Editor: Libby Hanna
American Gerbil Society
_________________AMERICAN GERBIL SOCIETY____________________
By Libby Hanna, Shawsheen River Gerbils (MA)
Something that drew me very quickly into the AGS was its
emphasis on ethics and standards. To a person, AGS members are
dedicated to improving the characteristics of the breed and ensuring
the well-being of every animal that comes into their lives (and
collectively it seems that is a lot of
One way this is accomplished is by an emphasis on goals and specialties. Talk to any AGS member, and he or she will tell you about breeding goals. Some of us are breeding for mottled patterns or stunning self-colored gerbils, others for schimmel, or mainly for temperament. For all I know, some of us may be working on dwarf or mega-gerbils!
Our family’s passion is acquiring, socializing, placing and
supporting gerbils in elementary school classrooms. This started
innocently, as most things do, with three little female pups adopted
into my younger daughter’s first-grade classroom by her extraordinarily
kind and loving teacher, Deborah Davies. After that first placement,
three more teachers quickly joined the classroom-gerbil ranks.
All four teachers speak highly of the calming effect the gerbils have on the classroom. Children visit the gerbils when they are troubled and need someone to talk to. The position of “gerbil helper” is the single most coveted job in the classroom. All the children know the rules of gerbil handling, and the older children in the grade 1 & 2 multi-age class pass down their gerbil wisdom to the younger ones. Teachers even use the gerbils as a way to quiet the room - “quiet, children, the gerbils are sleeping!”
The compassion and caring that the gerbils foster in the
classroom seems to spill over to sweetening the relationships between
children in the room, as well. Everyone shares a concern for the
gerbils’ welfare, and these shared concerns are part of the glue that
holds a classroom together. The classroom gerbils help give these
children the precious
gifts of ethics and responsibility, and let them experience the
satisfaction of working together toward mutual goals.
I'm delighted that the children from Caroline’s class have provided us with some of their artwork to grace this issue of Gerbil Tales. This issue also includes a wonderful article on Phoebe, gerbil artist extraordinare, and a chance to meet Laura Pimás, our dynamic South American AGS leader from Argentina. Please take the opportunity in upcoming months to share your goals, specialties and stories with us through this newsletter!
2005 New England Show
By Donna Anastasi, ABC Gerbils (NH), Show
This year’s AGS New England Gerbil Show will
be held at the Comfort Inn, Trolley Square, in
The show is Saturday June 11th,
inspections of gerbils and any other animals entering the show site
9am-11am. For all those arriving the day
before, there also will be health inspections on Friday evening, June 10th,
from 5pm - 9pm. This year the hotel has
requested that we bring all animals directly to the show site, rather
I encourage everyone to try to arrive the
night before. The hotel has a beautiful
pool and early
arrivers should have time to take a dip. Starting
at 5 pm Friday night, there will be a reception
travelers can rest and have a bite to eat. This
is a wonderful opportunity to say hello and chat
AGS-ers in person, perhaps for the first time. It
is a time to meet and show-off gerbils and a good time
to look over
and adopt new furry friends: perhaps even the next day’s winners. (Trivia fact:
the best in show winner from the
first AGS show was adopted the Friday night before the show and shown
The day of the show there will be
many vendor tables set
up. Make sure to bring some extra money
for basic and specialty gerbil supplies as well as artistic craft and
novelty items. If you have items or
gerbils to sell, reserve your table now to be sure to get one.
The judging starts at 12:00 noon, so each
gerbil needs to be
registered, put in a labeled show pen, and placed on the judging table
then. Avoid the late fee, and plan to
register the gerbils on-line at least a week before the show. Last minute registration is available, but is
really intended for last minute entries (for example, the lovely pup
adopted the night before).
During the judging, the pet class
place. The one downside of judging the
main show is that I miss the excitement and the roaring laughter coming
the next room as gerbils compete for best shoulder-rider, fastest
other gerbil talents.
After first-place ribbons are awarded, the
top gerbils move
into the nail-biting best-in-show competition with the best gerbil and
opposite sex winning show case rosette ribbons. I
hope you will go home with a ribbon (or several), but if
doesn’t do as well as you expected, please discuss him with the judge after the competition. Many
times we see a gerbil who is a little
too young, a little under-handled, a little too thin, or in the middle
major molt (all things that can change!) but has the potential to be a
winning gerbil. Often judges say, “I
hope I see this one again, when….”
Directly after the show a whole
new round of gerbil swapping
goes on. Keep your eyes and ears
open. Often show winners are up for
Then, everyone heads over to a local
celebrate, converse, and laugh (a lot!) late into the night. My daughter who loves to tell me little known
trivia facts tells me that laughing burns off calories. If that is
lost a few pounds in the last AGS Gerbil Show dinner!
(Make sure to ask attendees from the Mid-West
show to share the “secret” AGS handshake).
We have a nice team of volunteers, which I’d love to see grow into an even larger team. With more people, we can do even more! A couple of possible additions to the show would be:
I’d love to hear from anyone with an idea to make this year’s show even better and the willingness to take charge and make it happen. Contact me at: email@example.com with new ideas or volunteer for one of the jobs below.
