teeth, needle-like claws, and a bunch of other parts that don’t really matter. Their teeth alone are enough to make them obligate carnivores, which means they can only eat meat, which further means that vegetables are about the only things that can intimidate them. A group of ferrets is called a business. Do not do business with a group of ferrets. Not only is there a reason for the word ferret being derived from a Latin word meaning “little thief,” but there is also a reason for ferrets being called “piranhas with claws.” They like their business bloody.
Ferrets were first domesticated in Greece 2,500 years ago, around the time the Greeks were running out of new ideas. Had ferrets known what lay in store for them, they probably would have bit the hands that fed them. At first they were put to work killing rats, when the Greeks realized the futility of waiting for cats to work. When this proved successful, they were employed to hunt rabbits, where they excelled at flushing them out of their tight, dark burrows. As hunting was their sole purpose in life anyway, they likely considered this a fair trade for food and housing, and didn’t much notice the dignity they were losing by being domesticated. But all that was a long time before the 1970’s, when the loss of dignity became the main goal instead of a side effect. This was the era that gave us disco, bell bottoms, feathered hair, John Travolta, 1st AND 2nd hand smoke, and ferret legging.
If you have never heard of ferret legging before, it’s probably because you only read the work of respectable writers. Or because animal rights groups have been united in their efforts to stop a sport they consider a cruel way of stripping ferrets of any shred of dignity they have remaining. I am neither a respectable writer nor an animal rights activist, yet I still find ferret legging so horrifying that I have to give you fair warning – stop reading now, go hug your dog or cat, and forget that you ever heard about it. Or the 1970s.
OK then, if you’re reading on, I suggest you take a stiff drink, make sure there are no ferrets in the vicinity, and cross your legs anyway. Ferret legging is the unnatural sport whereby contestants vie to see who can keep two live ferrets in their pants the longest. It naturally was invented in an English pub after patrons began to get bored with drunken darts. The rules are simple. No underwear can be worn, pants must be loose enough for the ferrets to move about, and the pants are tied off at the ankles and waist. White pants are recommended as they tend to show blood better. It is also advisable that contestants not plan on having children, not be in a relationship, and not have anything left to live for. Winners though, will not only get bragging rights, but free drinks and free transportation to the hospital or psychiatric clinic of their choosing.
Why ferret leggers haven’t also thought of shoving a rat or rabbit in their pants to liven things up I’ll never know, seeing that the winner is basically the man who can suffer the longest. In this respect it is almost enough to make ferret legging be thought of as the sport of Buddhists, whose first noble truth is that “life is suffering.” I’m fairly sure though that not in a Buddhist’s wildest meditations would he or she conclude that the path to Nirvana and the freedom from suffering involved sticking vicious animals in your pants, although it must feel like you’re getting close when you pull them out.
In what must be considered an oversight, no ferret legger has ever won the Darwin Award for most creative attempt to remove oneself from the gene pool. Granted, competition for this award is always intense, but when Reg Mellor managed to keep two ferrets in his pants for 5 ½ hours, blowing away the previous record of 90 minutes, he should have been given something more than bandages and the title King of the Ferret Leggers. Reg was a simple man however, and would have been happy with the fifteen minutes of fame he enjoyed if he hadn’t been so busy recuperating.
The same cannot be said about ferrets. That no one ever talks about their suffering is the real crime of this sport. If you think I’m exaggerating, I dare you to think about putting yourself in their place. As I’m quite sure you would not consider this a path to Nirvana, cheap thrills, or even to anyone’s heart, it’s a good bet the ferrets don’t either. But while humans think nothing of sacrificing their dignity, and have almost elevated this to a sport in itself, ferrets did not evolve this way. And neither did they evolve psychological coping mechanisms, or a tolerance for alcohol. Once upon a time, self-respect meant everything to them, and the Way of the Ferret was far from naked humans. Now, it seems, humans have found a new way to take animals down with them.