I have read some reports that this ‘sport’ originated in the north of England, while other reports claim that Scotland invented the concept.
Then there are other reports which claim that this bizarre practice came about as the mother of invention because a couple of centuries ago, poachers used to hunt for rabbits on private land and since they didn’t want to advertise the fact that they were out and about with their ferret, they kept it hidden in their clothes.
In James McKay’s book, he says that it was “common practice until very recently to stitch the ferret’s lips together, in order to prevent him biting a human or killing a rabbit” so there would have been no real danger to the poacher’s family jewels if the ferret roamed around under his clothes.
It’s a bit of a worry to think that that book was published in 1995 so how ‘very recently’ would it have been when people were stitching up the poor ferrets’ lips?! That is such a revolting and cruel thing to do to the poor animals.
However, the ferret legging competition is quite different.
The contestants are not allowed to wear underpants and have to put on woollen pants. The cuffs at the ankles are tied with rope or string, two ferrets are dropped at the top of the trousers and then the belt is pulled tight to seal the waist.
The object of the game is to see how long the contestants can last with the two ferrets racing around their nether regions and obviously the one who holds out the longest is the winner!
According to reports on the Internet, the record holder for this game was a 72-year old retired miner from Yorkshire called Reg Mellor back in 1981. He had the ferrets in his pants for 5 hours, 26 minutes!
The very amusing interview of Reg Mellor, written by Donald Katz for Harper’s Magazine, is worth reading.
Although it has been reported that this ridiculous ‘sport’ has gone out of fashion, it was certainly a drawcard at the 11th annual Richmond Highland Games & Celtic Festival in Virginia held in 2005!
AND, would you believe, they featured ferret legging at the 12th annual games on October 28, 2006 as well!
Only in America ……..!