Finally, I’d like to thank all of
you who have already
volunteered, without whom there could be no show. Thank you!
On-line advertising – Luana
NE show coordinator – Donna
Assistant show coordinator – Christine
Show secretary – Jo
Animal Health Supervisor – Barbara
Pet class organizer and judge – Aryka
Raffle – Libby
Judges – Janet, Kat, Donna
Judges Assistants: Morrow family (additional volunteers welcome!)
Security – Roy Wolcott and Tom Rock
Selling AGS Merchandise (AGS Table) – Kathy Dykeman and Carole Lafond
Setup/Cleanup – Cara-lee, Roy Wolcott, David Beiliski, Carole Lafond
Drivers/Runners – Roy Wolcott
Driver/Runner – David Beiliski
Driver/Runner – how about you?
Reception organizer – how about you?
Greeter – how about you?
Assistant Health Inspector – how about you?
Assistant Health Inspector – how about you?
“I’ll do whatever else needs do-ing” – how about you?
Gerbil shows are always an amazing experience; hope to see you there!
Showtime! Getting Gerbils
Ready for a Show
by Janet Morrow, Mountain Ash Gerbils (ME)
With the temperatures warming and the snow
melt, many begin to think and long for spring. For
some of us crazy gerbil people, our thoughts turn to
the next New
England Show! Yes, we are just two
months, nine days and ten hours and forty-six minutes away. Not that
All year you have been checking your gerbils out;
their tails, scrutinizing their heads and evaluating their potential. Now, you have narrowed it down to the ‘top
ten’ contenders! What is the next step?
The first thing you will need to do is register them for the show. If you have ever been to a show you will know that things can be very hectic on Friday night and Saturday morning. For this reason I strongly recommend registering them ahead of time using the online form. . This will make your time at the show (and the Show Secretary’s!) more enjoyable.
There are three categories that gerbils may be shown in.
If you don’t know the exact date of birth, give the month and year to the best of your knowledge. Next, you will need to list the sex and ‘standard’ color of your gerbils. Hopefully determining the sex will be easy, but knowing the ‘standard’ color has proven a challenge for many members. You might not know the standard name for the color. A classic example of this is the Algerian Fox, Sooty Fawn, whose ‘standard’ name is Dark Eyed Honey.
If you are not sure, then attach a description of the color as accurately as you can, remembering to give the eye color, belly color, back color and any ticking. The Show Secretary can then help you determine the gerbil’s color. If an error is made it will be corrected when you get to the show, so don’t worry.
All of the colors are them grouped into four classes; Self (aa), White Bellied (AA, Aa), Color Point (cchmcchm, cchmch), and Other. For a complete listing of colors found in each class refer to the AGS Standards.
Body – 25 pts.; Fur/color – 25 pts.; Temperament – 25 pts.; Tail & Tuft – 15 pts.; Eyes – 5 pts.; Ears – 5pts
There is a general standard that all colors must meet. This covers body confirmation, fur quality, tail and tuft, eye and ear shape, and temperament. Then each color has its own specific standards that cover fur color, ticking, and eye color. A complete write up can be found in the AGS Standards.
One of the most important things you can do is read through the standards, and become familiar with them. When you go to a show, see which gerbils win and find out why. The judges always give a short commentary on the winners, and discuss their strong points. By understanding what a winning gerbil should look, like you can better evaluate your gerbils, and determine which to bring to the next show.
There is nothing you can do to change your gerbil’s body structure or color. You cannot make your gerbil’s tail longer or straighter. The thickness of the tuft, the width of its head, and the beauty of its color are inherited.
But there are tricks of the trade to give your gerbils an edge toward the winner’s circle, namely, making sure they are clean, used to being handled, and have been given a diet and exercise to put them in top shape.
CleanlinessMost of the show standards are dependant on gerbil genetics, and there is little that you can do about it. However, one easy way to increase your gerbils’ chances are to make sure that their fur is clean. As a judge, I often see yellow stains on white, spotted, and light colored gerbils. To see if your gerbil has this problem, turn him over and look at his underside. This is where you will most often see staining.
While I have never bathed my gerbils, I do
Pet Wipes on them. These are safe,
and will help to remove stains. You may
want to start working on stubborn, old stains a month in advance.
Gerbils should never be exposed
to a breeze or draft, and
this is especially true when they are wet. Use
chinchilla dust and a warm room or space heater to dry
them after a
bath or a wipe down.
My next recommendation is to bring some chinchilla dust to the show. The judges have noted, especially at the summer shows, that many gerbils appear to have greasy fur. It will separate, and not lay smoothly with a good sheen. This will immediately cost you precious points that could be easily avoided. If you have never given your gerbils a dust bath, give it a try. When they are done take a good look at their fur. Then feel it. The difference can be quite amazing! They will have a healthy sheen/shine, and the fur will be at its softest. An added benefit is that gerbils thoroughly enjoy and good roll in chinchilla dust.
As a judge, and gerbil
enthusiast, my next recommendation
would be to start working with your gerbils daily.
