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Gerbil Breeds: 8 Types of Gerbils & Their Characteristics

There are more than 80 types of gerbils in the world. Most of them are scarce and difficult to find, which is why they are not kept as pets. The Mongolian gerbil is the most common gerbil breed kept as pets.

Gerbils are adorable little rodents that are found in various parts of the world. They live in harsh environments and are less affected by heat compared to other rodents.

They are becoming popular pets in countries across the globe. But with more than 80 gerbil breeds in the world, only a few are kept by people.

This article discusses the various gerbil breeds and gives you tips on how to select the right one for you.

8 Types of Gerbil Breeds

The Mongolian and Fat-tailed gerbils are the most common types of gerbils kept as pets. Other small gerbils such as the Shaw’s Jird and Pallid gerbils are less common but do make great pets.

Like all rodents, gerbils come in different shapes and sizes. Gerbil breeds have varying characteristics which set them apart from each other.

Here are the eight most common gerbil breeds kept as pets.

1. Mongolian Gerbils (Meriones Unguiculatus)

Mongolian Gerbils

The Mongolian gerbil is the most famous, and most common, breed in the world. They have a medium coat, large black eyes, and thin tails as long as their bodies.

Mongolian gerbils originated in Mongolia[1]. They are nowadays found in Central Asia, Russia, Mongolia, and China where they live in deserts, shrublands, and steppes.

Dr. Victor Schwentker brought these rodents to the United States in 1954.[2] 

Mongolian gerbils are constantly crossbred to produce high-demanded coat colors. Their most dominant color is golden agouti.

You can find these rodents in other popular colors in pet shops:

  • Black
  • Light red fox
  • Ivory cream
  • Light brown
  • Polar fox
  • Sapphire
  • Saffron
  • Lilac
  • Dove
  • Pink-eyed white

They are social animals and prefer to live in groups. When buying a Mongolian gerbil, make sure to buy two. This maximizes their happiness and reduces their dependency on you for interaction.

As pets, they are docile around humans. Gerbils rarely bite

The average length of a Mongolian gerbil is around 4 to 6 inches, excluding their tails. They live up to four years but can live longer depending on care and exercise.

2. Fat-Tailed Gerbils (Pachyuromys Duprasi)

Fat-Tailed Gerbils
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As the name suggests, fat-tailed gerbils have a fat tail which is unique in rodents. 

They use their tails to store food and water, which swells up. This helps them survive in the harsh desert climate of the Middle East and Africa. The tail is club-shaped and grows up to almost two inches in length.

Fat-tailed gerbils are primarily found in Libya, Egypt, Algeria, and Tunisia. They are insectivorous but also eat a variety of plants, fruits, vegetables, and herbs. 

They have thick, soft fur and are yellow-gray in color. They grow up to around 3 to 4 inches in length and live for around 4 to 5 years. 

Fat-tailed gerbils were first discovered by a French zoologist called Fernand Lataste in 1880.[3]

This gerbil species can live alone and are highly affectionate towards their owners. They also adjust to new situations well and are extremely docile, making them great pets.

3. Shaw’s Jird (Meriones Shawi)

Africa is known for its wildlife featuring extraordinary creatures. Shaw’s Jird comes from the Northern part of the African continent. 

They are not usually kept as pets due to their lack of social skills with other animals.

Shaw’s Jirdis one of the largest species of gerbils in the world. Their average size is around 10 inches, far bigger than Mongolian gerbils. 

They are docile when interacting with humans but are not good at accepting other gerbils. Female Shaw’s Jirds are highly aggressive and get territorial, leading to fights between gerbils.

Shaw’s jirds have a short coat with sandy or agouti colors.

4. Pallid Gerbil (Gerbillus Perpallidus)

Pallid Gerbil
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Pallid gerbils or pale gerbils originated in Egypt and are currently found there. 

The name comes from their coat color, which features a pale orange with white underbellies. These small rodents can be up to 10 inches long and live for about 5 years.

