Ferret Colors and Patterns
Read more at: AFA Ferret Color and Pattern Standards Chart
A Note on Ferret Colors: Ferret’s colors and patterns can change very dramatically with each seasonal coat change, and with age. If you purchase a ferret specifically for their coloring/markings, do not be disappointed when those features change. Read the full article below for examples and pictures of just how significantly their coat colors can change.
Sable ferrets, also called Poley, come in a wide variety of shades, from black to medium brown. They have a white to cream undercoat, with brown or black guard hairs. Their pattern can include standard, point, or solid. Eyes are standard brown eyes. Noses may vary from pink to black.
Sable masks can vary quite dramatically, not only from ferret to ferret but from season to season. The following 2 pictures are both the same ferret (Merida), in the summer and winter:
Albinos by definition, lack any pigmentation. If your ferret has so much as one colored guard hair, or dark eyes, they are NOT an albino. See DEW below. Albinos have a white undercoat with white guard hairs. Their coat may occasionally have a faint yellow hue due to oil production. Noses are pink without markings. Eyes are bright red – this is not due to red pigment but rather to a lack of pigment, which allows the red vessels of the retina to shine through.
Champagne ferrets are also called Sandy in many places of the world. They have a white to cream undercoat. Guard hairs range from beige to tan/light brown.
Their pattern can include standard or point. Eyes are often dark ruby, or standard brown eyes. Note that the ruby eyes of a champagne are pigmented, unlike the eyes of an albino. Noses are usually pink, but occasionally may have a faint brown-T or brown speckles.
Champagne masks can vary, and during some seasons may become so faint they are barely discernible. This does NOT make them Pandas however – if you look closely however the colored guard hairs are still there, and the masks often darken again with the next seasonal change.
True Cinnamon ferrets are extremely rare, and many argue that they do not exist but are simply a variation of Champagne. They have a white to cream undercoat. Guard hairs are similar to that of a Champagne, but with a distinctly red hue. Their pattern can include standard or point. Eyes are often dark ruby, or standard brown eyes. Note that the ruby eyes are pigmented, unlike the eyes of an albino. Noses are usually pink, but occasionally may have a faint brown-T or brown speckles.
Cinnamon masks can vary, and during some seasons may become so faint they are barely discernible.
True Chocolate ferrets are uncommon, and many people mistake a light Sable or dark Champagne for a Chocolate ferret. They have a white to cream undercoat. Guard hairs are a rich chocolate milk color. Their pattern can include standard or point. Eyes are standard brown eyes. Noses are usually pink, but may have a faint brown-T or brown speckles.
Masks can vary, but are most often Standard or Hooded/T-mask.
Black Roan Mitt (BRM)
Black Roan Mitts are have a clean, white undercoat. Guard hairs are black to gray with 50% or more of the guard hairs being white to meet the true definition of a “roan” ferret. However, young mitted ferrets with a stark white undercoat and black guard hairs are also referred to as “BRMs” due to the fact that they almost always “roan out” with age. Eyes are standard brown. Noses may range from pink to speckled to black.
Masks vary. Bibs are very common.
Lightening with age:
Roan and Silver have the same meaning. These names refer to ferrets of ANY color and pattern, excluding Albino, in which 50% or more of the guard hairs are white. With very rare exception, almost all Roan/Silver ferrets gain more and more white guard hairs with each shed (called “roaning out”), until they become a DEW (see below).
Dark Eyed White (DEW)
Dark Eyed Whites are often confused with Albinos. DEWs however, are capable of producing pigment. They have white undercoats, with primarily white guard hairs. Noses are usually pink, but may also have brown-T, speckles, or even may be black (uncommon).
Most DEWs do not start out as a DEW, but rather tend to “roan out,” and lose their color with each shed until they become completely white. Almost all Marked DEWs (see below) and Pandas, most Silver/Roan ferrets, and many Blaze ferrets eventually become DEWs.
Example: below are 2 pictures of the same ferret who roaned out from a light sable to a DEW over the course of a few years.
