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Dumbo Rat vs. Fancy Rat: What’s the Difference?

The main difference between standard fancy rats and dumbo rats is the position of their ears. Most fancy rats have ears towards the top of their head, while Dumbo rats have lower set ears. Apart from the appearance of the ears and some character traits, these two types of rats are similar.

Have you decided to adopt a pet rat and don’t know whether to choose fancy rats or Dumbo rats? 

They are both cute and loving pets, but you should know that there are some physical and behavioral differences.

Domesticated rats are easy to maintain, but you need to adopt at least two because they like socializing. They are friendly, playful, quiet, clean, and loving.

Fancy and Dumbo rats are pet rats from the same rat species: Rattus norvegicus (brown rat). Dumbo rats are a variety of fancy rats, with some differences.

In this article, you will learn what rat varieties are, what fancy rats and Dumbo rats are, the differences between the two, and more.

What Is a Fancy Rat?

The term “fancy rat” is a term for all domestic or pet rats, regardless of color, species, or behavioral and physical differences.

The term “fancy” comes from the expression “to fancy” (i.e. to like or appreciate).

The idea of “animal fancy” involves a hobby where you appreciate, promote, or breed pets or other domestic animals. (e.g. dog fancier, cat fancier, rat fancier, etc.).[1]

All pet rats are called fancy rats, no matter what color or physical features they have. Breeders reproduce these rats to keep or sell as pets.

Fancy rats are derived from the Norwegian wild rat (Rattus norvegicus). In other words, they’re a subspecies. People caught Norwegian rats in the wild and bred them for generations until they became domestic. 

Only then were they called fancy rats.

What Is a Fancy Rat

What Is a Dumbo Rat?

A Dumbo rat is a type of fancy rat. Dumbo rats are distinguished from other fancy rats by their ear position: their ears are located lower on the sides of the head, hence the name.

Remember the Dumbo elephant in the Disney cartoons? 

Dumbo rats got their name after the cartoon elephant because of their big ears.

Dumbo rats are a variety of the seven fancy rats, accepted as standard by The American Fancy Rat & Mouse Association (AFRAM). In other words, Dumbo rats are fancy rats.

Compared to standard fancy rats, Dumbo rats stand out with some physical differences, such as the position of the ears or the size of their head.

Dumbo Rat
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The Differences and Similarities Between Fancy and Dumbo Rats

There aren’t many differences between dumbo rats and fancy rats. The main difference is the position of the ears. Dumbo rats have ears positioned on the sides of their heads and not on the top. Other minor differences are in the anatomy of the head and personality.

Dumbo rats are often considered a different variety of rats than fancy rats, which is wrong. Dumbo rats are a variety of fancy rats.

On the other hand, some people think fancy rats are only standard rats. Fancy rats include Dumbo rats, standard rats, and five other varieties.

Here are the similarities and differences between fancy Dumbo rats and fancy standard rats:

VarietyFancy Dumbo ratsFancy standard rats
Lifespan2-3 years.2-3 years.
AppearanceLarger head.Small jaw.The ears are positioned lower, on the side of the head.Proportional head.The ears are on top of the head.
Body size9-11 inches long.9-11 inches long.
Tail size7-9 inches or as long as the body.7-9 inches or as long as the body.
Weight0.5 pounds-1.5 pounds.0.5 pounds-1.5 pounds.
Color and patternsVarious coat colors and patterns.Various coat colors and patterns.
PersonalityTrainable and friendly. Loving.Trainable and friendly.
CareEasy maintenance.Easy maintenance.

Dumbo Rat vs. Fancy Rat Lifespan

Dumbo rats and fancy rats have the same lifespan. They live for two years on average, with some individuals reaching three years.

The longest-lived pet rat was seven years old (1983-1990), and his name was Rodney.

Dumbo Rat vs. Fancy Rat Appearance

Dumbo Rat vs. Fancy Rat Appearance

The appearance of Dumbo rats vs. fancy rats is very similar, with a few exceptions:

  • Dumbo rats have ears on the sides of their heads, while the rest of the fancy varieties have them on their heads.
  • Dumbo rats have larger heads and smaller jaws.

The mutation that causes these changes in the appearance of Dumbo rats is a natural mutation produced by recessive genes. For rats to be born with ears on the sides of its head, they must inherit the recessive genes responsible for this trait from both parents.

Dumbo Rat vs. Fancy Rat Size

Both Dumbo and fancy rats are the same size, measuring 20 inches in length without the tail. They also weigh the same, about 1.5-2 pounds body weight.

There is one exception: dwarf rats. 

AFRAM does not consider dwarf rats as a breed standard. But, dwarf rats do exist. 

Dwarf rats, like Dumbo rats, must inherit the recessive gene responsible for this trait from both parents. This recessive gene reduces growth hormone, causing dwarf rats to remain tiny for life. 

They weigh 0.22 pounds on average, being 45-70% smaller than standard rats.[2]

Dumbo Rat vs. Fancy Rat Coat Color

Dumbo Rat vs. Fancy Rat Coat Color
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Dumbo and fancy rats can be all colors with smooth, coarse, curly, or wavy hair. They can also be hairless.

Dumbo Rat vs. Fancy Rat Eye Color

Fancy and Dumbo rats can have three varieties of eye color: black, ruby, and pink. There are also rats with alternating eye colors (one pink eye and one dark ruby or black eye).

Dumbo Rat vs. Fancy Rat Personality 

Dumbo Rat vs. Fancy Rat Personality
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Pet rats are social creatures. They like spending time in each other’s and people’s company. This is why breeders and vets recommend keeping at least one pair. 

