SPRINGFIELD, Ore – While world-class athletes were grunting and groaning on the other side of the Atlantic Sunday, "Boots" went for the gold here in his own way. And he walked away with it.
The 16-month-old ferret barreled through an 18-foot-long dryer hose in a record six seconds at the 8th annual Ferret Olympics (search), which highlighted one of America's faster-growing pet fads.
It wasn't even close. Silver medalist Sparky took 12 seconds for the same event.
About 30 ferrets took part in the fund-raiser for the Lane Area Ferret Lovers Rescue and Shelter (search) in Eugene, which cares for anywhere from 10 to 20 ferrets, said Melanee Ellis, shelter president and founder.
Other events included the paper bag escape, cup tip and a digging contest.
There were medals for longest and shortest tail, lightest and heaviest entrant, and even a "most yawns" competition. Tulip, a 3-month-old ferret owned by Chelsea Carothers of Eugene, won with five yawns in half a minute.
During a lull, Eugene veterinarian Ron Titterington said ferrets are becoming increasingly popular, especially among apartment dwellers.
When he began his practice 12 years ago, he said, he might see three or four a week. Now, he says they share equal time with cats or dogs.
Later the 75 or so ferret fans present gathered for the cup-tip event in which the critters run through a matrix of 22 paper cups, knocking over as many as possible in 60 seconds.
The winner, also was named Boots, is owned by Sandra Dietz of Vancouver, Wash.
She said she saw an advertisement about the Ferret Olympics in Ferrets magazine (search) and drove to Springfield.
The fattest ferret, an albino, belonged to Cindy and Jim Kiely of Eugene. He weighed in at about four pounds.
"What can I say, he's kind of chunky," Cindy Kiely said.