patricklaurie's picture

Weasel Whiskers

Observed: 12th March 2011 By: patricklauriepatricklaurie’s reputation in Mammals

On closer examination of a dead weasel which was found hit by a car, I see that it has three long white "whiskers" on each elbow, and a number of shorter hairs which stand in a tuft closer to the paw. The long hairs stand over an inch out from the skin, and the shorter ones are a only a fraction of that length.
Can anyone suggest what these tufts are for and explain why this weasel has them, but none of the others I have ever seen has had them?

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Vinny's picture

Maybe mole hairs...

...not the burrowing mammal - but similar to how mole hairs grow much longer on your own skin (well mine do anyway!).

Rose's picture


Whiskers are known by the Latin name of vibrissae, which is a generic name for any sort of stiff, large, extra sensitive hair used as a sensory tool by animals. Mammals of all sizes from mice to horses have vibrissae, and are highly attuned to small changes in their environment as a result.

They are extremely sensitive tactile hairs are able to detect subtle vibrations and wind currents, and can also be used as a measuring tool to determine whether or not a an animal will fit into an opening.

Maybe you just never noticed them before, or maybe some had fallen out and were not as obvious. Do you have a cat or know someone who has one? have a look at its front legs closely next time and you will see them.


Gill Sinclair's picture


Weasels follow their mouse and vole prey down burrows, so it would make sense for them to have vibrissae to help them feel their way in the pitch black.
Do you have a photo of the whole animal too which you could post?

Gill Sinclair
OU Certificate in Contemporary Science
Twitter @Gill_Sinclair

the naturalist man's picture


I must admit I had never noticed such whiskers anywhere other than on the face. However, having done some research they can be found all over the body.

I couldn't find any mention of weasels but do now know that squirrels have vibrissae on their ankles and bats have them on their rumps!

That's my useless (though, presumably not for the bat) fact for the day!

Graham Banwell

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