By Tyler Tjelmeland
Have you ever had the desire to tie your trousers at the ankles and waist and stuff two fully grown, sharp-toothed, ferrets down your pants? Didn’t think so.
“Ferret Legging”, is believed to have been first practiced when ferrets were used to hunt on unauthorized lands in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Poachers would hide their ferrets in their pants so gamekeepers would be unable to detect the rodent-hunters, which could lead to punishment or confiscation of the animal.
The sport as it is practiced today was established in the 1970’s with a resurgence of popularity. Many believe “Ferret Legging” originated in England, but a number in Scotland claim it as their own.
The game is simple. Competitors line up in front of a table of judges, tie the ankles of their pants with a length of rope, insert two fully-grown ferrets into their pants, tighten their belts and the game begins! “Ferret Legging” is played strictly with male competitors and participants are not allowed to wear any sort of undergarment underneath their pants. Judges time the event and the man with the ferrets in his pants for the longest amount of time wins.
As an alternative for women, the sport branched out in the 90’s with a sub-sport called “Ferret Busting” in which women placed the animals in their shirts. Women’s “Ferret Busting” did not maintain a solid reception and was discontinued.
The first recorded world record in “Ferret Legging” was set in 1972 at 40 seconds, but continued to slowly grow over the ensuing five years until 1977 when Edward Simpkins shattered the world record with a mouth-dropping 5 hour and 10 minute performance.
The record held until 1981 when Ferret Legger extraordinaire Reg Mellor, who had been legging since he was a young lad when hunting to keep his ferrets dry in the cold months, broke the record with a phenomenal 5 hour 26 minutes performance at the Annual Penine Show at Holfmith, Yorkshire. Mellor held the record until just last year (2010) when Frank Bartlett and Christine Farnsworth each broke the record at 5 hours, 30 minutes at a charity event.
The grand daddy of them all each year is held in Richmond, Virginia where many participants come to engage in a battle of “Ferret Legging” at the Richmond Highland Games and Celtic Festival. “Ferret Legging” has made an appearance at these games for the past eight years. Even with the reoccurring competitions at Richmond, “Ferret Legging” has been called a dying sport and continues to decline in popularity around the world.