A dormouse is a rodent of the family Gliridae (this family is also variously called Myoxidae or Muscardinidae by different taxonomists). Dormice are found in Africa, Asia and Europe. A nocturnal animal, dormice are particularly known for their long periods of hibernation.[2]

As only one species of dormouse – the hazel dormouse – is native to the British Isles, in everyday English usage "dormouse" can refer either to that one species or to the family as a whole.

The English name of the species derived from the French dormeuse, and the latter in turn possibly from the Languedocien radourmeire.[3]

Temporal range: Early Eocene–Recent
Graphiurus spec -murinus-1
African dormouse, Graphiurus sp.
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Rodentia
Suborder: Sciuromorpha
Family: Gliridae
Muirhead in Brewster, 1819[1]
Subfamilies and genera





Concerning the dormouse's name, etymonline says "long-tailed Old World rodent noted for its state of semi-hibernation in winter, early 15c., possibly from Anglo-French dormouse 'tending to be dormant' (from stem of dormir 'to sleep,' see dormant), with the second element mistaken for mouse; or perhaps it is from a Middle English dialectal compound of mouse (n.) and Middle French dormir. French dormeuse, fem. of dormeur 'sleeper' is attested only from 17c."[4]


Dormice are small rodents, with body lengths between 6 and 19 cm (2.4 and 7.5 in), and weights between 15 and 180 g (0.53 and 6.35 oz). They are generally mouse-like in appearance, but with furred, rather than scaly, tails. They are largely arboreal, agile, and well adapted to climbing. Most species are nocturnal. Dormice have an excellent sense of hearing and signal each other with a variety of vocalisations.[5]

Dormice are omnivorous, typically feeding on fruits, berries, flowers, nuts, and insects. They are unique among rodents in that they lack a cecum, a part of the gut used in other species to ferment vegetable matter. Their dental formula is similar to that of squirrels, although they often lack premolars:


Dormice breed once or occasionally twice each year, producing litters with an average of four young after a gestation period of 22–24 days. They can live for as long as five years. The young are born hairless and helpless, and their eyes do not open until about 18 days after birth. They typically become sexually mature after the end of their first hibernation. Dormice live in small family groups, with home ranges that vary widely between species and depend on the availability of food.[5]


One of the most notable characteristics of those dormice that live in temperate zones is hibernation. They can hibernate six months out of the year, or even longer if the weather does not become warm enough, sometimes waking for brief periods to eat food they had previously stored nearby. During the summer, they accumulate fat in their bodies to nourish them through the hibernation period.[5]

The sleepy behaviour of the dormouse character in Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland reflects this familiar trait of dormice.

Relationship with humans

The edible dormouse (Glis glis) was considered a delicacy in ancient Rome, either as a savoury appetizer or as a dessert (dipped in honey and poppy seeds). The Romans used a special kind of enclosure, a glirarium, to raise dormice for the table.[5] It is still considered a delicacy in Slovenia and in several places in Croatia, namely Lika, and the islands of Hvar and Brač.[6][7] Dormouse fat was believed by the Elizabethans to induce sleep since the animal put on fat before hibernating.[8]

In more recent years[9] dormice have begun to enter the pet trade, though they are uncommon as pets and are considered an exotic pet. The woodland dormouse (Graphiurus murinus) is the most commonly seen species in the pet trade.[10] Asian garden dormice (Eliomys melanurus) are also occasionally kept as pets.[11]


The Gliridae are one of the oldest extant rodent families, with a fossil record dating back to the early Eocene. As currently understood, they descended in Europe from early Paleogene ischyromyids such as Microparamys (Sparnacomys) chandoni. The early and middle Eocene genus Eogliravus represents the earliest and most primitive glirid taxon; the oldest species, Eogliravus wildi, is known from isolated teeth from the early Eocene of France and a complete specimen of the early middle Eocene of the Messel pit in Germany.[12] They appear in Africa in the upper Miocene and only relatively recently in Asia. Many types of extinct dormouse species have been identified. During the Pleistocene, giant dormice the size of large rats, such as Leithia melitensis, lived on the islands of Malta and Sicily.[13]


The family consists of 29 living species, in three subfamilies and (arguably) nine genera:

Family Gliridae – Dormice


Fossil species

  • Subfamily Bransatoglirinae
    • Genus Oligodyromys
    • Genus Bransatoglis
      • Bransatoglis adroveri Majorca, Early Oligocene
      • Bransatoglis planus Eurasia, Early Oligocene


