Merck Manual

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Pet Owner Version

Introduction to Mice


Katherine E. Quesenberry

, DVM, MPH, DABVP (Avian);

Thomas M. Donnelly

, BVSc, DVP, DACLAM, DABVP(ECM), The Kenneth S Warren Institute

Reviewed/Revised Jun 2020 | Modified Oct 2022

House mice (scientific name Mus musculus) originated in the central and southern regions of Asia. Because they are very adaptable, they have spread all over the world. House mice were domesticated by Europeans and Asians who began to selectively breed them for their fur and coloring.

Mice have been used for many purposes over the centuries. Mice were used in religious rituals as early as 1100 bc by the Chinese, who referred to them as the “ancient ones.” The Japanese believed that mice were messengers from the gods. The Greeks used them to predict the future and even worshipped them. Sailors and miners used them to test air quality in submarines and mines. Modern scientists use them to study genetics and diseases. They have even been sent into space.

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