In general, Dumbo rats are more loving though. They prefer to spend time with the owner more than other pet rats.

If you want two rats of the same sex, you have to sterilize the male as rats can reproduce at five weeks old. It’s important to note that females are more active and more aggressive than males.

When it comes to intelligence, both Dumbo and fancy rats are smart. They can learn tricks quickly and easily adapt to different environments.

Dumbo Rat vs. Fancy Rat Care

Dumbo Rat vs. Fancy Rat Care
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Caring for Dumbo and fancy rats is easy. They are clean animals and can learn to use a litterbox.

When keeping rats you do need to buy some equipment.

Initial costs for cage, accessories, and food can go up to $300, but monthly maintenance is low. Even if you buy a large cage with a lot of space for your rats to move around and explore, they should also be taken out of their cage daily for 1-1.5 hours for extra exercise.

Pet rats are healthy animals, but they can still suffer from respiratory infections and mammary tumors quite often.

Related Article: How Much Is a Rat? (Cost to Buy, Keep, and Supplies)

Are Dumbo Rats Good Pets?

Dumbo rats are great pets. They do not bite and are more loving than standard pet rats. They like to spend their time outside their cage with their owner.

Dumbo rats are docile, intelligent, cute, and loving animals. You can easily handle them because they do not bite.

They like to socialize with their owner and can even form special connections with them.

Related Article: Are Rats Good Pets?

Are Dumbo Rats Good Pets
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Pet Rat Varieties

Pet rats are available in a wide variety of colors and textures. There are hairless rats (Sphynx) or rats with physical differences, such as the Dumbo rat. AFRAM recognizes only seven standard types of pet rats, although there are nine other color variants.

According to The American Fancy Rat & Mouse Association (AFRAM) there are only seven standard types of pet rats:

  1. Standard rat
  2. Rex rat
  3. Manx rat
  4. Sphynx rat
  5. Sati rat
  6. Dumbo rat
  7. Bristle coat rat

Each of these seven varieties has certain characteristics that distinguish them:

  • Ears placement
  • Whiskers
  • Hair type
Rat typeEar PlacementWhiskersHair type 
Standard ratOn top of the head.Straight.Coarser and greasier to the touch. 
Rex ratOn top of the head.Curly or wavy.Curly or wavy fur.
Tailless rat (Manx)On top of the head.Straight.Wavy and soft.
Hairless rat (Sphynx)On top of the head.Straight or none.No hair at all or can have small tufts of hair on its face.
Satin ratOn top of the head.Straight with a curly tip.Soft and shiny (satin). Longer coat.
Dumbo ratOn the sides of the head.Straight.Straight or curly. Coarse or soft.
Bristle Coat ratOn top of the head.Straight or straight with a curly tip.Coarse and wiry. It feels like a wired brush.

In terms of color, AFRAM recognizes 40 colors for these seven varieties.[3] 

Pet rats can also have different markings on their bodies. These colors and markings are divided into six categories:

  • Self
  • Any other color (AOC)
  • Any other color pattern (AOCP)
  • Silvered
  • Marked
  • Odd eye


These rats have the same uniform color for the entire body. The colors are:[4]

  • Beige
  • Black
  • Blue
  • Blue-Beige
  • Champagne
  • Chocolate
  • Cocoa
  • Lilac
  • Mink
  • Pink-eyed Platinum
  • Platinum
  • Powder Blue
  • Russian Blue
  • Russian Dove
  • Sky Blue
  • Black-eyed White
  • Pink-eyed White

Any Other Color (AOC)

These rats have the same color for the whole body, but their coat also has individual hairs banded with two or more colors. The colors are:[5]

  • Agouti
  • Blue Agouti
  • Chinchilla
  • Cinnamon
  • Cinnamon Pearl
  • Fawn
  • Lynx
  • Pearl
  • Russian Blue Agouti

Any Other Color Pattern (AOCP)

They have a combination of two or more colors other than white arranged in a recognized pattern. The colors are:[6]

  • Black-eyed Siamese
  • Blue Point Siamese
  • Burmese
  • Himalayan
  • Russian Blue Agouti Burmese
  • Russian Blue Point Siamese
  • Seal Point Siamese
  • Merle


Their fur is evenly interspersed with white hairs. The colors are:[7]

  • Amber
  • Silver Black
  • Silver Blue
  • Silver Chocolate
  • Silver Fawn
  • Silver Lilac
  • Silver Mink
  • Marked
  • The coat has areas of white fur. These rats can be:[8]
  • Capped
  • Masked
  • Down under
  • Berkshire
  • Essex
  • Blaze
  • Bareback.

Odd Eye

They have one eye pink and one eye dark ruby or black.

Related article: Types of Pet Rats: Breeds, Colors & Patterns of Fancy Rats


Is Dumbo Rat the Same as Fancy Rat?

Dumbo rat is a fancy rat, a variety of it. It is wrong to believe that Dumbo rats are a different breed than fancy rats. The American Fancy Rat & Mouse Association has divided fancy rats into seven categories: Dumbo, Standard, Sphynx, Manx, Rex, Bristle Coat, and Satin.

Can You Keep Dumbo Rats With Fancy Rats?

Yes, Dumbo rats can live without problems with fancy rats. Both have the same temperament, eat the same food, and need the same level of care. If you want to keep rats of different sexes, you must neuter the males because they will start mating at five weeks old.

About Iulia Mihai (DVM)

Dr. Iulia is a certified veterinarian with more than 10 years of experience in the field. With extensive knowledge of diet, care, and medication, she helps Misfit Animals provide readers with accurate knowledge on technical topics.

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