  1. ^ Davis Brewster, ed. Edinburgh Encyclopædia, 1819.
  2. ^ "Species – Dormouse – The Mammal Society". The Mammal Society. Retrieved March 8, 2018.
  3. ^ Wedgwood, Hensleigh (1855). "On False Etymologies". Transactions of the Philological Society (6): 66.
  4. ^ "dormouse (n.)". Retrieved March 24, 2019.
  5. ^ a b c d Baudoin, Claude (1984). Macdonald, D. (ed.). The Encyclopedia of Mammals. New York: Facts on File. pp. 678–680. ISBN 978-0-87196-871-5.
  6. ^ Freedman, Paul (March 6, 2008). "Meals that Time Forgot". Archived from the original on March 11, 2008. Retrieved February 13, 2017.
  7. ^ Kolumbić, Igor. "Fifth Puhijada". Hvar: Offero Prima d.o.o. Retrieved February 13, 2017.
  8. ^ "10 ways to get a really good sleep". BBC. 27 March 2009. Retrieved February 13, 2017.
  9. ^ "". 2009. As far as I know, my own pet shop in Cambridgeshire was the first pet shop in Britain to regularly stock the species (this was as recently as the 1990s).
  10. ^ "Dormice".
  11. ^ "Asian Garden Dormice".
  12. ^ Storch, G.; Seiffert, C. (2007). "Extraordinarily preserved specimen of the oldest known glirid from the middle Eocene of Messel (Rodentia)". Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. 27 (1): 189–194. doi:10.1671/0272-4634(2007)27[189:EPSOTO]2.0.CO;2.
  13. ^ Savage, RJG; Long, MR (1986). Mammal Evolution: an illustrated guide. New York: Facts on File. p. 119. ISBN 978-0-8160-1194-0.
  14. ^ Holden, Mary Ellen; Levine, Rebecca S (2009). "Chapter 9. Systematic Revision of Sub-Saharan African Dormice (Rodentia: Gliridae: Graphiurus) Part II: Description of a New Species of Graphiurus from the Central Congo Basin, Including Morphological and Ecological Niche Comparisons with G. crassicaudatus and G. lorraineus". Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History. 331: 314–355. doi:10.1206/582-9.1.

Further reading

  • Holden, M. E. "Family Gliridae". pp. 819–841 in Mammal Species of the World a Taxonomic and Geographic Reference. D. E. Wilson and D. M. Reeder, eds. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 2005.

External links

Asian garden dormouse

The Asian garden dormouse (Eliomys melanurus) is a species of rodent in the family Gliridae.

It is found in Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, and Turkey.

Its natural habitats are temperate forests, subtropical or tropical dry shrubland, Mediterranean-type shrubby vegetation, rocky areas and gardens. It is found from low altitudes to 3800m in the Atlas mountains.

Is active throughout the year but can enter a state of torpor during hot days. Diet consists mainly of insects,

snails, centipedes and geckos but as an omnivore it will also eat plant matter.

Chinese dormouse

The Chinese dormouse or Sichuan dormouse (Chaetocauda sichuanensis) is a species of dormouse found in subalpine mixed forests in northern Sichuan, China, where it is known from Jiuzhaigou and Wanglang Nature Reserves. It is known only from two captured female specimens taken in the Wanglang Natural Reserve, and was first described by Wang Youzhi in 1985 and relisted by Corbet and Hill (1991, 1992) under a new genus as Chaetocauda sichuanensis. It is currently the only member of the genus Chaetocauda. The two specimens had head and body lengths of 90mm and 91mm and tail lengths of 92mm and 102mm, respectively. They weighed 24.5 and 36.0 g. It is nocturnal and arboreal, nesting in trees around 3 metres above the ground, and was found above an altitude of 2500m above sea level. It is classified as endangered by the IUCN as of the 2004 Red List due to its small, isolated habitat. [1]

De Havilland Dormouse

The de Havilland DH.42 Dormouse and its two variants the de Havilland Dingo I and II were two-seat single-engined biplanes designed for fighter-reconnaissance and army cooperation roles. They did not achieve production.

Dormouse tufted-tailed rat

The Dormouse tufted-tailed rat (Eliurus myoxinus) is a species of rodent in the family Nesomyidae. It is found only in Madagascar.

Edible dormouse

The edible dormouse or fat dormouse (Glis glis) is a large dormouse and the only living species in the genus Glis, found in most of western Europe. Its name comes from the Romans, who ate them as a delicacy.


Eliomys (Greek: Ἡλίομυς Hēlíomus) is a genus of rodent in the family Gliridae.

