Eliomys quercinusgarden dormouse

Geographic Range

Eliomys quercinus is found throughout Europe to Asia to North Africa. It is also found in Finland. Garden dormice were introduced into Britian by the Romans in the first century, probably for culinary uses. (Nowak, 1999)


Eliomys quercinus lives in steepe deserts, hollow trees, rock crevices, and human dwellings. Although they are highly arboreal, they are occasionally found in swamplands. The common name "garden dormouse" is misleading because of the variety of habitats in which these rodents are found.

Garden dormice also live near human developments.

They may live in shelters made from birds' nests, rock, or trees. (Nowak, 1999)

Physical Description

Eliomys quercinus has a body length of 100 to 175 mm. The tail length is 90 to 135 mm, and the body mass is from 45 to 120 g. Eliomys quercinus has a long, bushy tail. The tails of European dormice have brown, black and white coloration on them. Asian and African specimens have black and white tails. Garden dormice have short fur except for the tail. The fur on the upper surface of dormice may be any color of gray or brown. The underside may show white or cream coloration. There are black markings on the face of garden dormice. This characteristic is used to distinguish this species from other species such as hazel dormice. The black stripe goes from the nose to behind the ear. There are eight mammae on female E. quercinus. (Burton and Burton, 1969; Lawlor, 1974; Nowak, 1999; van den Brink, 1968)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Range mass
    45 to 120 g
    1.59 to 4.23 oz
  • Range length
    190 to 310 mm
    7.48 to 12.20 in


Young garden dormice are born naked and blind (Burton, 1969). The altricial young open their eyes at three weeks of age (Nowak, 1991).


Information on the mating system of these animals is not available.

The polyestrus E. quercinus has a breeding season from May to October in areas of Europe and Morocco. In other parts of Europe the breeding season has peaks in March to May, and in August to October. The first breeding episode of the season begins shortly after emergence from hibernation. Females enter heat every 10 days during the breeding season.

A litter consists of two to eight offspring, which are born after a gestation period of 22 to 28 days. Young E. quercinus are born in a nest which is larger than the sleeping nests typical of this species. There is usually only one litter born to a female each year.

Eliomys quercinus form a vaginal plug after mating. (Asdell, 1964; Burton and Burton, 1969; Nowak, 1999)

  • Breeding interval
    A female may breed once or twice annually.
  • Breeding season
    Copulations can occur from May to October, with heats every 10 days.
  • Range number of offspring
    2 to 8
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average number of offspring
  • Range gestation period
    22 to 28 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    Sex: female
    365 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    Sex: male
    365 days

As in all mammals, females care for the young, providing them with milk and shelter until they are independent. Specifics on the parental behavior of this species are lacking, so it is not know whether males interact with their offspring.

  • Parental Investment
  • altricial
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female


The lifespan of E. quercinus can reach five and a half years in captivity. No information is available for species in the wild. (Nowak, 1999)


Garden dormice are nocturnal. They may hibernate for up to seven months in the winter. Before hibernation, dormice put on weight to last the duration of the long hibernation. Dormice curl into a ball before hibernation. When dormice enter the dormant stage, their sleep is so deep that they can be rolled over without waking. Even during daily naps dormice are difficult to wake. When October comes, the daily naps increase in length until the animal enters a dormant state.

Garden dormice may take over bird or squirrel nests. If they build a nest from scratch, it may contain leaves and grass. Because garden dormice live in a variety of habitats, they can be found both in the trees and on the ground. If arboreal, the compact nest will be 0.8-3.0 meters above the ground.

Eliomys quercinus is social, with common feeding and sleeping sites. When mating season comes, they fight in the common areas, but during the rest of the year show little aggression, even between groups. (Burton and Burton, 1969; Feldhamer, et al., 1999; Nowak, 1999)

Home Range

Information on the home range size of these animals is not available.

Communication and Perception

Eliomys quercinus communicate using vocalizations, including whistles, growls, or snores. They are reported to be very noisy animals.

In addition to vocal communication, it is likely that there are some forms of tactile communication, between mothers and their young, between mates, and possibly within social groups. (Nowak, 1999; van den Brink, 1968)

Food Habits

Garden dormice are more carnivorous than any other dormice species, including other small mammals, insects, snails and baby birds. Other foods include fruit, hazel nuts, chestnuts, acorns, pine seeds, bark, and eggs.

Garden dormice have a simple digestive tract, suggesting they do not eat much cellulose.

