American Fancy Rat & Mouse Association

This article is from the WSSF 2008 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.

Mouse Keeping: The Ideal Type

By Virginia Pochmann

From Mouse Review, Issue No. 12 (October 1989) unless otherwise noted. The following article is an excerpt from a book by W. Mackintosh Kerr entitled Colour Inheritance in Fancy Mice, which was published in 1935. Mr. Kerr was a member of the National Mouse Club from 1913 until his death in 1937, and was President of the N.M.C. from 1930–1936. I wish to give you this chapter entitled THE IDEAL TYPE. This is by far the best description of ‘how to recognize good type in a mouse’ that I’ve ever read. (Copyright has expired.) Virginia Pochmann.

A great deal of experimental breeding in fancy mice would be considerably curtailed, or rendered impossible, were it not for the fact that the ideal type is identical in all varieties.

By type is meant the whole structural make-up of a mouse as well as the general proportion that one part of the anatomy bears to the remainder. Type finds its highest expression in the albino mouse; better known to the Fancy as the Pink-eyed White. The reason is obvious, for the many faults with which one has to contend when breeding whole-coloured or marked mice, do not obtain in the case of an albino.

The breeder of the albino mouse has had only size, make and shape, and quality of coat on which to concentrate, and in this respect some strains are truly magnificent.

According to the standard, a mouse should have a long, clean head, not too fine or pointed at the nose, with plenty of width between the ears. This gives us a head which is somewhat wedge-shaped with the broadest part at the back of the skull. A long head, fine in bone, is not desirable for it means a narrow skull with the ears set close together. It is almost impossible to obtain the necessary strength of skull without some degree of substance in the foreface as well. It follows too that strength of head will be correlated with a reasonable degree of bone and substance throughout the mouse.

The eyes should be bright in addition to being large, bold, and prominent. A large bold eye is more commonly absent than seen on the show bench and is a common failing in all varieties.

A point overlooked in the standard is the set-on of the head. The neck should be short, so that the head appears to sit on the shoulders. Any suspicion of a ewe neck is most objectionable. The ears of a mouse should be large, the larger the better, free from creases, carried erect, and not set close together. The standard is vague and puzzling when it refers to them as being tulip-shaped. A much more appropriate description would be “bat-shaped,” i.e. like the ears of the nocturnal flying animal. Such a term also would imply size to anyone reading the standard.

When the ears are carried erect, we generally find that the mouse has a narrow skull, whilst the mouse with a good broad head usually has the ears tilted outwards slightly, especially when in repose. The small ear is invariably free from creases, and we will not consider it further, but with a good big ear, the presence or absence of creases is more a measure of the mental attitude of a mouse to its surrounds, than a matter of anatomy.

Watch a mouse at feeding time as it sits up nibbling a tasty morsel and see how it carries its ears. They are erect, full, and have the upper and outer margin slightly tilted forward to catch every sound. At a show, the poor mouse is generally bored to death, probably has a headache, and feels cowed. Under such circumstances, the ears are allowed to drop and show the maximum amount of creases possible and it requires patience on the part of the judge to get their true shape and setting.

When judging Pink-eyed Whites, we like to see all the exhibits first in their show cages as this will often enable one to spot good ear carriage and placement. Another way is to place the mouse on the palm of the hand with the head pointing towards the wrist. By inclining the hand so that the body of the mouse is made to point downwards and forwards, one can often induce a shy mouse to erect its ears. Obviously, the more tractable a mouse is, the more likely will it do itself justice.

The standard states that the body should be long and slim, a trifle arched under the loin and racy in appearance. This is sometimes interpreted to indicate that an ultra long, ultra slim body is desirable. Mice of this sort invariably have very thin tails, tend to be ewe-necked, and rarely have good skulls. The writer has found them most unsatisfactory in the breeding pen, for they generally have a very low milk yield, and youngsters suckled by them do not grow satisfactorily.

In the absence of general vigour and muscle tone, one cannot get the slightly arched loin mentioned in the standard.

A good tail gives a mouse a balanced and symmetrical appearance, whilst a short tail makes the animal look top heavy. The junction of tail to body should be the mid-point when one measures a mouse from tip to tip. At its insertion, the tail should be thick and then gradually taper to a fine point. At the root, the tail should not give the impression of being pushed in; rather the rump should be gently moulded to meet the tail, so that the tail sits on a little cone. Broad skulls and tails having the necessary girth at the root are generally to be found in mice possessing a degree of body substance as well, and never in our ultra long, narrow mouse.

There are two distinct types of coat met within fancy mice: one where the hair is short and sleek, and the other where the guard hairs are very long and coarse. The former with the relatively short guard hairs is the kind of coat to cultivate; whilst the latter, ultra rough coat is most undesirable, and mice with this fault should be eliminated. The careful fancier will select for coat quality in addition to the many other points necessary in an exhibition specimen of quality.

When the standard of perfection was drawn up, the compilers had in mind the ideal doe, and no mention was made to any structural difference due to sex. To attempt to judge members of opposite sex to a rigid identical standard is absurd and indicates a most irrational outlook.

The buck’s body is generally thicker set and stronger in bone; the head is broader in proportion to its length; the shoulder and hip joints are more prominent, whilst his whole outline lacks the gentle curves found in the doe. The greatest handicap to bucks is the roughness of coat which tends to develop after 4½ months of age. Whilst there is this general tendency, it does not apply to all bucks, some keeping a relatively smooth coat as they advance in age.

No buck worthy of his sex should possibly be mistaken for a doe, and yet we find on the infrequent occasions where a buck wins when competing against does, that an examination of the genitalia is necessary to determine his sex. A buck so effeminate in type that he can readily be mistaken for a doe is undesirable for stud purposes for he will tend to produce does much too fine in bone.

In the past, bucks were invariably kept at home with the exception of those of the marked varieties. A well-marked buck will win whether he looks like a buck or looks like a doe, and yet in the Self varieties, show results are curiously at variance with this.

Of late, the much-needed classes for stud bucks have been put on at the principal shows.

Ed. Note from Virginia Pochmann: Since 1935 when this was first published, some things have changed in the Fancy in England. The P.E. White (albino) is no longer superior to all other varieties in size and type. The other large pale Selfs have caught up, and most awards go to other varieties than the PEW. In fact, at the show I attended in September 1989, I saw no one even exhibiting them. In the stud buck class at that show, there were 14 massive bucks being judged. Very impressive!

Only the Best

From Issue No. 15, January 1990
In a statement by Colin Taylor in his article “Experimental Breeding – Some of the Problems” that appeared originally in N.M.C. News May and June 1986, he says, “Don’t forget, that for breeding stock you don’t want just a breeding doe, you want a classical doe which carries all the good points possible. This also goes for the bucks. Have as your motto ‘only the best will do,’ and you won’t go far wrong.”

Curators, not Creators

From Issue No. 17, March 1990
In the N.M.C. News 1988 issues for Jan., Feb., April, and June, in the articles about Dutch mice, Mr. Frank Hawley makes this statement, “We are in effect, curators rather than creators of our present day breeds and strains.”

Ed. Note by Karen Robbins: I have found that creases and folds in the ears are inheritable and selection against this is required.

AFRMA has Stud Buck classes at all of our shows for both mice and rats.

Mr. Hawley’s statement rings true for those who take on existing stock from other English fanciers. In today’s age though, we have seen many new types of mice appear that were not available years ago, so fanciers nowadays can be creators as well.

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Updated February 23, 2014