It contains the following species:

Asian garden dormouse, Eliomys melanurus

Maghreb garden dormouse, Eliomys munbyanus

Garden dormouse, Eliomys quercinus

Briellian dormouse, Eliomys briellensis +

Forest dormouse

The forest dormouse (Dryomys nitedula) is a species of rodent in the family Gliridae found in eastern Europe, the Balkans and parts of western Central Asia. It is categorized as being of least concern in the IUCN List of Threatened Species due to its wide range and stable population trend. Forest dormice have a diploid count (2n) of 48 chromosomes. Even though this species lives in a variety of geographic locations, its greatest population density is in the forests of central Moldova, in Transcaucasia, and in the mountains of Central Asia. In most other locations, population density of this species is rather low. Population density is dependent on many factors. But the main features that this species depends on for choosing a location are the presence of the appropriate food sources as well as good foliage that can be used for a habitat. The reason why the forests in central Moldova have the highest population density is they provide the largest diversity of food sources which are available throughout the year. This location also provides the best type of foliage for the forest dormice to build their nests as well as swing from branches. The combination of both of these aspects allows for this species to have its highest needs met. Therefore, during mating season they produce offspring who also stay in the same general area when they mature. It makes sense not to move from an area if it is providing for your most basic needs.The common name for Eliomys is the garden dormouse. Dryomys are often compared to Eliomys as they have many similarities. However, Dryomys is smaller in size. Two more differences between the two are the braincase for Dryomys is more rounded and the auditory bullae is smaller than that of Eliomys. In addition, their tails are slightly different. The Dryomys's tail is more uniform in color than that of Eliomys. The forest dormouse competes in artificial and natural nests with hazel dormice, fat dormice, and birds. Its biggest competitors are those species which eat similar types of food and who live in the same kind of habitat.

Garden dormouse

The garden dormouse (Eliomys quercinus) is a rodent in the dormouse family.


The Glirinae are a subfamily of dormice (Gliridae); it contains two extant genera, each having one species:

Subfamily Glirinae

Genus Glirulus

Japanese dormouse, Glirulus japonicus

Genus Glis

Edible dormouse, Glis glis


The African dormice, genus Graphiurus, are dormice that live throughout sub-Saharan Africa in a variety of habitats. They are very agile climbers and have bushy tails. They eat invertebrates and small vertebrates.

Hazel dormouse

The hazel dormouse or common dormouse (Muscardinus avellanarius) is a small mammal and the only living species in the genus Muscardinus.

Japanese dormouse

The Japanese dormouse (Glirulus japonicus) is a species of rodent in the family Gliridae endemic to Japan. It is monotypic within the genus Glirulus. Its natural habitat is temperate forests. In Japanese, it is called yamane (ヤマネ or山鼠). Among dormice, it has the special ability of running at great speed upside down, suspended from branches. Its main food is insects, berries, nectar, or pollen.

Kellen's dormouse

Kellen's dormouse (Graphiurus kelleni) is a species of rodent in the family Gliridae. It is native to tropical Africa where its range extends from the Gambia and Senegal to Kenya and Tanzania. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical dry forests, and moist or dry savannah.


Leithiinae is a subfamily of dormice.

Lorrain dormouse

The Lorrain dormouse (Graphiurus lorraineus) is a species of rodent in the family Gliridae. It is found in Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, and Uganda. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical, moist, lowland forests, moist savanna, and plantations .

Small-eared dormouse

The small-eared dormouse (Graphiurus microtis) is a species of rodent in the family Gliridae. It is found in Angola, Botswana, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

The Dormouse

The Dormouse is a character in "A Mad Tea-Party", Chapter VII from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.

The Stolen Dormouse

"The Stolen Dormouse" is a science fiction novella by American writer L. Sprague de Camp. It was first published as a serial in the magazine Astounding Science-Fiction for April and May, 1941 and first appeared in book form in de Camp's collection Divide and Rule (Fantasy Press, 1948). The story has also appeared in the anthologies Astounding Stories: The 60th Anniversary Collection (Easton Press, 1990), and The Best of Astounding: Classic Short Novels from the Golden Age of Science Fiction (Carroll & Graf, 1992).

Woodland dormouse

The woodland dormouse (Graphiurus murinus) is a species of rodent in the family Gliridae. It is native to southern and eastern Africa and is also known as the African dwarf dormouse, African pygmy dormouse, or colloquially as micro squirrel. Found in limited numbers in the pet trade, it has complicated care requirements compared to other pet rodents. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical, moist montane forests and rivers.

Extant families in order Rodentia
Extant species of family Gliridae (Dormice)


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