American Fancy Rat & Mouse Association

Mouse and Rat Breeders Association

By Karen Robbins

MRBA logo drawn by
Bonnie Walters.

In 1975 a few mouse fanciers got together and after some exchange of stock, decided to put on their first show that was held January 4, 1976, at the Pomona Fairgrounds, Pomona, CA. Richard Pfarr (former President of the American Mouse Club) was the mouse judge. The group’s name at this show was Southern California Mouse and Hamster Breeders. The show was held with the San Gabriel Valley Cavy Breeder’s Association at the Pomona Fairgrounds. Entry fees were .60 each but there was payback for first to fourth depending on the number in each class—.50 for first (1–2 entries) up to $4.00 for first (for 23 or more). The winner of this show was a Fawn Satin owned by Barbara Melton. At that time the Satin mice were fairly new.

Instrumental member Barbara Melton, who had put on a display of fancy mice at the 1975 Los Angeles County Fair in Pomona, California, which attracted several mouse fanciers that then formed the new group, had obtained mouse show boxes from Richard Pfarr of his defunct American Mouse Club. These boxes were used at all the MRBA shows for the mice. Rats were shown in boxes that were patterned after the long rabbit multi-show-box units.

The next show held April 25, 1976, at the Ventura County Fairgrounds with the Rabbit and Cavy Breeders Association of San Fernando Valley, saw the first exhibition of rats along with the mice and hamsters. There were two classes for rats—Self and Hooded. The Best Rat for this first show of rats was a Black Hooded owned by Karen Hauser. Best Mouse was a Black Broken color that was also Best In Show (all species competing), owned by Karen Hauser. Rat and mouse judge for the day was Jim Touchette (a cavy breeder).

One more show was held in 1976, this time a Mouse Fanciers Fun Match on October 24 at Barbara Melton’s home. There were no entry fees and no payback. Entries were taken the morning of the show but each exhibitor had to fill out their own judging cards. Since no one in the new group was qualified to judge of of yet, training by doing was the goal of this show with each exhibitor judging several mice with BIS being judged by an impartial outsider. Small first place ribbons were given for class wins and best of each section. Total mice judged was 112. Talk was underway of getting a real club started. At this time there were approximately 20 mouse fanciers in the Southern California area.


In 1977 there were four shows held. The Annual Show on January 2, 1977, had entry fees of $1 with payback and rosettes for Best In Section, Best Mouse, Best Rat, and Best Hamster. At this show, classes were given numbers (like they do in the NMC) for making entries. There were two judges for mice: Bonnie Walters (who also judged rats) and Karen Hauser; hamsters were judged by Jim Touchette. This show saw 118 mice (Best Mouse and Best Tanned or Fox was a Chocolate-blue [Dove] owned by Barbara Melton), 13 rats (Best Rat and Best A.O.V. was a Black Irish owned by Karen Hauser), and 29 hamsters (Best Hamster and Best Angora was a Charcoal owned by Lianne Conn; this was the only show in 1977 that included hamsters) (shows previous to 1979 didn’t have complete results printed).

The June 25 and August 28, 1977, shows were again Fun Matches for mouse and rat fanciers. These shows had no entry fees but small rosettes were given for section wins and a large rosette for Best In Show. Exhibitors were to fill out their judging cards ahead of time. Best Rat (a Black A.O.V.) and Best Mouse (a Siamese A.O.V.) for June went to Karen Hauser. Best Rat for August was a Black Irish owned by Karen Hauser (no records of Best Mouse).

By the end of 1977 Satin mice were so popular, Barbara Melton held an All Satin show at her house October 30 with Jim Touchette back as the judge. This show had no entry fees but ribbons for first place winners and rosettes for Best of each section and Best In Show were given.


At the third Annual Show April 8, 1978, that was again with the SGVCBA at the Pomona Fairgrounds, all three species had classes offered. The name of the fledging group at this time was Mouse Fanciers of California. This Annual show had two mouse judges—Bonnie Walters for Satins and Dirk Walters (Bonnie Walters’ husband) for Regular [Standard] coated; Sherry Rolima was the rat judge. Show results of this show were reported with 111 mice (55 regular, 56 Satins), 20 rats, and only 9 hamsters. Best Mouse went to Barbara Melton with a Siamese doe which was also BIS (Best of each species competing), Best Rat was an Agouti Self doe owned by Karen Hauser, and Best Hamster was a male Cream Angora owned by Bonnie Walters.

1978 saw only three shows with the June 10 show being a fun match for mice and rats (no entry fees but ribbons and rosettes were offered) with Jim Touchette as the judge for both (no records of winners).

At the October show new fun classes were to be tried for mice and rats, time permitting—pairs, trios, and veterans (animals over two years of age), along with a silent auction (no mention in the results that this happened). There was a record number of 323 animals judged (with another 10 or so that had to leave before the judging was completed) from 11 exhibitors, ...almost every class had competition. Spotted Tans was the largest single class with 16 judged, B.E. Frizzies had 11, Siamese 10...The Black Irish class in rats had 13 on the mice, most of us have successfully achieved our goals as far as color goes, except in some of the marked varieties. Color seems to be very good in most classes, irregardless of coat type. Size needs to be worked on a bit, as well as temperament (our judge was bitten far too often)...Rats are steadily increasing in both numbers and quality. Temperament is excellent on these animals, as well as size and type, but color is generally still poor and needs the most work. Results of this show were 46 rats with BIS going to Susan Melton with a Black Self. Mice were broken down to 99 Regular [Standard], 56 Long-Haired, 58 Satin, and 64 Satin Long-Haired. Best Mouse was a Blue Tan Regular [Standard] owned by Barbara Melton. Judge for the day was Rick Harrell.

