This article is from the July/Aug. 1986 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.
By Mrs. Ruth Hollis, Secretary, National Mouse Club, England.
The majority of English Mouse Shows are run by local Mouse Clubs, the exceptions being those held as part of an Agricultural Show, as the National Mouse Club is a governing body. The first step taken by a Show Secretary, then, having booked the hall for the Show, is to send a copy of the proposed Schedule to the NMC Cup Secretary for his approval. If the Cup Secretary decides the Schedule complies with all the Rules, he will send off to the Show Secretary the NMC support, which consist of NMC Rosettes for Best in Show and Best Opposite Age, five Section Cards for the winners of the Sections, and various Record forms for the judges to write their reports on, and for the Cup Secretary’s records.
Having received approval, the Show must be advertised in the NMC News (the mouse fancy’s official magazine). The closing date for entries is stated on the advert, and fanciers either send their entries by post or phone them in; most of us tend to wait till the last possible day and make a lot of work for the Show Secretary, who has to enter all the mice in the judging books as well as his own record book. The prize cards are provided by the local Club, and any other Rosettes, Specials, Shields, etc. Each local Club has one Cup Show a year, when their trophies are awarded, and the NMC has 5 Cup Shows. (This looks more complicated than it really is!)
On the day, judging starts at 10 or l0:30 A.M. on a Saturday, or about l P.M. for a Sunday show. Fanciers begin to arrive an hour before the start, but the organising Club will already have been at work to set up all the tables and make arrangements for feeding the owners. Pen labels are handed out by the Show Secretary on receipt of the entry fees (generally lOp per class) and each Maxey cage - our show cages - contains one mouse. The classification is in five sections, Selfs, Tans, Marked, Satins & A.O.V.s, in that order, and if there are two judges, one will take two Sections and the other three. For three judges, the usual split is Selfs, Tans & Marked, and Satins & A.O.V.s. Each judge requires a Steward, who will fetch and carry all the Maxey’s for each breed class, and bring back all the winners, in the right order, for the Challenges. Anyone can steward, and it’s the ideal way to learn the ropes.
Once the judging gets under way, there’s always a knot of people round the judging table, watching but not talking, at least not to the judge. The later in the day it gets, and the more mice there are on the table, the more fanciers will gather round, and sometimes the Stewards have to get quite forceful in pushing people out of the way. Each Section is divided into breed classes, and when all these have been judged the winners are judged together to find the Best in Section. The classes are divided into two age groups, Adults and Under 8 Weeks, so every breed class is two classes, so to speak, and the best Adult is compared with the best US to find the Best in Section. The other mouse becomes Best Opposite Age in Section.
At some point in the proceedings, everything stops for lunch, which is often provided by the ladies of the Fancy, and is a jolly good meal. There is a lot of talking going on at this time.
When all the Sections have been judged, the five winners are brought together and the judges compare them for Best in Show. When there are two judges, they sometimes can’t agree so a third non-interested judge is brought in to decide the winner. If the chosen one is an Adult, the Adult Grand Challenge will be judged next; after this, all the best U8 Weeks from the Sections will be brought out to find the Best Opposite Age, and the U8 Grand Challenge judged next. This is when things really get tough for the Stewards, who have to fly back and forth from one bench to another looking for the right Maxey, and just to complicate matters not all the mice will be entered in every available class, as many fanciers, if they feel the mouse is not good enough to get beyond its breed class, will not enter it in the duplicate classes. (Every class after the breed class is a duplicate, eg. the Section Challenge, the Grand Challenge, the Doe class, the Breeders class etc.)
Eventually all the classes will be over, one member will be highly satisfied, several others will probably feel a little disgruntled, and everybody will set off home with plenty to think about for the next few days. Prize money being low (only 30p for first place as a rule, 20p for second, lOp for third) there isn’t any money to be made out of the mouse fancy. As often as not a newcomer will be given his stock free, and when he does pay for it, prices are minimal by general standards. Mouse breeding is an unusual hobby which gives a lot of pleasure to those who indulge, but causes some funny looks from those who don’t.
The show isn’t over for the host Club, though, who have all the tidying up to do. The judges take home the Judges Report fo~ms which were provided by the NMC Cup Secretary, and which have been filled in during the show by the Show Secretary, that is, the names of the first three exhibitors in every class have been written down. The judge will transfer his remarks from his judging book, written as he judged each mouse, to these Report forms, then send them to the compiler of the magazine, NMC News, for publication. Details such as total entries, number of exhibits, and the Section winners are on the forms (all put in by the Show Secretary) and are eagerly read by members when the magazine comes out, not least by fanciers who were not at the Show but want to find out just what the competition is.
Shows vary in size from small Sunday afternoon shows, where only fifteen or so fanciers may attend, to the biggest show of the year, which is usually Bradford Championship Show: this is a Small Livestock show which goes on for three days, though the mice are only there for one. Forty or more fanciers may turn up (a lot depends on the weather, as the show is held in January), and in 1986 the entry was 1529 from 261 mice. Hundreds of people pass through this show and it really is a big event.
Of course, at every show, large or small, there is only one mouse which wins Best in Show. Even if the show is a small one, it feels pretty good to have the best mouse there, and if it’s a big show, well ..... ! We all enjoy showing, as we come back again & again, and the best part of the show for me is meeting the other fanciers and breathing in the atmosphere; all of us who have been caught up by the Fancy, whatever our particular branch of livestock, share largely the same feelings in that direction. And I suspect we’re all a bit eccentric, but what does that matter?