Let's Learn About The Jerboa: Nature's Most Adorable Mistake

by Meredith Bland

The jerboa is our new favorite. Sorry, puppies.

Sometimes you look at an animal and think: how? How does this happen? Did two unlikely animals (or three, or four, no judgment) find love in a hopeless place like Rihanna and this is the result? Those are the questions that came to mind recently when a video of the most adorable monstrosity we have ever seen went viral on Facebook.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet the Jerboa.

Here’s how we’re assuming this thing’s creation went down:

Angel: Hey God, I’m sorry, I know it’s been a long day, but you still need to make one more animal.

God: Oh, for the love of Me. Well, let’s see what I found when I was sweeping up. Okay, I’ve got some rabbit ears, a gerbil, and I’ve got a little more lion tail so we’ll just go ahead and shrink that down. Done and done.

Angel: What about the legs, sir?

God: Man, you’re busting my balls here, Angel. Alright, well, you’re in luck because I’ve got two more mouse legs so we’ll put those up in front and in the rear…uh…let’s take some of those small hairless ones we were going to throw out, and for shits and giggles let’s put them on backward. Oh, and fluffy hoof-looking feet. TA-DA.

Angel: It’s not very attractive, sir.

God: Put some big eyes on it. BOOM, there’s the magic. God out.

Let’s learn a few facts about the jerboa, now that this little weirdo has come into our lives.

What is it?

The jerboa is a member of the dipodidae or “jumping rodent” family, which may be the worst name of a family we have ever heard. And “jerboa” is nice, but we prefer the name the Kazakh people gave it, which translates to “noodle hop hop.”

They look fast. Are they fast?

They can hop up to 16 miles an hour when startled. And they look pretty nervous, so I’m guessing they hop a lot.

Why haven’t I ever gotten to hold one in my arms and take a nap with it?

Well, because they mainly live in the deserts of Northern Africa and China. They’re also nocturnal, which is why they have those big eyes and an excuse to avoid us at work. During the day they live underground in burrows, of which they build four different types: they have their temporary summer burrow (a rental), a temporary night-time burrow they use when hunting (they never get their deposit back), a permanent summer burrow (somewhere near the kids), and a permanent winter burrow (someplace warm, nothing fancy.)

Do they have friends, and can I be one?

Sadly, jerboas are solitary animals. Like Greta Garbo, they want to be alone…they just vant to be alone.

Are there different kinds of jerboa?

You bet! In fact, there are about 31 species of jerboa, including pygmy jerboas (they get smaller!), three-toed jerboas (just cover it with your hair, Phillip, no one will know), dwarf fat-tails (baby got back-tail), and Iranian vegetarian jerboas (snobs). And of course, some of the jerboas have short ears and other have long ears. The long-eared jerboas are endangered because we can’t have anything nice.

Can I buy a jerboa a drink?

No, you cannot. They’re total teetotalers. Jerboas get all their liquids from the plants and animals they eat and never drink anything.

Can I love one forever?

Yup, you and all the other female jerboas. No one knows for sure, but there is some evidence to suggest that they are polygamists (it’s all those collared denim dresses and angry diary entries they found). Another interesting fact is that they mate shortly after they wake up from winter hibernation, often before they even get to brush their teeth. It’s super gross.

They’re pretty terrifying. I bet they were used as a symbol of warfare once.

And you’d be correct. In World War II, the British 7th armored brigade named themselves The Desert Rats because they “share[d] the animal’s tactic of popping up, having a quick look around its desert environment, and popping back down.” Soldiers in this division, which still exists, used to wear patches with jerboas on them, and were once honored when a British artist “built a half-ton sculpture of a jerboa out of scrapped armored vehicles used in Afghanistan.” Because why not and yes please.

But don’t go thinking you can have one of these parched, vicious, polygamous loners as a pet. They have been barred from entering the United States since 2003 since they were associated with monkey pox. So, for now, we’ll just have to watch videos about jerboas and dream of a day when we will be able to carry one around in our pocket like a wee little burrito.