They are rarely kept as pets, but it is possible.

5. Great Gerbil (Rhombomys Opimus)

Great Gerbil
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Great gerbil is the largest gerbil breed in the world. 

Great gerbils are not usually kept as pets as they are highly aggressive and territorial. They also eat a lot which is a matter of concern for some pet owners.

This species is found in Central Asia where they are known for their burrowing skills. They prefer digging deep in the ground to avoid predators and the harsh climate.

They are usually found in yellow and grey colors and range from 6 to 12 inches in size. Great gerbils are social animals and prefer to remain in groups. They are also diurnal, which means they sleep during the night.

If you prefer a pet that is active during the daytime, the great gerbil is a great option.

6. North African Gerbils (Dipodillus Campestris)

North African Gerbils
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This North African Gerbil is a lesser known gerbil species that can be kept as pets but is difficult to find in some pet shops due to their low demand. 

The species is found in North Africa and are brown to orange-brown in color.

Their tails are smaller than their bodies at around 40 percent of the length. The average length of a North African gerbil is around 6 to 10 inches.

7. Tamarisk Jird (Meriones Tamariscinus)

Tamarisk Jird
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Unlike most gerbil breeds, Tamarisk Jird lives in shrublands and grasslands where they can find food and shelter. They are mostly found in Asia and have a variety of coat colors.

They are one of the biggest gerbil species, weighing around 4.94 ounces (140 grams).

The females of this species do not usually breed in the first year of their maturity, which is a rare phenomenon in rodents. 

8. Guinean Gerbil (Gerbilliscus Guineae)

Found in the rocky plains of Guinea, the Guinean gerbil is a big gerbil species. They are also found in adjoining countries such as Mali, Senegal, Ghana, Sierra Leone, and the Ivory Coast.

Guinean gerbils are 6 to 9 inches in length and have a grey-brown coat color. They live in tropical dry and subtropical forests like some other gerbil breeds.

What Should You Know Before Getting a Gerbil?

Gerbils are highly social animals and prefer living in pairs. If you keep a single gerbil, you need to interact with it more often. They need care and attention to avoid diseases and malnutrition.

Now that you know a little about the different types of gerbil breeds, you should know about what it takes to keep a gerbil as a pet.

Every pet needs care, and gerbils are no different. 

Here are some things you should know before getting a gerbil:

  • Gerbils are highly social animals and live in groups. You should get at least a pair from the same litter instead of a single gerbil.
  • It is illegal to purchase, import, or have a gerbil as your pet in several areas, including California and New Zealand.
  • Gerbils chew a lot so avoid putting dangerous things near your gerbil’s cage as they can bite it and develop health issues.


Gerbils are available in several breeds and sizes. You can get a gerbil in several colors and coat lengths. Mongolian and fat-tailed gerbils are the most common type of gerbil species kept as pets.

If you are looking for a small pet that is easy to care for and does not require much space, then getting a gerbil can be a good option.


What Do Gerbils Look Like?

Gerbils are small, furry rodents that look like rats and mice. Their noses are long and straight, and their ears are small and rounded. Like mice, their tails are also pointed and long. Gerbils usually occur in nature in brown and grey colors.

How Many Types of Gerbils Are There?

There are many types of gerbils in the world. Most of them are not kept as pets due to several reasons. Five gerbil breeds are usually kept as pets across the world – Mongolian, fat-tailed, great gerbils, Shaw’s Jird, and Pallid.

Are There Any Hairless Gerbils?

Yes, there is a gerbil breed that does not have fur on its body. This breed was produced due to a mutation in the genes. Hairless gerbils appear normal but have short stumps of hair on their body instead of a coat. More research is needed to identify the cause and effect of hairless gerbils.[4]

About Misfit Animals Staff

The Misfit Animals staff consists of animal lovers, pet enthusiasts, veterinarians, zoologists, and other animal experts. Our goal is to provide people with information on proper animal care.

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