Garden dormice cache food in burrows. (Feldhamer, et al., 1999; Lawlor, 1974; Nowak, 1999)

  • Animal Foods
  • birds
  • mammals
  • eggs
  • insects
  • Plant Foods
  • seeds, grains, and nuts
  • fruit


A variety of animals prey upon dormice. Among these are mustelids, crows, magpies, and foxes. Peak mortality occurs during hibernation, when up to four out of five are captured by burrow predators. (Burton and Burton, 1969)

Ecosystem Roles

Eliomys quercinus may displace birds when they take over the nest site to use it. They may also affect bird populations by eating chicks. (Walker, 1964)

These animals are likely to be important in local food webs, acting both as predators and prey to a variety of other animals, thereby affecting their populations.

Because E. quercinus caches food, it probably plays some role in dispersing seeds.

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • disperses seeds

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Eliomys quercinus were used for food in Britain during the Roman Empire, as indicated by archeological evidence. (Nowak, 1999)

  • Positive Impacts
  • food

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Eliomys quercinus is a pest in fruit orchards in Europe. (Burton and Burton, 1969)

  • Negative Impacts
  • crop pest

Conservation Status

Garden dormice have an IUCN status of 'Vulnerable'. E. quercinus is endangered in parts of Europe and Finland due to deforestation in these areas. (Nowak, 1999)

Other Comments

Eliomys quercinus is able to regenerate its tail if it is somehow removed. Family Myoxidae, of which E. quercinus is a member, used to be classified as Family Gliridae. (Feldhamer, et al., 1999; Lawlor, 1974)


Nancy Shefferly (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Jessica Idenmill (author), California State University, Sacramento, James Biardi (editor), California State University, Sacramento.



living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

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living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

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uses sound to communicate


living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.


young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.


Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


Found in coastal areas between 30 and 40 degrees latitude, in areas with a Mediterranean climate. Vegetation is dominated by stands of dense, spiny shrubs with tough (hard or waxy) evergreen leaves. May be maintained by periodic fire. In South America it includes the scrub ecotone between forest and paramo.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


used loosely to describe any group of organisms living together or in close proximity to each other - for example nesting shorebirds that live in large colonies. More specifically refers to a group of organisms in which members act as specialized subunits (a continuous, modular society) - as in clonal organisms.

desert or dunes

in deserts low (less than 30 cm per year) and unpredictable rainfall results in landscapes dominated by plants and animals adapted to aridity. Vegetation is typically sparse, though spectacular blooms may occur following rain. Deserts can be cold or warm and daily temperates typically fluctuate. In dune areas vegetation is also sparse and conditions are dry. This is because sand does not hold water well so little is available to plants. In dunes near seas and oceans this is compounded by the influence of salt in the air and soil. Salt limits the ability of plants to take up water through their roots.


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.


union of egg and spermatozoan


A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


the state that some animals enter during winter in which normal physiological processes are significantly reduced, thus lowering the animal's energy requirements. The act or condition of passing winter in a torpid or resting state, typically involving the abandonment of homoiothermy in mammals.


referring to animal species that have been transported to and established populations in regions outside of their natural range, usually through human action.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


active during the night


an animal that mainly eats all kinds of things, including plants and animals


found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

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seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


remains in the same area


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.

stores or caches food

places a food item in a special place to be eaten later. Also called "hoarding"


living in residential areas on the outskirts of large cities or towns.


a wetland area that may be permanently or intermittently covered in water, often dominated by woody vegetation.


uses touch to communicate


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


Living on the ground.


living in cities and large towns, landscapes dominated by human structures and activity.


uses sight to communicate


reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.


"The 2000 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species." (On-line). Accessed October 26, 2001 at http://www.redlist.org.

Asdell, S. 1964. Patterns of Mammalian Reproduction, 2nd Edition. Ithaca, N.Y: Comstock Publishing Associates, Cornell University Press.

Burton, D., R. Burton. 1969. The International Wildlife Encyclopedia, Volume 5. New York: Marshall Cavendish Corporation..

Feldhamer, G., L. Drickamer, S. Vessey, J. Merritt. 1999. Mammology: Adaptation, Diversity, and Ecology. Boston: McGraw Hill.

Lawlor, T. 1974. Handbook to the Orders and Families of Living Mammals. Eureka, CA: Eureka Printing Company.

Nowak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World, 6th Edition. Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Walker, E. 1964. Mammals of the World, Volume 2. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press.

van den Brink, F. 1968. A Field Guide to the Mammals of Britian and Europe. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.