The importance of this cannot be
overstated! Make sure that they feel
comfortable with being inspected. Temperament
accounts for 25% of the show score, and a nip
can cut them
out of the running.
The judges will need to hold them, turn them over to see their belly and open their mouths to see their teeth. If your gerbil is already people-friendly, start a five-minute-a-day show preparation routine.
These are all things that our judges will do while spending time with your gerbil. If gerbils are nervous they will often put their ears back, and this makes it hard to judge the ears. Each nip will cost them a point or more, and a bite is grounds for immediate disqualification from the show.
people have asked my why temperament accounts for
so much of the show score. This goes to
the central question of: why do we even have gerbil shows? The primary purpose of shows is to improve
the species: to make the colors and patterns more striking, to make
more vigorous and healthy, and to make them better companions for their
families. No matter how beautiful a gerbil
is, it should not be bred if it is not gentle and human friendly. Temperament is often passed on to pups.
ConformationI often read on the list about ‘fat’ gerbils, and it is true that I have had a few roly-polies myself. However, male gerbils should be substantial and bulk shouldn’t be mistaken as fat.
Gerbils are not human, and we cannot compare their ‘perfect’ build to our ideals for a ‘perfect’ man. A show quality male gerbil (in human society) would never be employed as a fashion model, a basketball player, or a swimmer. Male gerbils should be football players. They should look strong, and have muscular shoulders. You would not believe how many people have told judges that one of their gerbils was ‘just too fat’ to be in the show. Then, when he was entered, he won! It seems that what we perceive as fat is often ‘male bulk’.
Females should not appear thin or bony. They would never make it into the pages of Vogue, and Twiggy would be banned from the AGS Show circuit! (Twiggy was an ultra thin model in the 1960s.)
The show standards state, “Symmetry and general appearance of the body are decidedly solid and firm. Females should be streamlined and athletic in appearance. Males have a larger, heftier body-type…”
On the other hand, don’t let your gerbils get fat. If the belly is dragging on the ground or spilling over in your hands, you can be pretty sure he is overweight!
Relax and Enjoy the ShowThe last and most important thing to do is relax and enjoy the show! When it is all over, I hope you will have talked to the judges and other breeders, will have learned more about shows and show gerbils, and will leave with information (and perhaps a few beautiful, sweet new gerbils!) that will make your kennel stronger and better.
At the end of the show, some
people will go home with first,
second or third place ribbons, one very lucky person will have the Best
Rosette, but outward signs of success are not the most important thing
at the show. I believe the strong bonds
of friendship that are formed will last for years.
They are the adhesives that not only hold the
AGS together, but help it to grow.
It is here that we meet the people that we have laughed and cried with over the year. It is at the shows that an intangible cyber pen pal becomes a true friend.
hope to see you all at the 2005 shows!
Heat and Hypothermia
By Libby Hanna, Shawsheen River Gerbils (MA)
All over the United States, temperatures are rising as we move
from winter to spring. In the southern hemisphere, the days are growing
shorter and cooler. It is the time for seasonal tasks: taking out or
putting away shorts and sweaters; coiling or rolling out the garden
hose. It’s also a good time to review safety precautions to protect our
gerbil friends from the extremes of weather ahead.
Hot Summers: Heat Stroke
on the Gobi
The violet hour.
The long, hot day is over.
I love the cold night.
Crepúsculo en el
El ardiente, largo dia ha terminado.
Amo la fria noche.
totem of the Gobi
The grace of Ibex;
Ancestral remains of horn.
Black tailed gazelles run.
Totem de Asta
Ancestrales vestigios de cornamentas.
Corren las gacelas de negras colas.
by Ruth and Libby Hanna, Shawsheen River Gerbils (MA)
Whether your gerbils live at home or at school, a gerbilarium is a great project. A gerbilarium is a bunch of cardboard boxes that are connected. They are fun to make and fun for your gerbil to play in.
Gerbilariums are cheaper than plastic toys. Also, the gerbils enjoy them more. It is like living in Chuck E. Cheese!
To make a gerbilarium
you need only a few supplies: some
boxes, a few tubes and glue. First, brainstorm a
few ideas for unique features of your
gerbilarium (staircase, lookout platform, etc.) Next, take the boxes
and tubes and put them in the tank in the arrangement that you want.
that your gerbilarium fits in the gerbil tank.) Then, using hot glue or
glue, glue your gerbilarium together. Use as little glue as possible.
special features. Next, wait for the glue to dry. Put some bedding in
first, because once you get the gerbils in, you will probably not get
them out! Add your gerbilarium, then your gerbils, and let the fun
You can also build a fun gerbil run out of a large cardboard box. This box measured 37"x18"x13" to start and had contained some build-it-yourself shelving. We taped the box shut and then cut it lengthwise with a box cutter. Then we folded over any extra flaps and taped everything down.
We used leftover bits and pieces of the box to make the moveable maze you see inside. A few empty boxes or plastic toys complete the gerbil jungle gym. Put in some newspaper just to keep things clean between visitors.
The sides are high enough to keep gerbils in (although a determined gerbil could scramble out, so we only let them play when we can watch them!)
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© 2005 American Gerbil Society Inc.