why do they call a skunk a polecat

Skunks are moderately small mammals with black-and-white fur belonging to the family Mephitidae and the order Carnivora. There are 11 species of skunks, which are divided into four genera: Mephitis (hooded and striped skunks, two species), Spilogale (spotted skunks, two species), Mydaus (stink badgers, two species), and Conepatus (hog-nosed skunks, five species).


The two skunk species in the Mydaus genus inhabit Indonesia and the Philippines; all other skunks inhabit the Americas from Canada to central South America. Skunks are sometimes called polecats because of their visual similarity to the European polecat (Mustela putorius), a member of the Mustelidae family. Skunks are closely related to the weasel group and although they are now generally classified as a separate family within the same order, some taxonomists still place them as a subfamily of the Mustelidae.
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