All You Need to Know About Gerbil Species


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Gerbils are one of the cutest rodents that you can keep as pets in your home. These animals are fun to play with, energetic, and also quite intelligent. To top it off, they come in various eye-catching patterns and colors which make them an all-around package for the animal enthusiast. However, did you know there are various species that act and look quite different?

These species are spread out across the world and each of them has unique features which make them better or worse as pets. So, if you are planning to buy a pet gerbil, how can you find out which one you want to get. Well, we have prepared a list to help you out with this. Let’s get into the 7 most popular gerbils’ species that exist:

Mongolian Gerbil (Meriones Unguiculatus)

This gerbil species is the most common one found throughout the world and is also kept most as pets. They were initially native to regions of Mongolia and brought to the United States in the 1950s for research purposes. While initially being found in a few golden and sandy colors, over time, selective breeding has created many coats of these gerbils.

As for their characteristics, these gerbils will grow up to 6 inches (ca. 15 cm) long if you consider their height to the base of their tail. Also, the tail itself is quite long and will be nearly the length of the gerbil’s body. As for their lifespan, this species will live for around 4 years but can be longer if they are healthy and happy.

They need to be kept in medium-sized habitats as they grow best in pairs or social groups. This is because these gerbils are social animals and stay in large groups in the wild. Moreover, it is best to keep two gerbils of the same gender together as this promotes their health and interaction with each other.

When it comes to keeping them as pets, these gerbils are quite friendly and also intelligent. They will make for great companions and are also very intelligent. These traits add up which is why they are commonly accepted as pets and will be a great choice for anyone.

Shaw’s Jird (Meriones Shawi)

The Shaw’s Jird is a gerbil species that belongs to the northern region of Africa. Their appearance is quite cute, and they have maintained a larger size as compared to other species. Growing up to 14 inches (ca. 36 cm) in length, they have long tails that are covered in thin hairs which is quite appealing to many people.

As far as their fur coat, chaw’s Jirds will have black or tan coloured fur which fades near the belly. Most commonly turning white for their underside, these gerbils are often found with a uniform coat and no distinct patterns or making on them.

That being said, while they are very cute, they are the least popular species for keeping as pets. While they are quite docile with humans and rarely bite, these gerbils can be quite aggressive with each other. Particularly, females are known to be quite territorial and fight with one another. Due to this, if you do plan on keeping them together, avoid keeping two female in a cage.

Fat-Tailed Gerbil (Pachyuromys Duprasi)

Second to the Mongolian Gerbils when it comes to popularity, this gerbil species is another one of the most common domesticated species around the world. They are native to regions of northern Africa and were found in the late 1880s. Following this, the species was brought to the Americas and Europe after which they became housepets.

As for their look, these gerbils are on the smaller end and only grow up to 4 inches (ca. 10 cm) in length. They have short tails which are shaped like clubs and which can be up to 2 inches (ca. 5 cm) in length. While it may seem odd, their tail is important for the survival of these gerbils. This is because they use it to store water and fats which is important in their natural desert habitats.

Their coat is very thick and fluffy and covers them across the whole body. It is usually in white or yellow patterns but has been changing with selective breeding over the years. Also, the fur colors change to white as you get closer to the underside of the small gerbils.

When it comes to keeping them as pets, it is a great choice. These gerbils are very social and are one of the few that can live happily alone. They rarely bit and will be quick to jump into your arms and play with you.

Pale Gerbil (Gerbillus Perpallidus)

As the name suggests, the Pale Gerbil is a gerbil species that has a pale color coat. These gerbils are often pale orange and their fur gradually turns to white near the belly. Apart from this, they have white fur across their hand, feet, and tails which makes them seem even paler. The gerbils are native to regions of Egypt and are gradually gaining popularity as pets.

North African Gerbil (Dipodillus Campestris)

Native to regions of North Africa, this gerbil species is known for its cinnamon to orange-brown fur coating. This coloration is quite unique but what makes it stand out is the patterns. This is because their fur gradually shifts to white on their cheeks and throats. Moreover, it also splits into sections to create unique lines from the division of colors.

Apart from this, the gerbils are medium-sized and will grow to anywhere between 6 and 12 inches (ca. 30 cm) in length. They have large and heavy tails which are covered with light fur that is similar to that of the body. The tail itself ranges from anywhere between 2 and 6 inches long.

Tamarisk Jird (Meriones Tamariscinus)

The Tamarisk Jird is a species of gerbil found near Asian regions of China, and Mongolia. In these regions, they inhabit grasslands and places where they can hide inside or behind larger foliage or plant life. These gerbils are quite large and can weigh up to 140 grams by the time they reach maturity.

Unlike many other species, these gerbils are nocturnal and will spend most of the day sleeping. This makes them quite problematic as pets because you may find them sleeping often. Also, the females don’t breed in their first year so you will have to wait sometime for breeding. This is different from many other species which reach sexual maturity very quickly.

Great Gerbil (Rhombomys Opimus)

As the name suggests, this gerbil species is one of the largest known species currently in existence. They grow up to 8 inches (ca. 20 cm) in body size themselves and also have long tails that can bring their total length to around 13 inches (ca. 33 cm). Apart from this, they are native to regions of Central Asia and have been brought around the world for domestication.

One of the most prominent characteristics of this species is that they have grooves in their skulls. Specifically, these gerbils will have two grooves on each incisor which they used in combination with large claws for burrowing. Due to this, they are also great at burrowing which is very important for them in the wild.

This is because the Great Gerbil’s live in large colonies in arid regions. So, they build complex and large burrow systems to accommodate the whole colony. Apart from this, they aren’t often kept as pets due to their aggressive nature towards humans.

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Which One Is Right For You?

After going through this list, it might be a bit easier to pick which breed suits you best. However, if you are still confused about which gerbil species you should get, here is some advice on which one you should get.

If you have a large budget and are looking for a cute pet that will keep you relaxed, Shaw’s Jird is probably the one for you. They are quite large and need lots of room to stay but are great pets. This is thanks to their cute features and docile nature which will leave you with no trouble at all.

On the other hand, if you are looking for an energetic pet that you can run around with all day, the great gerbil might be an option for you. This species is quite unorthodox as pets due to its aggressive nature. That being said, they are energetic, large, and will keep you active all day. However, be sure to use proper training to make them feel comfortable before getting too close.


That being said, each species has its own advantages and disadvantages that you may or may not like. If nothing else, you can always go for the Mongolian Gerbil as a safe bet for a good pet that will be your friend for years. However, whichever species you decide on keeping, make sure you provide it with ample food, water, and shelter for its health

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