There was again talk of having a meeting after the show, as had been done at several previous shows, but again time got away and this wasn’t able to happen. In December though a date was set to meet just for the purpose of finally making an official club.

MRBA Founded

From the urging of mouse and rat breeder Karen Hauser to form a club, after several years of showing, the MRBA was finally founded on December 9, 1978, by six mouse and rat enthusiasts. Rat and mouse shows were to be held four times a year, each held in a different location in Southern California to enable all fanciers a chance to show (most held at member’s houses). Show procedures were based on the ARBA (American Rabbit Breeders Association) which Karen Hauser had experience showing rabbits and sister Debbie showed her cavies under. Mouse standards were based on the National Mouse Club (NMC) standards in England, of which Barbara had been able to obtain a copy of. Having no rat standards to go by at the time, they were patterned after the mice. At that time the following colors shown in rats were: Agouti, Beige, Black, Cream (new), Fawn, White, and Lilac (new), and the class Sections were Self, Hooded, Irish, and Any Other Color with no coat types (Variety). Mice were classed into Sections: Self, Tan or Fox, Marked, and Any Other Variety, and Varieties (coat types) were Regular [Standard], Satin, Long-Haired, Satin Long-Haired, Frizzie.

The dues were $5 ea year. The membership started with 6 members and then for the next three years the membership stayed with 12–15, with the fifth year seeing an increase in membership to 46.

The newsletter was put out by Barbara Melton four times a year which had an Editor’s Note, minutes, show results, and other items/articles.

MRBA Shows

The first show held after the MRBA was founded was on January 7, 1979 (the fourth Annual show of the group). At this show there were 30 rats and 118 mice shown with Bonnie Walters winning Best Rat with a Fawn Hooded, and Best Mouse going to Yasemin Demirtas with a Blue Tan Longhair. At this show Best of each Section received a cash award plus a large rosette with trophies along with a bigger cash prizes for the Best Mouse in Show and Best Rat in Show. There was no payback for each class placing like in previous Annual shows.

The April 22, 1979, show held in Riverside, CA saw 93 mice and 54 rats. BIS were a Spotted Tan Standard mouse owned by Karen Hauser, and a Beige Self rat owned by Susan Melton. Judges were Barbara Melton for mice and Jim Touchette for rats.

The July 8, 1979, show was held in the hallway of the Clyde P. Fisher Science Hall at Cal Poly Pomona, Bonnie Walters’ hometown and place of employment as a biologist. This show had no entry fees or cash prizes but rosettes were given for Best of Section, Best of Variety, Best Pet, and Best in Show. Judging cards were made out by the exhibitor the morning of the show. This show saw 208 mouse entries judged by Susan Melton. This had the second most mice entered in all the shows from 1976–1983. The BIS mouse was a Blue Self Long Hair owned by Yasemin Demirtas. Rats saw 58 entries being judged by Jim Touchette. BIS rat went to a P.E. White, again owned by Yasemin Demirtas.

1979 saw an extra show being held on August 26 in 1000 Oaks. There were 91 mice entered with BIS going to Bonnie Walters with a Black Tan Standard. Rats saw 45 entries with a Beige Self winning BIS owned by Barbara Melton. Judges were Yasmin Demirtas for mice and Karen Hauser for rats.

1981 MRBA Shows

Barbara was able to get Richard Pfarr again as the mouse judge for the January 4, 1981, Annual Show at the Pomona Fairgrounds. At this show there were 128 mouse entries (25 Standard, 32 Satin, 17 Long-Haired, 42 Long-Haired Satin, 1 Frizzie, 8 Frizzie Satin, and 3 Hairless). BIS mouse went to Linda Huscher with a P.E. White Standard.

Rats at the January 4, 1981, show were judged by Dirk Walters. Out of 56 entries, Best In Show Rat went to Susan Melton with a Beige Hooded. She also took home the awards for Best Self Rat with a Fawn, and Best Irish with an Agouti.

By the October 8, 1983, show, rats had increased in numbers and there were 85 rats shown and only 89 mice. By this time Amber, Cinnamon, and Silver Lilac colors were added to the rats with Berkshire, Capped, and AOV (an Unstandardized class) added to the rat classes.

In January 1980, Challenge Trophies were offered for the various top winners of the mice and rats to be given only at each Annual January show for members only. In the rats the trophies were: Best Rat in Show, Best Self, Best Hooded, Best Irish. For the mice there were: Best Mouse in Show, Best Regular (Standard), Best Satin, Best Longhair, Best Longhair Satin, Best Frizzie, Best Frizzie Satin, Best Hairless. Trophies were added in 1981 to include Best Self Mouse, Best Tan or Fox Mouse, Best Marked Mouse, and Best AOC Mouse. At the other shows during the year ribbons and/or mixed grains were offered to the top winners.

Karen Hauser, the President since the formation of the club and the 1983 Secretary-Treasurer, Joy Ely, worked together for the entire year of 1983 to obtain show mice and rats from England. Because of the delay and inability to get mice, all the mouse fanciers dropped out. However, the arrival of 32 British rats from the National Fancy Rat Society (NFRS) on November 29, 1983, to three rat fanciers of the newly formed AFRMA brought in many new colors we did not already have. *

Show Schedules 1976–1983
Personal show results, letters
Letters from Barbara Melton
MRBA newsletters 1979–1983

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Updated September 4, 2023