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European polecat

Polecat is a common name for several mustelid species in the order Carnivora and subfamilies Ictonychinae[1] and Mustelinae. Polecats do not form a single taxonomic rank (i.e. clade). The name is applied to several species with broad similarities to European polecats, such as having a dark mask-like marking across the face.

In the United States, the term polecat is sometimes applied to the black-footed ferret, a native member of the Mustelinae. In Southern United States dialect, the term polecat is sometimes used as a colloquial nickname for the skunk, which is part of the family Mephitidae.[2]

Despite their common name, polecats are related more closely to dogs than to cats.


According to the most recent taxonomic scheme proposing eight subfamilies within Mustelidae, polecats are classified as:

Subfamily Ictonychinae

Subfamily Mustelinae



Mustela, Neogale (subfamily Mustelinae)

Galictis, Vormela, Ictonyx, Poecilogale (subfamily Galictinae)

Melogale (subfamily Helictidinae)

Eira, Gulo, Martes (subfamily Guloninae)

Arctonyx, Meles (subfamily Melinae)

Mellivora (subfamily Mellivorinae)

Taxidea (subfamily Taxideinae)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Nascimento, Fabio Oliveira do (2014). "On the correct name for some subfamilies of Mustelidae (Mammalia, Carnivora)". Papéis Avulsos de Zoologia. 54 (21): 307–313. doi:10.1590/0031-1049.2014.54.21. ISSN 0031-1049.
  2. ^ "Skunk Fact Sheet" (PDF). The Georgia Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Resources Division.