HAZEL DORMOUSE asleep on a rose (Muscardinus avellanarius) - ©Richard Austin
- Dormice are mostly found in Europe, although some live in Africa and Asia.
- They are particularly known for their long periods of hibernation.
- Because only one species of dormouse is native to the British Isles, in everyday English usage dormouse usually refers to this species (the Hazel Dormouse or Common Dormouse) rather than to the family as a whole.
- Mouse-like in appearance, but with furred, rather than scaly, tails.
- Dormice can hibernate six months out of the year, or even longer if the weather remains sufficiently cool, sometimes waking for brief periods to eat food they had previously stored nearby. During the summer, they accumulate fat in their bodies, to nourish them through the hibernation period.
- Their name, which comes from Anglo-Norman dormeus, which means “sleepy (one)”; the word was later altered by folk etymology to resemble the word “mouse”.
- The sleepy behaviour of the Dormouse character in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland also attests to this trait.
- The edible dormouse was considered a delicacy in ancient Rome, either as a savoury appetizer or as a dessert (dipped in honey and poppy seeds).
- The Romans had a special kind of enclosure known as glirarium used to rear dormice for the table.
- Dormice to this day are eaten in Slovenia.
- Dormouse fat was used by the Elizabethans to induce sleep.
Fact Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dormouse