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Last time we were talking about Mustelidae family, narrowing it to bigger animals like wolverines, badgers, otters and martens. Today we're going to take care of smaller members of the family, including the tiniest carnivore ever, the least weasel. Fortunately (or not), all the weasels (as we're going to call members of genus Mustela) are very similar, so you can learn how to draw a general weasel body and then bring in the details of one of the five species. Five animals in one - that's pretty good deal, isn't it? Let's get started!
What Does a Weasel Look Like?
You've probably got a well-established image of a weasel in your mind, but let's specify it:
- Weasels have long, thin, flexible body;
- Long, slim neck is finished with a small head;
- The snout is short and tapered;
- The tail is long, stick-shaped;
- Paws are small, with medium-length, non-retractable claws;
- Legs are short, they enable both digitrade (fingertips) and plantigrade (whole hands/feet) locomotion.
The arched back may conceal a bit the true shape of a weasel's barrow. Although so straight and even back may seem odd, it's completely normal for a weasel. Don't try to create curved barrow characteristic like in cats or dogs - weasels are meant to look like a tube with legs, that's not a mistake!
Weasels run using so called "bounding gait". It's quite primitive way of locomotion, but it works very well for these slim, flexible bodies and short legs of theirs. Bounding gait means all the legs are in the same phase of running (pushing, stretching) at roughly the same time. In other words, when one leg goes to inside, all of them go to inside (and vice versa).
Here comes the slower version:
This was a skeleton you can use to create a basic pose for your weasel.
You can easily add simplified muscle masses to it to create a body. (if you're having problems with the pose, check the importance of drawing poses.)
When drawing the head for a weasel, you can think of it as a kitten. Eyes place below the middle line of the head circle will give your animal a cute, innocent look.
In the side view it's important to stress the short snout and streamline shape of the skull.
Weasels' paws are absolutely adorable! They're like little hands with fragile fingers and soft pads. When you compare them to cat paws, it becomes obvious that whole "hands", not only fingertips can be used for locomotion.
Weasels' feet are so tiny that it's better not to put too much detail in them - they're a detail themselves! However, it's important to create a proper shape for them. They're quite easy to draw both in plantigrade and digitrade position: (the "thumb" isn't shown below, since it's a left paw and it wouldn't be visible anyway)
But that was just a "universal" weasel. Let's take a look at the actual species!
The Least Weasel
The term "weasel" is usually used for the smallest member of mustelidae, the least weasel. It's no bigger than a rat, but it's still a blood-thirsty predator. It can be recognized by its short tail, chocolate-brown coat and cream underside with an irregular border in-between. The body is classically slim and long.
The head of this weasel was used for the template above. The eyes are big, black and round, the nose is small, the ears are rounded and rather flat. It's characteristic for the least weasel that the light underside reaches the chin only. A brown patch, less or more merged with the rest of the pelt can be observed on the sides.
In colder areas the least weasel may turn completely white in winter.
The stoat is a bit bigger than the least weasel, but very similar to it in general appearance. The most prominent difference is longer tail with a black tip and a straight and clear line between the colors of the fur.
The head is almost identical to the least weasel, but the light underside reaches the mouth and creates a neat patch under the nose.
The stoat in its winter coat is called ermine. The tip of the tail stays black, what makes it easy to distinguish from the least weasel.
The mink is similar to otter in behavior and looks. It's semi-aquatic, with water-resistant fur and slightly webbed paws. A few of color variations of minks have been developed for fur production, but the original, natural one is dark brown.
The head seems rounder than with other weasels, with slightly smaller eyes. The light patch on the mouth appears on both lips for the European mink and on the lower lip only (or not at al) for the American mink.
The polecat is the origin of well-known ferrets. It's a big, heavy weasel with interesting fur pattern - dark brown with gray or slightly blond patches. Its silhouette is a bit stockier on the back, less tube-like.
The head of polecat reminds me of a mini-wolverine with light snout and cuter eyes. The black mask around them contrasts with light forehead.
The ferret is a domesticated form of polecat. In the process of domestication the look has also changed, and the ferret usually looks lighter, less contrasting. Ferrets can also have one or more light-colored paws, and a lot of various, polecat-unrelated color forms.
The ferret can be easily distinguished by its pink nose and ear-insides.
The difference between the polecat and the ferret isn't always as clear as shown below, but in drawing you can stick to it for clarity.
The differences between weasels are the most easily observable when all the silhouettes are put next to each other:
The same applies to the head shape:
That's All Folks!
Now you're never going to confuse the least weasel with stoat again, and you're one step closer to becoming an animal expert. So, what are you waiting for? Grab a pencil and draw a cute weasel!