Furry Fun at the Gerbil Show

It's no Westminster Dog Show yet, but the American Gerbil Society's annual New England Gerbil Show has high hopes. Donna Anastasi, one of the competition's judges, provides a recap of a rodent-raiser's delight.

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REBECCA ROBERTS, host:

If you think that competition for the Triple Crown is stiff, well, you have not seen nothing yet. Saturday, the American Gerbil Society held its sixth annual New England Gerbil Show. Contestants participated in paper towel roll chewing contest. They ran heats in Gerbil races. And they flaunted their bodies and personalities for a panel of extremely tough judges.

We're joined now by American Gerbil Society President Donna Anastasi who is in the ballroom of the Bedford Plaza Hotel in Bedford, Massachusetts. Welcome to the show.

Ms. DONNA ANASTASI (President, American Gerbil Society): Hi.

ROBERTS: So who won?

Ms. ANASTASI: The winner of the competition for confirmation was a spotted nutmeg gerbil and his name is Storybook Flair(ph) and he is owned by Christine Stye(ph).

ROBERTS: A spotted nutmeg gerbil?

Ms. ANASTASI: Yes.

ROBERTS: What does that mean?

Ms. ANASTASI: An agouti is the wide color of a gerbil that looks pretty much like a bunny rabbit and a nutmeg's like that except it doesn't have a white belly. It has same color belly as the body.

ROBERTS: So do spotted nutmegs compete against other spotted nutmegs? Or do all gerbils compete against each other?

Ms. ANASTASI: It starts out that way where they compete against their class and then as they go higher, higher in the ranks, they compete against every gerbil in the show. And there were 77 gerbils that it beat out.

ROBERTS: And how many different categories are there?

Ms. ANASTASI: There are five main categories and then within the categories are subcategories. So soft means that the belly color matches the body color and the nutmeg is itself. But within that, you can have black gerbils, and lilac gerbils, and nutmeg gerbils. So you first compete for your color and then you compete for your class, and then you go on to best in show competition.

ROBERTS: I'm sorry. I could have sworn you just said, lilac gerbils?

Ms. ANASTASI: Yes?

ROBERTS: What...

Ms. ANASTASI: Gray but a little purplely(ph) looking. (Unintelligible).

ROBERTS: Aha. Now, what are you looking for as a judge?

Ms. ANASTASI: You're looking in four categories. You want to look at body type. Males should look, sort of, like a bulky football player. Females should be muscular, but they should be more streamlined. And then you want to make sure that they've got nice thick tail with a tuft at the end. Gerbils should have fur tails with a nice tuft. You want to make sure they have the right color and then 25 percent is temperament. Every gerbil is handled and the higher they get in the competition, the more people are handling them. So a nervous slip can actually knock a gerbil right out of the ribbons.

ROBERTS: And what do they win?

Ms. ANASTASI: They win a very beautiful rosette. No price money for the gerbils, though, we want to make sure to keep this stuff friendly competition.

ROBERTS: So it's all about the glory?

Ms. ANASTASI: It is. It's all about the glory.

ROBERTS: Donna Anastasi is the president of the American Gerbil Society and author of "Gerbils." Thanks so much.

Ms. ANASTASI: Thank you.

(Soundbite of music)

ROBERTS: This is NPR News.

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