Among the animals of Libya, Herodot mentions, without detailed description, the “weasel of Tartessos”. This was not the European weasel (Mustela nivalis), often tamed by the ancient Greeks in order to catch mice, but a wild mammal, found also in southern Spain, near Tartessos. In this essay, we suggest that this “weasel” can be identified with the genet (genetta genetta), which appears on VIth century B.C. coinage of Cyrenaica. Later (Ist century B.C.), according to Posidonius, as quoted by Strabo, one could see in Maurusia (Morocco) “weasels” like cats, but with a sharper nose, which were undoubtedly genets. During the same period, the people of Tartessos used these “weasels” to catch rabbits in their burrows, while in the Balearic Islands the inhabitants, it seems,used wild or tame ferrets for this purpose. In the Middle Ages, genets extended over a vaste area through Spain and reach south-west of France.
Genet, weasels, ferret, Libya, Spain, Herodotus.