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How to win a gerbil beauty pageant

Call all gerbil enthusiasts.

THE AMERICAN GERBIL Society’s annual pageant brought dozens of rodents scurrying to New England at the weekend for a chance to win “top gerbil.”

The Bedford competition called for agility demonstrations in which the gerbils must overcome obstacles and race to the end of a course.

Breeders of the small animals vie for coveted ribbons based on body type and agility.

According to Libby Hanna, president of the American Gerbil Society:

A male gerbil should be a good, strong, hefty-looking gerbil.
If you are going to think of it in human terms, you might think of a football player — somebody who’s big, thick neck, nice, strong-looking male gerbil.

An ideal female gerbil will have a more streamlined appearance that even humans covet, she said:

So she would be strong and athletic-looking — not really scrawny, but slim. I usually use a figure skater as my mental image or gymnasts — so obviously a gymnast is not necessarily a big, big woman, but she’s gonna be strong, muscular and athletic.

Libby Hanna with a competitor ( AP Photo/Rodrique Ngowi)

The show show drew gerbil enthusiasts and breeders from around the US and culminated in the presentation of champion and breeder certificates.

Gerbils are perfect pets for modern families as they don’t require to be taken out for a walk, could easily fit in a small apartment and their tanks only need to be cleaned about once a week.

They thrive in desert habitats and their growing popularity as pets led authorities in California and Hawaii to make it illegal to keep them since the weather there would make it possible for escaping animals to flourish in wild colonies that would damage crops and native plants.

At the New England show, each animal undergoes a health check.

Inspectors look at the whiskers, teeth and mouths and check to ensure the rodents have no runny noses, bugs, loss of fur on their tails or other signs of health problems.

Donna Anastasi of Waltham (who’s also vice president of the American Gerbil Sociarty) got hooked on gerbils after buying them for her daughters when they were younger.

Anyone can buy a $12 gerbil and get into the sport of gerbil showing or gerbil agility. It’s very fun … easy and affordable and something you can do with your kids.

So there you have it. Does your gerbil look like a football player, or a figure skater? Then what are you waiting for?

– Additional reporting by Emer McLysaght

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