Many artists and animators tend to draw animal characters based on a generic canine, feline or rodent anatomy; regardless of what the intended species is supposed to be. In the case of mustelids, due to their misleading features in classic media and lack of overall popularity in studies, they are extremely susceptible to hybrid-like characteristics. Below are some of the most common mistakes we tend to see in both art and animation.
1. A surprising number of creators have depicted mustelids with buck teeth. We are unsure how this mistake is made, but it’s likely due to some people believing mustelids are rodents. Mustelids do not have buck teeth—their dentition is characterized by canine teeth, sharp molars and premolars.
2. Many mustelids are indeed slinky and flexible with elongated bodies, but they are not anorexic. Despite their lankiness they are well-proportioned for their size, so depicting them as though they are malnourished shouldn’t be standard practice. It should also be noted that mustelids can be obese. However, this is usually only possible for those that are domesticated or kept in captivity.
3. Commonly we see mustelids depicted with a four-digit, digitigrade paw structure of a canine or feline. It can seem a bit uncanny to the eyes, since all mustelids have plantigrade to semi-plantigrade hindpaws;(1)(2) with five digits on both their forepaws and hindpaws.(2) The lack of five digits does not apply to toony styled characters, since they are traditionally drawn with the four-finger, three-toe aesthetic. In this case the number of digits a character has is a matter of personal preference, or in some cases a time-saving technique in animation.
Regarding the structure of their hind limbs, some argue some mustelids (mostly members of the genus Mustela) have digitigrade hindpaws, because the metatarsal is slightly raised while in motion. However, their hind limbs do not have such a prominent structure (like canines or felines) to be considered completely digitigrade.
4. Frequently in toony styles you’ll see ferrets and weasels depicted with elongated (or sausage-shaped) muzzles extending twice the length of their own head, with noses similar in shape of a wine bottle’s cork. Unfortunately because of Disney caricaturing their features in classic media, too many artists and animators who are unfamiliar with these mustelids assume they actually look like this. Unless intentionally going for the Disney look, ferrets and weasels actually have tapered muzzles that are short in length to match their streamline skulls, with noses that are small and relatively flat in comparison. So literally the opposite.