American Fancy Rat & Mouse Association

This article is from the WSSF 2014 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.

Shows & More

What Makes A Rat English?; What Makes An English Mouse?

By Karen Robbins

Mouse with ribbon
What Makes A Rat English?

Lauren Holtzclaw, Legends Of Rock Rattery (LORR), GA, Facebook
QWhat makes a rat English?

AWe refer to English animals as those that have been imported from England and are pure English background (no European or other imports in the lines). Our latest import of rats from England was in 2004. Some of the animals we imported did have European/U.S. blood in their lines so they would not qualify to be shown in the English Class at the Annual show. A Russian Blue, for example, brought in from England would not be considered English as Russian Blues originated here in California and were exported to Germany and the Netherlands, then made their way into England, but rather they would be called English bred. However, with the easier access to rats from/to different countries (Australia not being the case), one can no longer say English as referring to pure English lines unless they have known backgrounds showing this is the case. The lines/ colors we brought in in 2004 that didn’t have other bloodlines mixed in, have only been bred with each other so they are still pure English stock. This makes it useful to use them as outcrosses to improve heads, shoulders, and other features that need improvement in the U.S./mixed stock.

What Makes An English Mouse?

Cait Walgate, Humbug Stud, England, Facebook
QRE: Photo on the AFRMA Facebook page of the Best English Mouse Class winner at the Annual Show. What makes something an English mouse in this context?

AThis is a class we added many years ago after getting our first English (U.K.) rat imports in 1983. They have to be pure English (pedigrees required showing this stock goes back to pure imported stock with no outside bloodlines, i.e. Europe, U.S.) and are judged on their respective color/variety. This is one of the Non-Regular classes and we have it for both mice and rats. These are purebred show animals vs. crosses (like the Splashed). Since England is the birthplace of show mice and rats and they have been bred and exhibited since the 1800s, keeping these lines pure is the same as one would do when breeding purebred show animals of other species. After all, one wouldn’t import a purebred show Rottweiler from Germany, then go to the local pound and get a dog that looks like a Rottweiler to breed it to, to make more.

On another note, using the purebred English stock to cross with existing colors/varieties not imported/not available in England, gives breeders a chance to make their animals into show specimens so should be utilized in this way; however, keeping a separate pure line must be maintained so you have stock to outcross your crossbreds with as needed. If a breeder imports stock, then immediately crosses with their existing stock, it just dilutes down all the good features the imported stock has had many years of selective breeding done for, and if a pure line is not maintained, you lose the benefits that stock has to offer to make improvements with additional outcrosses to your existing stock. The rats and mice in this country are basically all feeder stock that has been worked on for a relatively short time (compared to how long it has been done on a continual basis in England) as show/pet stock, where the show stock in England has been bred for a lot longer time to make the improvements needed to be top notch show animals.

QAre there many lines that haven’t been outcrossed to U.S. mice?

AThe only mice I have that are crossed are the Splashed (which I did so I wouldn’t lose them, and that’s when I found it was a dominant gene and easy to make into big pretty show mice). All of my other mice are pure English. Once I got my first pure English mice in 1987 (Silver Grey/Silver Grey Tan, which were bigger and typier than our existing stock, and Dutch [no longer breeding]) then the BIG beautiful PEWs and B.E. Creams (we call them Ivory since we already had a Standard for Cream that was dominant fawn based) in 1990 via Virginia Pochmann, I was hooked. It makes me sad when I hear people importing rats or mice from England (or another country) then immediately crossing with the American stock and not keeping a separate pure line for crossing back into. Crossing to make existing colors/varieties (that were not imported) into better show mice is a must though. I’m not sure how many other people have kept pure lines from imported stock. *

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Updated September 28, 2017