Meet the man bringing ferrets back into fashion
Furry ferrets have had crowds at agricultural shows cooing and ahhing for years.
As ferret racing has become a firm favourite in the summer calender, reporter NATALIE WALKER speaks to one handler who travels across the country to bring the exciting event to Lancashire.
Simon Bishop regularly visits the North West with his ferrets, entertaining families with their tricks and antics.
The 59-year-old set up Ferretworld in 1997, the only one of its kind in the country, selling food and accessories. As interest in his business grew, he was invited attend shows and introduce ferret racing.
He recently brought his ferrets to Goosnargh and Longridge Agricultural Show, where they were well received.
He said: “I train the ferrets from when they are a baby, at around nine or 10 weeks old.
“They run through a selection of pipes and as they get older and bigger, they get faster. A ferret will go through naturally, but there are times when they are a bit ‘hole shy’ and won’t go through. I call them by their name and hold a treat at the end of the tunnel to coax them through.
“We then repeat the process again.
“I enjoy the animals because they are intelligent. They are domesticated and bond well with humans. They are a bit like dogs.”
Although ferret racing has been a popular event for decades, Simon has found it is waning, with him being one of only a few acts in the country.
He said: “Ferret racing used to be a pub and club event around 100 years ago, but now there are not that many in the country. So I go all around the country to various shows.
“People love it. We race the children against the ferrets as we have giant tubes. It is great fun.”
For Simon, ferrets have always played a large part in his life.
He owned his first one as a pet at the age of nine, and has always had a passion for the animals.
A lorry driver by trade, it was only in the late 1990s that he changed career paths as he realised there was not many places selling ferrets and products, he set up Ferretworld. The business has grown, and he now has 42 ferrets and his 18-year-old son William also helps out.
He said: “We first operated from home as a family business and then we were based in Staffordshire as the only ferret shop in Great Britain. Our ferret products website won three E-Commerce Awards in 2001, 2003 and 2004.
“During the early years more shows that we were attending as traders were asking me to give talks on the ferret and its history.
“As the talks developed, the Ferretworld Roadshow was born, appearing up and down the countryside as well as schools and village fetes.
“Demand increased for our unique entertaining.
“Ferretworld has appeared on TV and the radio many times, including on Richard and Judy, Blue Peter, and CBBC Xchange. We also have made commercials with our ferrets and have also used them to launch new products for small and large companies.
“As part of the Roadshow there is also the talk, introducing children and adults to the history of ferrets, their origin and their welfare, with the main emphasis being on fun.
“This is done in the classroom, a sports field or a community centre or at your local club.”
Ferret Roadshow will next appear at the Lunesdale Show, Underley Park, Kirkby Lonsdale, on August 9 and the Royal Lancashire Show, Witton Park, Blackburn, from August 12 to 14.