All About Dumbo Rats: Origin, Lifespan, Personality, & Care

Dumbo Rat

If you’ve been considering adopting pet rats, you might’ve come across the term “dumbo rats.” Dumbo rats are the same species as all pet rats, Rattus Norvegicus, but they have a unique distinction from the standard top-eared variety.

Unlike regular fancy rats, dumbo rats have the most adorable round ears positioned a bit lower on the sides of their heads, causing them to stick out sideways – just like Dumbo, the elephant. This ear placement can give dumbos the appearance of a slightly larger head, but it’s actually just a visual trick.

In this article, we’ll explain where Dumbo rats came from, what makes them different, and how to provide them with the best care possible if you decide to make these little furries a part of your family!

How Are Dumbo Rats Different Than Other Rat Varieties

The main difference between dumbo rats and standard top-eared rats is the lower ear position and rounder ears.

Dumbo rats also have slightly shorter facial bones, specifically the upper jaw, cheekbones, and lower jaw. Additionally, the average diameter of Dumbo rats’ eyes is smaller compared to regular rats. This can become an issue after repeated dumbo x dumbo matings as it can result in extremely reduced eye size.

Dumbo and top-eared rats
A dumbo rat and two top-eared rats

Origin of Dumbo Rats

The history of Dumbo rats is not entirely clear, but it is believed that they were first bred in the United States in the early 1990s. The distinct feature of low-set ears in dumbo rats is said to have emerged unexpectedly rather than being intentionally bred for. The exact origin of the variety is unknown, but it is thought to be a genetic mutation that was a product of domestic breeding of rats of Wistar origin.

The recessive gene responsible for the unique ear position of dumbo rats is called DMBO. Both parents must carry this recessive gene to produce dumbo rats in a litter. They don’t have to be dumbos themselves, but they must carry the DMBO gene.

When two dumbo rats are bred together, all their babies will be dumbos.

When it comes to breeding dumbo rats, it’s typically not the most ideal approach to always solely mate two dumbo rats together. This is because certain genetic factors impede eye growth during the later stages of pregnancy, causing smaller eyes in dumbo rats. However, this can be solved by occasionally crossing dumbo rats with standard top-eared rats who carry the DMBO gene. Doing so ensures that the offspring maintains a healthy eye size while still inheriting the desired dumbo gene.

Despite their genetic distinction, dumbo rats are not a separate species from regular top-eared rats. They are essentially the same in every other way. The unconventional placement of their ears does not have negative effects on them, unlike some rat varieties like hairless or tailless rats, who are prone to a number of health issues due to their genes.

Dumbo rats quickly gained popularity among rat enthusiasts and breeders due to their adorable appearance. The American Fancy Rat and Mouse Association officially recognized the breed in 2007.

How Long Do Dumbo Rats Live?

Dumbo rats live 2-3 years

It’s a common myth that dumbo rats have a longer lifespan compared to standard top-eared rats. However, this is not true. The lifespan of each rat is influenced by their genetics (including parental longevity and susceptibility to diseases like cancer), the environment they live in, and the care they receive, rather than the shape of their ears.

All fancy rats, including dumbos, live approximately 2-3 years.

What Are Dumbo Rats Like?

There’s a rumor that dumbo rats are generally more gentle and tame than their top-eared counterparts. However, the truth is that a rat’s temperament is influenced by their family genetics and the care they receive, not what shape their ears are.

If you adopt a rat that has been previously handled and is used to human interaction, it won’t take long for you to form a bond with them. On the other hand, rats that haven’t had much human contact, like those bred in large numbers for pet shops or as feeder rats, are more likely to be shy or less inclined to socialize with humans.

Pet rats are generally sociable and friendly pets, especially once they become familiar with their owners. They love to scamper around and climb on their human companions, although not all are overly fond of cuddling. Instead, they prefer to explore their surroundings and stay active rather than curling up in someone’s lap. This is especially true for female rats, who often have a restless and energetic nature that keeps them constantly on the move.

But even if your rats aren’t the cuddliest bunch, spending time with them can be incredibly rewarding and fun. The bond you form with your rats can bring joy and companionship, regardless of their preference for cuddling.

How Big Do Dumbo Rats Get?

There’s no difference in size between dumbo rats and other fancy rats. The only exception is dwarf rats which have a smaller body size compared to regular-sized fancy rats.

In terms of weight, you can expect your rats to range between 225 and 650 grams (0.5 – 1.4 lbs). As for their length, they typically measure around 9-11 inches (23-28 cm), not including their 7-9 inch tail.

Dumbo Rats Colors & Coat Type

Dumbo rat colors

Nowadays, Dumbo rats are widely available and can be found in a variety of colors, coat types, and patterns.

Some more common dumbo rat colors:

  • Non-agouti coat colors include black, beige, champagne, mink, blue, russian blue, and siamese.
  • Agouti-based colors include agouti, fawn, amber, cinnamon, and blue agouti.

