Striped Polecat


Striped Polecat, African Polecat or Zorilla [Ictonyx striatus]


Polecats are close relatives of the African weasel, but differs in that it is larger, the coat hairs are longer, and that it has three characteristic white dots on the head. Head and body length is about 350 mm as an adult, with a 200 mm tail. Weighs between 640 and 1000 gr.

The pelage of the upper parts of the body is black and white striped, with long hair. Top of the head and rest of the body is black. There are three white spots on the head, one situated in the center of the head and one above each eye. They have bushy tails.


Feeds mainly on rodents, but almost any small animal prey such as snakes, lizards, scorpions, spiders, centipedes and insects may be eaten. While foraging the polecat also pushes its snout into soft soil or plant litter to locate invertebrates.


Breeding season extends over spring and early summer, only one litter consisting of one to three altricial young are born per season. Gestation period is 36 days. Copulation can last 60-100 minutes. The canine teeth of young appear at 33 days and the eyes open at 40 days.

Subadults are able to kill small rodents at nine weeks, and young are fully grown by 20 weeks of age. Except when mating, both adult males and females occur singly. Female and young of the year remain together until her young are almost fully grown. At present it is not known whether this species, like the African weasel, is territorial.


Inhabits a wide variety of habitats, except dense, evergreen forests.

Where Striped Polecat Are Found

Striped Polecat are distributed widely and is fairly common throughout South Africa and in neighbouring countries, to as far north as Central Africa.

Vital Statistics

Weight (Female)
596 - 880 g
Weight (Male)
681 - 1460 g
Length (Female)
63 cm
Length (Male)
63 cm
Gestation Period
5 - 6 weeks
No of Young
1 - 3
Birth Weight
12 g


1 - 3 young are born from October - March after a gestation period of 5 - 6 weeks.

Spoor Description

5 toes on the fore- and hind feet. The claws on the fore-feet are long, strong and curved, up to 18 mm over the curve. Those on the hind-feet are much shorter, less curved and up to about 10 mm long over the curve.

All 5 toes and claws of the fore- and hind-feet mark in the spoor, although the first toe of either foot may sometimes leave a weak impression. No proximal pad of the fore-feet shows in the spoor.

Field Notes

The Striped Polecat is legendary for its ability to emit a foul smelling substance from its anal glands for protection. So powerful is this smell that personal observations include seeing an individual standing its ground against three lions which eventually moved away after much lip curling.

Kruger National Park - South African Safari