A Beginners Guide To Showing Gerbils
Showing Gerbils is great fun and a good way of meeting other gerbil fans, to chat, swap information and renew friendships. But, first of all, how do you get started? How do you read the schedule? Who do you need to contact to put in entries? The list can be endless.
The first thing to remember is, not to panic. It is always better to raise any queries early on and not wait till the last minute.
Most show secretaries have been showing for a number of years and usually don't bite! and will also be more than happy to help you with any questions you may have. After all we all had to start some where! One thing to be very careful about - read the details in The Nibbler very carefully. If anything is unclear, telephone and ask. Make sure you know what the deadline for entries is, and that you meet the deadline. If there are any special instructions, such as, 'postal entries only' it is for a reason.
Although telephone entries can seem the easiest way of making entries, it is easy to make misunderstandings over the phone so if possible write, or even better, fax or e-mail entries if that is a given option.
Unless you are in your first year of showing, the gerbil must be shown in the recognised show pen. These are small plastic tanks made by either Hagen or Ferplast. Those of you out there that still have the old show pens, the Touchwood cages, these are perfectly acceptable too, though not as easy to clean as the plastic pens.
Now all you need is your gerbil. The show secretary will need to know three things, whether your gerbil is an adult or under thirteen weeks, the sex and the colour of the gerbil. The first two should be obvious, but the colour can sometimes cause a problem.
As a beginner, you might not necessarily know the correct name for the colour. A classic example of this is the Cinnamon, the correct name is Argente. If you are not sure, then try to describe the colour as accurately as you can, remembering the eye colour. The eye colour is important as it will help the secretary decide what colour we think we're dealing with. I remember many a happy hour playing guess the colour!
All of the gerbil shows have a block entry, this means that the gerbil automatically goes into all the classes that it is eligible for, for example, colour class, then the relevant challenges, self, white bellied or other varieties and then finally the grand challenge from which the best gerbil overall is chosen. Other small livestock fancies may require you to specify exactly which classes you wish to be entered in, and charge different amounts for different classes. We try and keep it simple! It also means that it is not necessary to understand that much about the schedule as once you have entered the secretary will be responsible for ensuring your gerbil is entered in all applicable classes.
One other thing, as well as the standard classes there are classes for pets, which are judged on a less strict basis, (IE tameness and condition) but they are not eligible for Best In Show etc, and classes for other species such as Shaw's Jirds.
On the day of the show you will need to arrive by the time specified for that show. Once there you will place your gerbils in the pens you have brought. For most shows you can have two gerbils in one pen, as long as they are different sexes or different colours (otherwise the judge will not know which one is which!) The show secretary will give you a label for each gerbil which you will affix to the pen. After paying the fee, never more than £1 per gerbil, and often less, the show secretary will take custody of the gerbils until the end of the show.
With good fortune you will be successful and receive award cards if your gerbil is first, second or third in any class, and if you win one of the major awards you will win a rosette, or at major shows, a trophy. At many shows we also pay a small amount of prize money which may help meet some of the costs in entering the show.
As you can see, it's not particularly difficult to enter a show and I guarantee that you will be made very welcome. It is a great opportunity for finding out more about gerbils and I know I have made many lasting friendships all as a result of showing my gerbils.
Article written by Jackie Roswell, Secretary of the National Gerbil Society
This article was first published in The NGS Journal 'The Nibbler' in the December 2001 issue