Other than coat colors, dumbo rats can have different markings, coat types, and eye color:

  • Markings such as Berkshire, Irish, hooded, blazed, capped, roan and black-eyed white or single-color self-rats.
  • Coat types include standard rats, rex, satin, hairless, and bristle coat.
  • Eye colors such as standard, pink eye dilute, red eye dilute, ruby eyed, and black eye.

Dumbo rats can also have albino genes that mask other colors and make them completely white with pink eyes.

How to Care for Dumbo Rats

You’ve decided that dumbo rats are the right pets for you, now comes the exciting part—understanding their needs, creating an engaging home environment for them, and nourishing them with a healthy diet.

Let’s start with the basics. Afterward, you can learn all the ins and outs in our rat care guide!


Rats are social animals

Dumbo rats, just like all fancy rat varieties, thrive when they have the company of their fellow rats. Rats are extremely social animals, and keeping them alone can lead to loneliness and negatively impact their mental and physical health.

While keeping rats in groups is essential, it’s also important to take certain precautions to prevent unwanted litters. The best approach is to adopt same-sex rats right from the start. This ensures you won’t have to worry about unexpected babies joining your rat family. However, if you do happen to adopt rats of different sexes, it’s important to have the males neutered.

Dumbo Rats Housing

A spacious and enriching cage is essential to keep your rats physically active and mentally stimulated.

All pet rats have the same housing requirements that depend on the size of your rat family. Each rat needs at least 2.5 cubic feet of cage volume, but it’s recommended not to go under the minimum of 8 cubic feet, even if you only have two rats.

A good floor space for a cage is 32×20 inches (80×50 cm) or more to provide enough room for horizontal exploration. Vertical space is equally important because rats have a natural instinct for climbing. A tall cage with plenty of ropes, hammocks, and other space fillers is ideal for them to clamber on.

Before deciding on the cage, use our rat cage calculator to make sure it can comfortably house all members of your rat mischief.


Dumbo rats diet

To ensure your rats live long and healthy lives, it’s important to feed them a nutritious and varied diet. As omnivores, rats can eat both plants and meat.

A well-balanced rat diet should consist of the following:

  • High-quality dry mix: You can choose store-bought dry mixes specifically designed for rats or make a homemade mix yourself (after thorough research to make sure your rats are not missing any micronutrients).
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables: Rats can safely eat an enormous variety of fresh foods. You can see which fruits and vegetables are safe here.
  • Protein: If the dry mix you feed your rats doesn’t provide enough protein, you can add cooked chicken, eggs, or tofu to their diet. However, be careful not to overdo it with the protein, as excessive intake can lead to kidney issues.

Where to Get Dumbo Rats

Just find a store that sells rats and go grab a couple, right? Well, not exactly. Just like with any pets, there are different options for acquiring pet rats, and some are better than others for both the rats and their owners.

Here are some options we recommend:

  • Rescues: Consider adopting rats from rescue organizations dedicated to finding new homes for animals in need. These rats may come from various backgrounds and can make wonderful companions.
  • Private Rehoming: Another option is to connect with other rat owners who, for various reasons, can no longer care for their rats or have had accidental litters. Private rehoming allows you to give these rats a new loving home.
  • Ethical Breeders: This is a good option if you’re looking for specific rat varieties or want to ensure friendly rats. They prioritize the well-being of their rats and can offer guidance and support. However, it’s important to distinguish ethical breeders from rodent mills or inexperienced breeders. You can read this post to learn more about it.

We avoid adopting from the following sources, as we have concerns about the welfare of the animals:

  • Rodent mills and feeder breeders: They prioritize quantity over the well-being of the rats, often neglecting their health and overall care. Pregnant female rats in rodent mills often live in tiny cramped tanks birthing litter after litter for sale.
  • Pet shops: Many pet shops get their rats from large-scale breeders or rodent mills, lacking proper care and socialization.
  • Backyard breeders: It’s best to avoid breeders who lack knowledge about rat genetics and health, prioritize profit over the rats’ welfare, or show little concern for where their rats end up after adoption.

Remember to choose a source that aligns with your values and prioritizes the health and welfare of the rats.

Do Dumbo Rats Make Good Pets

Dumbo rats, just like all other rat varieties, make wonderful pets for the right people. But it’s important to know what you’re looking for in a pet before adopting.

Rats are friendly, active, and intelligent creatures with lots of personality. They are extremely fun to watch and not as high maintenance as other pets like dogs.

But they require a spacious cage (maybe larger than you anticipated) and regular cage cleaning, which can be a pain. They are also prone to certain health issues. But the biggest let-down is their short lifespan, which can cause many heartbreaks.

You can read more about the pros and cons of having pet rats before you decide if Dumbo or any other fancy rats are the right pets for you.


Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *