Thursday, March 8, 2012

Freak Week 3.5: Siamese Mice.

As stated in the rabbit entry, there are several easier animals to breed than carnivores. Sometime after we got a handle on the mouse problem, we began breeding them in captivity. It was not a very hard task at all (but still smelly), leading to the blossoming of many a captive mouse breed. The most famous of these, of course, are the albino mice frequently used in lab experiments. (Or are they doing experiments on us?)

Aside from the white mice, mice have as many coat colors as most dog and cat breeds. Besides the usual black, brown, and grey found in most mammals, they come in various piebald patterns, merle, brindle...

Oh, and Siamese.

No, that image is not the Photoshopped wet dream of a fancy mouse enthusiast. It's the "super" form of a "Himalayan" mutation found in mice - basically, much lighter, smaller points. The "Siamese" points are also found in rabbits, rats...and white tigers. 

Regardless of species, Siamese-ness is a weird form of albinism. It is also called "chinchilla albinism." In short, it restricts melanin to the colder areas of the mammal's body. (This has actually been tested by placing cold packs on Siamese kittens.) The result is often red or blue eyes, but in mice, the eyes can be dark as well. Other than that, they look exactly like little Siamese cats!

Most mouse breeds are little more than coat colors with standards to make them look as appealing as possible. There are also several coat traits that breeders like playing with.. Fancy mice in general are bred to be larger than both lab and other pet mice. They nonetheless have show standards that make them a breed, including point darkness and range. The only reason that they aren't as popular as cats and dogs as show animals is, well...they're still mice.

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