Marked Dark Eyed Whites are DEWs with some colored guard hairs. Colored guard hairs can range from a smattering of hairs on the butt, to a distinct marking. If you purchase a ferret specifically for this marking, expect to be disappointed – in almost 100% of Marked DEWs, the dark hairs will lighten with each shed and eventually disappear (leading to an unmarked DEW).
Red Eyed White (REW)/ Pink Eyed White (PEW)
Red Eyed Whites are often confused with Albinos. Unlike an albino however, their eyes are not unpigmented, but simply ruby colored. REW ferrets, like DEWs, may have some colored guard hairs and may even be Marked REWs (see Marked DEW above).
The Standard pattern consists of a light undercoat with dark guard hairs. The guard hairs over the entire body are dark, but the points (shoulders, hips, legs, and tail) are notably darker than the torso. Mask is a Standard or Hooded/T-Mask.
In a Point or Siamese ferret, the “points” (shoulders, hips, legs, and tail) have very dark guard hairs, while the torso is significantly lighter with only a scattering of dark guard hairs. The mask is typically a V-Mask.
Roan See Roan/Silver Above
Solid patterned ferrets have consistently dark guard hairs over their entire body, excluding their face, which typically has a Standard or Hooded/T-Mask. Their abdomens may be slightly lighter, but their torso, legs, and tail are all a uniform dark color.
Any ferret that does not meet criteria for a Standard, Point/Siamese, or Solid coloration (and some may argue BRMs and Silvers) OR any ferret with white spots other than a bib/mitts does not meet criteria for a recognized color/pattern and is considered to be a “mutt.” Many mutts tend to “roan out” and become Roan/Silver and even eventually, a DEW (see above).
“Zippers” refer to a dark line down the central abdomen.
White coloration of the chest.
Note that ferrets may have white chest markings that are NOT full bibs.
White coloration encompassing the entire foot. Mitts may extend up the leg to the knee/elbow.
Milk toes are white toes that do not encompass the whole foot.
A Blaze is a white marking on top the ferret’s head, typically running down the back of the neck. This may range from a small white spot on top of the head, to a ferret with almost entirely white neck and shoulders with a few dark hairs on top of the head (see Panda for more). Note that Blaze markings are strongly associated with Neural Crest (aka Waardenburg) Syndrome. Note also that not all, but most Blaze ferrets gain more and more white guard hairs with each shed (called “roaning out”), until they become a DEW (see above).
A Panda is a ferret with an almost completely white head and neck, often extending as far down as the shoulders. Note that Panda markings are strongly associated with Neural Crest (aka Waardenburg) Syndrome. Note also that most Panda ferrets gain more and more white guard hairs with each shed (called “roaning out”), until they become a DEW (see above).
Note that if there are a significant number of dark guard hairs remaining on top of the head, the ferret would be considered a Blaze. You can see this in the picture below. However, per AFA standards a ferret may have a few dark hairs around the eyes and still be considered a Panda.
White spots on the knees.
Other (Belly Patches, Tail Tips, etc)
Brown-T noses are pink noses with a tan to brown T-shaped outline.
Speckled noses can range from a few spots of light or dark brown, to heavily spotted. Spots may be light tan to black. Speckles may change, along with the coat, from season to season.
Less commonly, a ferret may have a dark nose with a couple of pink spots.
Standard masks, sometimes also called a “bar mask” are the stereotypical ferret mask. The mask extends solidly across the nasal bride, and around/under both eyes, and does not connect to the coloration on top of the head. White “eyebrows” are common in a Standard Mask.
V-Shaped masks are, as the name implies, distinctly V-shaped, with a sharp, narrow point low on the nasal bridge leading up to coloration around the eyes. They are often described as looking like the ferret is wearing spectacles.
In a Hooded or T-Mask, there is a solid bar of color from the top of the head to the mask.
While not a technically recognized category of mask, many ferret owners affectionately refer to their ferrets as having a “War Paint” mask. This is used to refer to masks in which there are distinct markings under the eyes (typically mostly separated from the rest of the mask), with or without coloration across the nasal bridge.