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What Is A Dumbo Rat? [Everything You’ll Want To Know]

Stumbled across the Dumbo Rat? Not sure what they are or what the ‘Dumbo‘ means? That’s not a problem. Here is all that you will want, and need, to know.

So, what is a Dumbo Rat? A Dumbo Rat is a type of Fancy Rat with characteristically big ears. They have an extra chromosome causing their distinctive appearance. Their eyes are slightly smaller; they have a small mouth and short cheekbones. All these attributes emphasize their circular ears. 

Perhaps not the most flattering name to give something so cute! 

I suppose it’s better than Sarcastic Fringehead (a fish), Mountain Chicken (a frog), or Sparklemuffin (a spider)!

Nevertheless, Dumbo Rats are not exotic – they are standard rats with the slightest variations that affect their eye and skull development. 

Let us now explore this interesting breed so you know exactly how to identify and tell the difference from their related yet very different counterparts! 

Why Are They Called Dumbo Rats?

Dumbo rats are named after their large, round, low-set ears. 

As you may have guessed, their namesake is the cartoon elephant in the Disney movie “Dumbo.” 

Just like the elephant, they are playful and fun-loving. 

A Dumbo Rat’s ears stick out sideways, whereas other rats have small ears which are higher up on their head. 

The large ears are produced by a recessive gene which is a result of a mutation. 

Some Dumbo Rats have slightly smaller, cylindrical ears which may be wrinkled instead of completely round, large ears.

Nevertheless, Dumbo Rats are a domesticated variation of the Norway Rat. 

Through the years, they have deviated from the wild brown rat resulting in huge physical and psychological differences. 

The first rat with the characteristic ears of the Dumbo popped up in the late 1900s. 

The mutation is thought to be traced back to a breeder in Northwest America. 

This single rat was then bred specifically to produce more Dumbo Rats. 

Rat shows have become surprisingly popular, and the National Fancy Rat Society (NFRS) has set out characteristics that must be typical of all Fancy Rats. 

Of course, variations like the Dumbo have additional criteria that they should comply with. 

The ears must be low on the sides of the head, slightly furled at the top, and be perfectly round and flat. 

In addition to the correct ear size, shape, and position, Dumbo Rats should conform to a recognized color, Agouti and black being their two predominant shades. 

Agouti refers to a grey or brown color, but you do find cinnamon and fawn-colored Agouti Dumbo Rats. 

You will find blue, beige, dark brown, and naturally, black in the black category.

How Are Dumbo Rats Different?

The primary difference between Dumbo Rats and Fancy Rats is, of course, the ears. There is a lot of debate as to whether there are any other differences between the two in temperament, size, shape, or weight. 

Some say that a Dumbo Rat is simply a species of Fancy Rat that has slight physical differences in respect of the ears, jaw, and eyes. 

Dumbo Rats generally have a wide, flat head that is slightly raised and a smaller jaw than Fancy Rats. 

The different facial traits give the Dumbo a wide-eyed, innocent look.

This approach makes sense, as both the Dumbo Rat and Fancy Rat (also called a top eared Rat) have a common ancestor. 

Those who follow this line of thought also believe that a rat’s temperament, whether it is a Dumbo or not, depends entirely upon its environment and upbringing. 

Those with a different approach are just as dogmatic.

They believe that Dumbo Rats are far calmer and cuddlier in temperament. 

Although they admit that a Fancy Rat may also be docile, the belief is that this trait is far more prevalent and consistent in Dumbo Rats. 

This school of thought also believes that Dumbo Rats are known for being gentle and very affectionate.

However, they are forced to admit that these characteristics can be either encouraged or suppressed depending on how they are raised by their owners. 

Both acknowledge that there are far more similarities than differences.

Both species are curious and intelligent. 

They are more or less the same size and weight, have the same lifespan, are trainable, and easy to groom. 

What is indisputable is that domesticated rats of all kinds have wonderfully sparkling personalities and make wonderful companions. 

Another important thing to understand is the difference between a domesticated Fancy rat and your normal wild brown rat that you see dragging a slice of pizza into the sewers. 

They are physically and psychologically very different types of rats. 

Fancy rats like Dumbo Rats are much tamer owing to many years of being bred in captivity. 

Wild rats are also full of diseases like salmonella. 

Dumbo Rats that are bred in captivity are healthy rats that are not only free from disease but also less vulnerable to them.

Are Dumbo Rats Good Pets?

Dumbo Rats typically make excellent pets. They are sweet, perfect for an apartment or somewhere you don’t have a lot of room and are easy to care for. They are not expensive to buy or maintain and very popular with those who are fans of rats.

Contrary to popular belief, rats are actually quite clean animals. 

They groom themselves meticulously and really don’t enjoy getting dirty. 

If you have more than one rat, they will bathe each other. 

They also tend to take their food and organize it into little piles. 

The only time you will need to bathe your Dumbo is if they have a condition such as arthritis, are ill, or obese. 

All these things contribute to them not being able to bathe themselves properly, which is why you need to step in with some assistance. 

Males that have not been neutered spray urine to mark their territory, so if you decide not to neuter, then be aware you may be required to assist in the bathing department. 

Dumbo Rats are extremely smart, making them easy to train. 

Seeing a Rat run through a maze is not dramatized for television! 

They can be taught to do the most amazing things with a proper trainer and motivation. 

They can learn to play fetch and recognize their names, so they come when they are called. 

Dumbo Rats will learn to recognize you by your voice and by sight. 

You will have a lifelong bond with your Dumbo, who may even try to groom you. 

They will cuddle up in your lap or on your shoulder. 

You will find that your Dumbo will want to be with you as much as possible.

There are really only two negatives to having a Dumbo Rat as a pet. 

Firstly, they do not live for very long.

A Dumbo Rats lifespan is between two and three years, 4-5 if you are lucky!

As they form such a close bond with you, not having as much time with them as you would like makes it hard when you lose them. 

Secondly, Dumbo Rats (like all rats) tend to develop health problems after a year. 

They need to have regular check-ups. 

Females may have to have their uterus and ovaries surgically removed in order to prevent uterine infections. 

Your Dumbo should be taken to the vet every six months as a preventative measure to ensure that any disease can be diagnosed and treated while still in the early stage. 

Other Considerations When Owning A Dumbo Rat

Taking good care of your Dumbo will not only increase their lifespan but also make sure he has a good quality of life with you. 

You will need to spot-check their bedding every day and give the cage and bedding a full clean at least once a week. 

Rat-specific pellets and clean water are essential. 

It’s fine to give them a treat every now and then, such as cooked eggs, nuts, or seeds – just don’t go overboard. 

Exercise is also very important for Dumbo Rats. Make sure you have a big cage and let them out daily for a little run-around. 

Give them plenty of toys to keep them entertained, especially toys they can chew on. They love climbing, so a large cage with many levels is perfect. 

It’s best to get them a friend or two, as they are extremely social and love company. 

They want to be where the action is and will climb the furniture, the curtains and kill bugs if they are not curled up on your lap. 

If a Dumbo Rat bites you, it’s likely only because you are holding them too tightly.

As a rule, Dumbo Rats don’t bite; however, if you are bitten, it’s best to seek medical care immediately. 

Rats carry a lot of bacteria in their mouths which may cause an infection. 


If you want a pet that is intelligent, loving, and entertaining, a Dumbo Rat may be the perfect pet for you. 

Even though they don’t live very long, your time with them will be really rewarding – dynamite comes in small packages! 

Besides, Dumbo rats don’t get particularly big – and this is just one of many benefits to consider.