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Meet Gerbils At The New England Gerbil Show

See more than 100 gerbils compete in conformation classes, run races, jump in agility and so much more at the American Gerbil Society’s spring show the first weekend in May.

Marylou Zarbock
Posted: April 30, 2013, 10:40 p.m. EDT

gerbil standing on hind legs
Courtesy Libby Hanna
Small, furry gerbils like this mottled black one will be judged this weekend at the New England Gerbil Show.

If you’re not a gerbil fan, you might be after attending the New England Gerbil Show May 3 and 4, 2013, in Bedford, Massachusetts. The event features a lot to see and do.

"This is our big gerbil convention,” said Donna Anastasi, vice president of the American Gerbil Society (AGS), which runs the show. "Gerbils from around the country and their caretakers and breeders will converge upon Massachusetts for an entire weekend of gerbil talk, gerbil judging and gerbil events.”

Just like cat and dog shows, the gerbil show has conformation classes that judge gerbils on body type, build, overall health, color and temperament. But that’s not all. Pet classes, agility (yes, that means jumping gerbils), vendors and more are also part of the gerbil show.

"The pet class is separate,” Anastasi, said. "We are very generous with pet class ribbons, given the great amount of talent and abundance of cuteness of our pet competitors. Conformation has its own ribbons. There is a first, second and third in each class and can be a Best Of Opposite Sex in a class.” She said that amounts to about 30 to 40 ribbons, with possibly more needed if a class gets very large and needs to be split or less needed if no Unstandardized gerbils participate.

All ribbons are nice, but Anastasi pointed out that more elaborate ribbons are awarded for the Best in Show gerbil and the Best in Show-Opposite Sex gerbil.

Anastasi said more than 100 people, including 20 AGS members, are expected at the event, and about 125 gerbils will be competing. That’s quite a few cute, furry rodents to see.

Outside of conformation, fun events at the show include gerbil agility, which Anastasi said was demonstrated at the Mid-Atlantic Gerbil Show in January. "It was a huge hit to see a gerbil go from being a complete agility novice to learning to do several jumps and obstacles over a period of one or two short training sessions,” she said. "So we decided to try it here.”

Gerbils will also compete in two races. "Gerbils are avid chewers, so a chew race is a timed competition where individual gerbils or gerbils in tandem gnaw at few inches of paper towel tube.” Anastasi said. "Usually the winner is obvious, but if not we resort to crowd applause to determine the winner.” In another race, gerbils in plastic balls roll it down a track to determine a winner.

For gerbil owners looking for inspiration, this show debuts the Innovative Habitat exhibit, which showcases people’s unique gerbil habitats. Builders will be on-hand to answer questions and possibly sell some items.

The shopping doesn’t end there. "There will be a nice assortment of small animal- and gerbil-related crafts, novelty items, and some new or used supplies,” Anastasi said. "Our members are very talented and bring along some terrific gerbil-related items. We have a raffle and silent auction, too.”

You can also buy the book Jackie The Jumping Gerbil and meet author Leslie Balch.

If you’re a fan of conformation, keep your eye out for six gerbils scheduled to compete in the Senior Class. These have already earned some show points and could possibly cross over to Champion status at this show if they earn enough points. Anastasi said that show points are awarded 1 to third place, 2 to second place and three to first place, plus "An extra 3 points for the two Best in Show gerbils.”

Anastasi said that the average life span of gerbils is 3.5 years. "This may be the last hurrah for some of these guys and gals who, despite their advanced years and months, have managed to stay in prime show shape.”

The below biographies were provided by the gerbils’ owners.

Bella is a female, slate-colored gerbil who is 2.5 years old. She had one mate in her early years and raised two litters of pups, some with excellent show type. For the past two years, she’s lived peacefully with one of her female pups.

"Bella started her own show career late in life, likes to play with shreddable things like hay for her nest, and especially enjoys a piece of peanut."

 gerbil Bella

gerbil Benny

Benny is a male, honey cream-colored gerbil who is 3.5 years old. He has orange and white mixed coloring for a peaches and cream appearance. Despite Benny's strong build, tufty tail and winning personality, he struggled in his early show career due to being more peaches than cream in coloring. While color fading may put other seniors at a disadvantage, it may mean for Benny the perfect Honey Cream coloring. He enjoys gerbil agility and dust baths.

Geneva is a female, blue-colored gerbil who turned 3 years old on April 18. She’s an active, friendly gerbil who loves to climb on people. She comes when called and likes to snack on peas or Cheerios. She's a vigorous chewer and destroys as much cardboard as she is given. She’s very independent, and rejected potential male suitors until she went to a new home and met Nameko, who recently died.

"Geneva was an excellent caretaker when Nameko was ill, keeping their nest clean and making sure he was warm by sleeping on top of him. She would also herd him out to take his medicine when I asked her to go get him.”

gerbil Geneva 

gerbil Hum

Hum is a male, red-eyed Schimmel colored gerbil who is 3.5 years old. He and his son were bought in a pet store by a student who had to relinquish them when he changed apartments. Hum and his son, Ham, carry a fairly unusual gene of which there is very little genetic diversity in the gerbil fancy. In short, Hum and Ham are a genetic gold mine. He is entering the show ring for the first time as a senior. His hobbies include snuggling, grooming, and gentle jogging on the wheel to keep in shape.

"We split the father-son pair and put each with a lovely wife, an arrangement that seemed to please everyone. Hum had only one viable offspring with his first wife Willow, but his second wife Mosaic looks like she may be delighting us with a litter shortly.”


Larry is a male, colorpoint nutmeg-colored gerbil who is 3.5 years old. Smart and fast, Larry was 9 weeks old when he was adopted. After about a year and two departed cagemates, he was paired with Sakura in the hope of getting more Larrys. A litter of seven pups was born. A few weeks later, for unknown reasons, Sakura turned on her pups, killing two and injuring a third. She was separated from the pups and the owners nursed the babies with Larry’s help.

"He patiently stayed with them to keep them warm and comfortable. He seemed to know intuitively what to do, and he did it although Sakura could not.”

gerbil Larry 

gerbil Narcissa

Narcissa is a female, argente-colored gerbil who is 2. 5 years old. Her coat is vibrant orange with a white belly and feet, and deep ruby-colored eyes. Narcissa came to showing rather late in life, but she has wowed with her stunning color and amazing figure.

"She is also one of the youngest gerbils in the Senior Class, which is a huge advantage when you consider that the Senior Class includes gerbils from 2.5 years to 3.5 or even 4 years old. In human years, my analysis is that would cover a range from about 62.5-year-olds up to 100-year-olds. If I had to win a senior beauty contest, I'd sure rather try it at 62 than at 100!” 

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