Muskrat, (also called Musquash,), a large North American rodent. It is named for its musk gland secretion, which is similar to that used in perfumes, and for its resemblance to a large rat. It is 10 to 14 inches (25 to 35 cm) long, not including the 8- to 10-inch (20- to 25-cm) tail. The scaly, almost hairless tail is slightly flattened, and is used as a rudder in swimming. Thick, glossy brown fur, overlaid with blackish guard hairs, covers the animal's sides and back. The underparts are silvery. The hind feet are partially webbed.

Muskrats are found in almost all parts of the United States and Canada. They usually live near water. Some dig burrows into the banks of ponds and streams, with an entrance tunnel below the water line. Others build dome-shaped houses of vegetation two to three feet (60 to 90 cm) above marshes. Muskrats feed chiefly on vegetation, but also eat fish, frogs, and shellfish. Two to five litters of about seven young each are born annually.

Muskrat pelts are valued by furriers for their durability and waterproof qualities. The most desirable are the dark muskrat pelts, which usually are plucked, sheared, and dyed to resemble such furs as seal, mink, sable, or marten.

Who is a Smelly Rodent?

Muskrats get their name from the strong odor they give off when mating. Do you know the smell of musk? It is used in many perfumes.

Muskrats have many things in common with beavers. Like beavers, muskrats have partially webbed feet that make them strong swimmers. They use their scaly tails to steer in the water. Muskrats also build lodges to hide from their enemies. But a muskrat has something that no beaver has—that strong smell of musk.

The muskrat is Ondatra zibethicus of the family Muridae.