Fat-Tailed Gerbil

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A Fat-Tailed Gerbil

Article by Sue Green
Coat Colour Mutations
Other Pages
Duprasi in Egypt

Duprasi or Fat-Tailed Gerbils

The following article by was first published in the March 1997 issue of the NGS Journal.


What They Are

Duprasi as Pets





The Duprasi (Pachyuromys duprasis) is about 3"-4" long, has a thick, fluffy coat and looks somewhat like a hamster. Unlike a hamster it has a pointed snout and a fat, almost bald, club-shaped tail from which it gets its common name of fat-tailed gerbil. The duprasi stores food and water in its tail in the same way that the camel stores food and water in its hump. Therefore, a healthy duprasi should have a nicely rounded tail.

Although the duprasi belongs to the gerbil family, the gerbillinae, it is not closely related to the Mongolian gerbil. The duprasi comes from the Northern Sahara.


Duprasi are relatively new to the pet market. They have been available in the UK for less than 2 years. Therefore, there is as yet very little information available on keeping them as pets. They are also expensive. You would currently expect to pay about 60 for a pair but as they become more numerous, the price should drop considerably.


I have had a pair of duprasi for 6 months now and have mixed feelings about them. Certainly they are very cute. But not only do they resemble hamsters physically, but they also behave more like a hamster than a gerbil. If you like hamsters, then you will like duprasi. If you are not a hamster person (and I'm not), then you may find them disappointing. Duprasi totally lack the curiosity that is so appealing in the Mongolian gerbil and Shaw's Jird. Put them in the palm of your hand and they just sit there, taking no interest in their new surroundings and making no attempt to run away.

Putting toys such as the cardboard tubes from toilet rolls in their cage results in the same indifference. They do show some interest in a wheel, but have never quite got the hang of it. They get it going round so fast that they lose their footing and fall out! The thing that a duprasi does best is to sleep. They are extremely lazy creatures and sleep for most of the time, only surfacing briefly and mainly at night for food, drink and a spot of digging.. They do not like being woken up and like a hamster will bite if suddenly prodded into action. Though it is not something I would recommend, Mongolian gerbils, never seem to object to this. However, when they are fully awake, Duprasi are most unlikely to bite.

duprasi5.jpg (22092 bytes)


The duprasi's housing requirements are similar to the Mongolian gerbil. I find that a 24" aquarium provides adequate accommodation for a pair. As with my Mongolians, I make permanent tunnels at the bottom of the tank with ceramic pipes and large jars and cover this with a deep layer of wood chips. The Duprasi seem to appreciate this arrangement. They always make use of the biggest underground jar for nesting in. Whether they are underground or above the surface, the Duprasi are always extremely careful to cover up the entrances to their sleeping quarters. This is not a precaution I have observed taken by Mongolian gerbils. Like their Mongolian cousins, Duprasi are phenomenal diggers and fully exploit the deep layer of woodchips that I provide for this purpose. As the Duprasi's coat is similar in texture to that of a chinchilla, I have tried giving them a container of chinchilla sand to bathe in. However, they did not show any interest in this.


In the absence of any firm nutritional guidelines for this species, I feed my Duprasi the same basic mix that I feed to my Mongolian gerbils. They would appear to be doing well on this diet. They love sunflower seeds but just as with Mongolian gerbils, a diet consisting of too many sunflower seeds can be harmful. The pointed snout of the Duprasi would suggest they may be insectivorous in the wild. On several occasions I have offered them mealworms but they have always rejected them. I have also offered them several types of vegetables but like Mongolian gerbils they will only eat a little vegetable matter. However, Duprasi do drink quite a lot of water in comparison to a Mongolian gerbil.



Breeding Duprasi is notoriously difficult. The chance of a female housed with a male becoming pregnant is much less than it is with Mongolian gerbils. A pregnant or nursing female is also likely to kill her mate if he is not housed separately after mating has taken place. I have a mixed sex pair housed together. Unfortunately they show no signs of breeding. Although they sleep curled up together just like Mongolian gerbils do, they are always arguing. When they argue they shriek very loudly and bite each other's tails. Both their tails are almost permanently scarred with bite marks. I would suggest that the inexperienced owner keeps same sex pairs of Duprasi as they are supposed to get along much better than mixed sex pairs. They can also be kept singly.

has sent me the following notes on Duprasi:


Fat-tailed Duprasi-Rodentia; Genus PACHYUROMYS (Fat-tailed Gerbil) is new to the U.S. market. The body length is 4"-5" with a tail length of 2". The tail is the unusual part of this animal. It is used to store fat and water. In most cases the bigger the tail the healthier the animal.

They are Diurnal (active day and night) and normally very docile. The gestation period is 19-23 days with litter of size 3-6 young. The eyes are open and they are on there own at 3-4 weeks. They will breed all year round. They are of chunky build with Chinchilla-like fur of some length. The tips of the fur is light colored and the base dark.

In the wild, the north Sahara Dessert, they are mostly insectivorous and live in gravely plains with patches of bushy vegetation. They are sociable animals and sometimes live in colonies. They some- times go into a state similar to hibernation, but not true hibernation, for periods of time. They eat rodent blocks, raw peanuts, and Deluxe Hamster and Gerbil Mix , but pick through it and eat certain seeds. They will also eat spinach, Romaine lettuce, and most any greens including most weeds. They love mealworms, crickets, moths and almost any other insect, even beetles.

