Pied or Patched?

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An unspotted Pearl father stands by two of his offspring. One is very pied with a wide collar, variegation and, though it cannot be seen in the picture, a white tip to the tail. The other has only two very small spots on the head and neck. Both were born in the same litter.

Click on the small pictures to see the larger original photo.

There is much confusion over the way that the white markings some gerbils display are described. I hope this will clear some of this up.

Patched and Spotted Gerbils

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Patched and Spotted gerbils have been around since at least the late 60's. However, in recent years gerbils have appeared with much more extensive white markings. One area that causes much of the confusion is that a Spotted gerbil is merely a gerbil that would normally have a white belly anyway. As a result the white patches that appear on a Patched gerbil's chest and ventral area are not visible. These Patched markings usually take the form of a white tip to the nose, a white spot on the forehead, a larger white spot just behind the ears and also a white tip to the tail. Any of these spots may be small or missing all together. A gerbil that doesn't have an all-white belly will also have a large white patch on its chest and a large white patch on the lower abdomen. In addition to causing spots the the gene responsible causes a dilution of the basic coat colour of the gerbil. This is more apparent the more marked the gerbil is.

The markings in patched and pied gerbils can vary enormously in size. For example a gerbil can have patches that are only a few millimetres across. This gerbil, whilst patched has no nose spot and the head and neck spots are only a few hairs across!

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What then is a Pied gerbil?

The simple answer is that any gerbil with more extensive white markings than above will be described as pied. These markings can be;

A white collar linking the white spot behind the head to the white chest patch.
A white line joining all three "classic" head spots together.
Irregular white markings on the rump or tail.

Because these markings vary so much I have heard different names for different types of pied. For example gerbils with just the line are called Striped and those with just the collar, Collared. Gerbils with both the line and the collar have been called Dutch due to the resemblance to mice and rabbits of that name.

Gerbils with the irregular markings are called Variegated as they look very like the markings on mice of that variety.

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Dark Patched Pied

Some Pied or Variegated gerbils in the United Kingdom have started to show distinctive dark patches. These are most easily observed on Lilac gerbils although I have seen them on Doves, Blacks and Argentes. They appear as patches, usually one, usually round and displaced slightly from the midline of the back or belly. This appears to be an area where the coat has not been diluted by the the genes causing pieing. For example a Variegated Lilac will often look more Dove than Lilac. The dark patch will therefore appear as a clear dark Lilac mark without any sign of dilution. I call these gerbils Dark Patched Pied (DPP).

I have heard some people call these Tri-Colours. A tri-coloured animal is much prized because they are rare but attractive. For example, the search for a tri-coloured mouse went on for decades. However, these are not tri-colours because the base colour is always the same as the dark patches. It is only the intensity of colour that changes. An example of what is really meant by a tri-colour would be an animal with patches of white, black and gold. Clearly, that is something we in the gerbil world have to look forward to!

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Recently we have come across a pied Dove with clear, asymetrical, dark patches.

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Some gerbils also extensively marked that about 50% of the upper surface is white marked. Due to variations in the coat, in particular in the number of white hairs in the dark portions of the coat, the coat appears to be a mix of different shades of the basic colour.

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Rogue Spots

Normally spotted, patched, pied or mottled animals carry the spotting gene. This is dominant so all white marked animals normally have at least one white marked parent. Sometimes small white marks can appear following injuries and are an artifact of scaring. However, at least one gerbil has been born with a thin irregular white stripe on its face that does not appear to be due to the spotting gene or to scaring. This gene tends to lead to substantial amoiunts of white onthe feet, even when the spots o nthe head etc are very small. This gerbil, illustrated below, has no white on the feet at all and both parents were not white spotted.

Striped Gerbil

Can you explain all that again?

No! But this final picture of a Patched and a Pied gerbil side by side should help.


Home Up Dilute Gerbils Pied or Patched? Siamese Gerbils Rex Gerbils Applied Genetics Scientific Literature

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Last updated 22 September 2007