The Body of a Mustelid is Built Low to the Ground


The body of a mustelid is built low to the ground. It has short legs and a long, flexible backbone. There are many variations of this basic design, from skinny weasels to stocky wolverines. But all are built for capturing prey and eating meat.
Many of them have incredibly slender bodies, like the mink featured on these pages. Such thin bodies are wonderful for turning and twisting through heavy brush, and even for swimming. But those thin bodies don’t hold heat well. This is why minks and other mustelids have some of the warmest, most luxurious fur coats in the entire animal kingdom.

The thick, shiny fur of a mink reflects almost every color imaginable. Oils that make the fur waterproof cause the shine.

Some small mustelids often hunt bigger animals that outweigh them. One reason they are able to kill the larger prey is because mustelids have very strong jaws and sharp teeth.

Extremely powerful muscles surround the jaws and skull of a mustelid. This makes even small mustelids, like the mink, unbelievably strong. The mink can hold its jaws shut for a long time, so that its prey cannot break loose.

Mustelids have long, pointed canine teeth 1 for grabbing their prey. Their sharp cheek teeth 2 slice meat so that it can be swallowed.

Minks and other mustelids have a strange way of running. It is really more like jumping, but it gives them a long stride despite their short legs.

First they push off with both back feet. Then they stretch out in midair and reach far forward with their front legs.

As their front feet hit the ground, they arch their backs. This brings the hind legs as far forward as possible.

From this position, they are ready to leap again. With every leap, they take full advantage of their long bodies.

Most mustelids eat a lot of food, but they don’t get fat. This is because they are always on the go, so they use all the energy from the food they eat.

Mustelids have the most flexible backbones of any mammals in the world. This allows them to bend and turn their bodies as though they were made of rubber.

For their size, mustelids are probably the strongest of all mammals. As you see at left, the mink is practically all muscle.