The mating ritual is rather unusual. They stand on their hind legs and wrestle, making squeaking noise. They never seem to actually bite each other but they get rather rowdy. If she is not receptive and he don't give up, she will turn and kick bedding at him. When the female is ready to have her litter, she will make a nest and get a little nippy. It is probably best to remove the male, but there is not a problem with the male, the female gets stressed out in small cages. They are good mothers.

They are very docile and have never try to bite when being handled. There is no noticeable odor from their cage like you have with Hamsters and Gerbils. They spend a lot of time grooming their fur and washing their face. They like a sand bath and it is good for their fur. They alternate between napping and activity all day and night. They like a wheel to run in but sometimes they may fight over who gets to use it.

Coat Colour Mutations

In Japan it appears that either a grey (g) or chinchilla (cch) mutation has appeared. On the other hand, it may just be that one sub-species of Duprasi in captivity hare grey when young and then moult to the usual colour. There is more info on this here, and here.

silverdup.jpg (31572 bytes)

For more information on the coat colour genetics of gerbils visit my genetics page.

Other Pages

I would also recommend Lewis Stead's Duprasi Page and Karin van Veen's page to anyone wanting information on keeping these unusual gerbils.

Why are they unusual? Take a look at this close up of the tail.

A Fat-Tailed Gerbil


Here is some information I have been sent by

Fat -Tailed Jird (Pachyuromys duprasi) in Egypt

GENERAL DISTRIBUTION - Northwestern Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria.

COMMON NAMES - Fat Tailed Jird, Abu Lya

SUBSPECIES IN EGYPT - Pachyuromys duprasi natronensis

DISTRIBUTION IN EGYPT - Northern part of desert west of Nile Delta.

DIAGNOSIS - Jird-like rodent with fur long and fluffy, palm and sole partly haired, dorsal hairs pale cinnamon, underparts and feet white. Tail shorter than head and body, club-shaped, lacking a brush. Skull with extremely inflated auditory bulla, large suprameatal triangle, metal lip swollen, accessory tympanum present, paroccipital process elongate and adnate to bulla. Adult head and body length average 108 (93-121)mm.; tail 58 (55-62) mm., 54 (47.9-66.6) per cent of head and body length; foot 23 (22-24) mm.; ear 14 (12-16) mm.; occipitonasal length 34 (32.4-36.5) mm.; weight 36.5 (22-44.6) gm.

EXTERNAL CHARACTERS - Upper parts pale cinnamon, dorsal hairs tipped with black, side with narrow strip of pale cinnamon extending almost to heel, but not onto forelimb. Hairs of back and side with dark gray bases; hairs of belly, underparts, and feet white. Mystacial area partly pigmented, circumorbital area colour of sides, white supraorbital spot faint or lacking, white postauricular patch small. White rump patch absent. Ear pigmented, sparsely haired, anteroventral margin with tuft of long cinnamon hairs. Tail thick and club-shaped, bicoloured, dorsal surface colour of side, ventral surface white, apical brush lacking.


VARIATION - Individual variation in presence or absence of black tipped hairs on the side and in shade of colour is noticeable and was mentioned by Setzer.

HABITATS - Vegetated sand sheets south of the Western Mediterranean Coastal Desert and southern limits of the coastal desert vegetation; sometimes in rocky desert. One was trapped in a stand of anabasis articulate in an isolated sandy depression east of Bir shfazin, and another was dug from barren gravel 26 km. NW of Cairo. The type locality, Bir Victoria, is a small, shallow sandy depression sparsely vegetated with Artemisia monosperma and patches of Hyoscyamus muticus. These habitats are comparable with what Ranck called "transitional deserts which run roughly parallel to the more lush coastal plain" and where P. duprasi was "most abundant."

BURROWS - We have dug fat tailed rats from simple burrows about 1 m. in depth in hard sand. Petter illustrated a very complex burrow of the Algerian subspecies. We have observed that this rodent moves about considerably and may occupy burrows of other species.

ACTIVITY - We have observed that, in the wild, fat tailed rats become active at dusk.

CAPTIVE BEHAVIOUR - The most docile of Egyptian rodents. Never bites an makes little effort to escape when handled. In captivity, strangely enough, this lethargic animal is cannibalistic, and females have eaten their young.

FOOD - Pachyuromys duprasi no doubt utilizes a variety of plants, but we have only observed it feeding on Anabasis articulata and Artemisia monosperma. In the laboratory, Petter fed Algerian fat tailed rats grain, chopped meat, cheese, milk, lettuce, and lucerne (Medicago sativa). He also mentioned its affinity for live crickets. Suggestion has been made that, in Libya, terrestrial snails were eaten by P. duprasi. Thus far, we have been unable to check this possibly, but have observed what appeared to be "gnawed" snail shells in Pachyuromys habitat in the Western Desert.

ASSOCIATES - Meriones crassus, Gerbillus gerbillus, G. andersoni, G. perpallidus, G. pyramidum (possibly), and Jaculus jaculus live in the same habitats as P. duprasi.

REPRODUCTION - Flower reported litters of three to five, seven, and nine born in captivity and during the months of April, May, July, October, and November. Young at birth were said to be naked, blind, and helpless, like those of Rattus sp.

REFERENCE: Osborn, D, J., and I. Helmy. 1980. The contemporary land mammals of Egypt (including Sinai). Fieldiana Zool., no. 5.




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Last updated 22 September 2007