If you ever want to find out if someone you know is funny, ask them if they know the difference between a stoat and a weasel. If they say anything like “a weasel is weasily distinguishable” or “a stoat is stoatally different”, then they are not funny. This is the oldest joke in Christendom, and the person who tells it demeans themselves and insults you.
I caught a stoat for the first time in a three months today, and I found that a few yards along the same dyke, I had also caught a weasel. You don’t often get a chance to see stoats and weasels together, and it made for an interesting comparison. I featured a picture of a weasel and an ermine that I caught in the same day in March last year, but with both in comparable coats, I took the above picture, if for no other reason than an attempt to lay the weary bones of the “stoatally” joke to rest at last.
Apart from the obvious size difference, the easiest way to tell the difference between stoats and weasels is the obvious black tail tip of a stoat. Stoats have long, expressive tails which trail behind the animals like a lit fuse, while weasels have disappointing little stubs which hardly stretch further back than their ankles. Stoats have muscular, bulky shoulders and a face that is reminiscent of a staffordshire bull terrier. They are strong, capable animals, with a fearless disposition and the ability to soar across the landscape like a cross between a hovercraft and a lazer.
By comparison, weasels are almost like ghosts. They have round, bear-like faces and slither through the grass like lizards. Unlike stoats, which have a solid delinitaion between red backs and white underbellies, weasel fur has convoluted markings which appear to be totally unique to each individual. The fur around their throats and bellies is marbled with faded red hairs, making them subtly beautiful, despite their diminutive size.
In reality, stoats and weasels are totally different altogether. I suppose it’s testament to their cunning and secrecy that the general public knows so little about them, despite their abundance in the British countryside.