A snoring dormouse

January 27, 2012 • 9:01 am

Via the Surrey Dormouse Project (you have to love the Brits!), we have this adorable video of a dormouse in torpor, snoring away:

There are several species of dormouse, found mostly in Europe, but the famous one is the hazel dormouse  (Muscardinus avellanarius), a nocturnal rodent named after its favorite food, hazelnuts. They hibernate underground through the winter (the specimen above is undoubtedly one of these), and are protected throughout Europe: their numbers are declining because of habitat loss.

A dormouse website shows the characteristic sign of their presence:

Dormice like to eat hazelnuts and if you examine a hazelnut shell it is possible to tell for certain whether it has been eaten by a dormouse.  Look at the picture of the hazelnuts [below]. Both have been eaten by Dormice. The characteristics are a neat smooth circular cut to the inside of the opening and tiny radiating teeth marks on the outside. Woodmice also like hazelnuts and eat them in a similar way but the inside of the cut shell is not smooth as woodmice gnaw across the cut. Squirrels just crack the nuts open with their powerful jaws.

So remember, a smooth circular cut with tiny radiating teeth marks is the sign of the Dormouse!

And, of course, we have the world’s most famous dormouse, the always-sleeping rodent from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  Here the dormouse is sleeping at tea next to the Mad Hatter. Eventually the Hatter and the March Hare wake him up by putting his head into the teapot.

You can adopt a dormouse for only twenty pounds, and receive a personalized adoption certificate as well as a soft toy dormouse.

h/t: Matthew Cobb via Christina Purcell

24 thoughts on “A snoring dormouse

  1. I used to wonder how snoring could possibly be selected, it has to be a dead giveaway to predators. But as my wife’s snoring became increasingly louder, I realized that any predator would think that there was a pack of some horrible beasts living in our “cave”.

    This little guy’s pretty cute though.

  2. I wonder if it’s only snoring because it’s on its back. I only mention this because of “feedback” from Mrs Brains.

  3. I was going to ask about the etymology (dormant mouse?) but looked it up.

    Per Wikipedia: from Anglo-Norman dormeus, which means “sleepy (one)”; the word was later altered by folk etymology to resemble the word “mouse”. The sleepy behaviour of the Dormouse character in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland also attests to this trait.

    W’pedia goes on to say that they were considered a delicacy in ancient Rome, and are still consumed in Slovenia. Anyone know about that?

    1. Yeah, I also wondered about that. Well, in German the critter’s called “Schlafmaus” which just means ‘sleapmouse’ so it’s easier to guess it’s favorite predilection 😉

    2. Oh yes, Apicius VIII.IX.396 describes a stuffed dormouse recipe:

      Is stuffed with a forcemeat of pork and small pieces of dormouse meat trimmings, all pounded with pepper, nuts, laser, broth. Put the dormouse thus stuffed in an earthen casserole, roast it in the oven, or boil it in the stock pot.

      Petronius, Cena Trimalchionis, fragment 31: dormouse sprinkled with honey and poppy seed and steaming sausages on a silver gridiron with damsons and pomegranate seeds underneath.

      Plinius VIII.57/82 describes the glirarium, where the glis, the edible dormice, were bred for stuffing.

      Bon appétit!

  4. Adorable they may look, but they make one hell of a din at night.

    I once lived in a house in the Dordogne, a simple stone mas, with a small garret (aka attic on your side of the pond) under the roof. A garden dormouse family (Eliomys quercinus, I’m told) had chosen to reside in the garret.
    Every night, trip-trip-trip-trip-ta-BOOM!-ba-da, for hours. When I climbed up the ladder to see what the hubbub was about, this tiny cutie with her irresistible eyes looked me straight in the face, then rocketed off.
    Come autumn, the noise abated: they hibernated, impervious to all prodding.

    They’re called Siebenschläfer in German, Seven Sleepers.

  5. That’s pretty forceful and frequent breathing for something in a physiological state of hibernation. I’d guess it’s in the process of warming/waking up.

  6. The dormouse in Alice was supposedly inspired by the wombat that the Rossetti family (Dante Gabriel, William Michael, Christina) kept at their house on Cheyne Walk in Chelsea. Carroll was acquainted with the Rossettis, oddly enough, and I believe visited their house once or twice, where he could’ve seen the wombat. FWIW, uommibatto (my handle) is Italian for wombat.

  7. Thanks for posting, what an adorable creature. It fulfilled my squeeeeee requirements for the week. Not to derail but just got an email saying the Eagle cam was back!

  8. Seconding #8 above. They’re cute, but loud in the summer (June to late September). In our cabin/house, they have free range of the attic, and it takes some nerves to ignore them and fall asleep downstairs.
    We always expected one or two dormice (Glis glis) to live up there, but after a hailstorm last September I checked for leaks and saw five somewhat-ruffled big-eyed faces looking down at me. I suppose they made the attic their home.

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