Shaw's jird (Meriones shawi)

Shaw's jird standing on hind legs, in captivity
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Shaw's jird fact file

Shaw's jird description

GenusMeriones (1)

Although rather rat-like in appearance, jirds actually belong to the same group of rodents as gerbils (3). Shaw’s jird has dark yellow-brown fur on the upperparts (2), with a yellow-orange stripe that runs along the flanks to the outer forelegs and hindlegs, and a white underside. Grey spots sit above and below the eyes, and the long tail is paler than the rest of the body (4). The male Shaw’s jird can be distinguished from the female by the more pronounced scent gland, which is found on the abdomen (4).

Length: 25 - 32 cm (2)
Tail length: 12 - 16 cm (2)
70 - 120 g (2)

Shaw's jird biology

Jirds are extremely social animals and often live in colonies, in deep and complex burrows which are clustered together (3). Mainly active at night (8), Shaw’s jird forages mainly for fruits, seeds and green parts of plants, such as Salsola vermiculata and Euphorbia calyptrata, a large amount of which is then hoarded underground in the burrow (8).

Shaw’s jird is able to breed at all times of year, but favours times when the temperature is moderate and supplies of food and moisture are sufficient. In northern Tunisia, most reproductive activity takes place in summer, while in Morocco, winter appears to be favoured (5). Remarkably, Shaw’s jird is able to mate a staggering 224 times in only two hours (9). With a gestation period of 20 to 30 days, Shaw’s jird gives to birth to litters of around five or six young, with a female producing three or four litters each year (3). The young are weaned at about 21 days of age and may live for up to five or six years (3).


Shaw's jird range

Shaw’s jird occurs in North Africa, from Morocco to Egypt (2) (5). It is never found more than approximately 240 kilometres from the coast (6).


Shaw's jird habitat

A desert rodent, Shaw’s jird inhabits arid and semi-arid regions (2) (5), preferring well-vegetated desert valleys (7). It may also be found in cultivated fields (1). Within these habitats, Shaw’s jird occupies burrows, which are typically found near the base of trees or bushes (8).


Shaw's jird status

Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern


Shaw's jird threats

In many areas this species is thought of as a pest due to the fact that it often damages cultivated crops and irrigation structures and has been implicated in the transmission of disease (8). Damage to crops is especially severe when the environmental conditions are highly favourable for breeding, resulting in a large jird population increase, known as an ‘outbreak’ (3). Following an ‘outbreak’ year, losses of between 10 and 70 percent of cereals has been recorded in some areas. As a result, jirds are sometimes baited with poison, in an attempt to protect crops (3).


Shaw's jird conservation

There are currently no known specific conservation measures in place for Shaw’s jird (1).              



Checked (24/08/10) by Dr Francis Gilbert, Associate Professor, University of Nottingham.

This species information was authored as part of the Arkive and Universities Scheme.


The state of being pregnant; the period from conception to birth.
Scent gland
An organ that produces a strong-smelling substance.


  1. IUCN Red List (April, 2010)
  2. Hoath, R. (2009) A Field Guide to the Mammals of Egypt. The American University in Cairo Press, Cairo. 
  3. Greaves, J.H. (1989) Rodent Pests and their Control in the Near East. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome.
  4. Bowden, C. and Masters, J. (2002) Pre-veterinary Nursing Textbook. Elsevier Limited, London. 
  5. El-Bakry, A.H., Zahran, W.M. and Bartness, T.J. (1999) Control of reproductive and energetic status by environmental cues in a desert rodent, Shaw’s jird. Physiology and Behaviour, 66: 657-666. 
  6. Wilson, D.E. and Reeder, D.M. (2005) Mammal Species of the Word: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference. Third Edition. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland. 
  7. Ali, A.M. (1978) The changing rodent pest fauna in Egypt. In: Howard, W.E. (Ed.) Proceedings of the 8th Vertebrate Pest Conference. University of California, Davis, California.
  8. Engeman, R.M., Fiedler, L.A. and Krupa, H.W. (1997) Assessing activity of fossorial rodents in southern Morocco. Journal of Wildlife Research, 2: 167-170.
  9. Glausiusz, J. (2009) Stuffed spectacular. Nature, 460: 36-37.

Image credit

Shaw's jird standing on hind legs, in captivity  
Shaw's jird standing on hind legs, in captivity

© Jane Burton /

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