30 March 2021

Going Down the Wikipedia Rabbit Hole

I am sure that most of you have experienced this, you look up something, and you go to the Wikipedia page, and there is an interesting link, and you go there, and before you know it, you have clicked on 20+ different links, and you are looking at something completely unrelated to where you started.

Well, I did this today, I was looking up the comedy team of John Clarke and Bryan Dawe, after posting their classic sketch, The Front Fell Off, and I ended up on the sport of ferret-legging.

Ferret legging is a sport in which men (and it is almost always men) stuff ferrets down their trousers, and the one who can do this for the longest time wins:

Ferret-legging was an endurance test or stunt in which ferrets were trapped in trousers worn by a participant. Also known as put 'em down and ferret-down-trousers, it seems to have been popular among coal miners in Yorkshire, England. Contestants put live ferrets inside their trousers; the winner is the one who is the last to release the animals.

Ferret-legging may have originated during the time when only the relatively wealthy in England were allowed to keep animals used for hunting, forcing poachers to hide their illicit ferrets in their trousers. Following a brief resurgence in popularity during the 1970s, it has been described as a "dying sport", although a national ferret-legging event was held in Richmond, Virginia from 2003 to 2009.

Description and rules

In the sport of ferret-legging, competitors tie their trousers at the ankles before placing two ferrets inside and securely fastening their belts to prevent the ferrets from escaping. Each competitor then stands in front of the judges for as long as he can. Competitors cannot be drunk or drugged, nor can the ferrets be sedated. In addition, competitors are not allowed to wear underwear beneath their trousers, which must allow the ferrets free access from one leg to the other, and the ferrets must have a full set of teeth that must not have been filed or otherwise blunted. The winner is the person who lasts the longest.

The sport is said to involve very little "native skill", simply an ability to "have your tool bitten and not care". The former world champion, Reg Mellor, is credited with instituting the practice of wearing white trousers in ferret-legging matches, to better display the blood from the wounds caused by the animals. Competitors can attempt, from outside their trousers, to dislodge the ferrets, but as the animals can maintain a strong hold for long periods, their removal can be difficult. The ferrets are occasionally put inside the contestants' shirts in addition to their trousers. An attempt to introduce a female version of the sport—ferret busting, in which female contestants introduced ferrets down their blouses—proved unsuccessful.

This is profoundly weird, and having been exposed to the story Sredni Vashtar by Saki at a young age, it is certainly not a sport that I have any interest in participating in, though right now I am craving a piece of buttered toast. (It's Passover, so I am REALLY craving a piece of buttered toast)


Stephen Montsaroff said...

You know men with weasels down their pants are a recurring Pratchett subject.

Matthew Saroff said...

Well, everything that I have read about the "Sport" seems to indicate that it is a uniquely British endeavor.

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