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the web of life in southern Africa

Rhabdomys pumilio (Four-striped grass mouse, Striped field mouse, Striped mouse)

streepmuis [Afrikaans]; Streifengrasmaus [German]; rat de champ raye [French]; tadi, thetwane [Setswana]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Synapsida (mammal-like reptiles) > Therapsida > Theriodontia >  Cynodontia > Mammalia (mammals) > Placentalia (placental mammals) > Euarchontaglires > Glires > Rodentia (rodents) > Sciurognathi > Family: Muridae (rats and mice) > Subfamily: Murinae

Rhabdomys pumilio (Four-striped grass mouse, Striped field mouse, Striped mouse) Rhabdomys pumilio (Four-striped grass mouse, Striped field mouse, Striped mouse)

Four-striped grass mouse, Intaka Island Wetland Reserve, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ]

Four-striped grass mouse, West Coast National Park, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ]

Rhabdomys pumilio (Four-striped grass mouse, Striped field mouse, Striped mouse)

Four-striped grass mouse, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, South Africa. photo Trevor Hardaker ]


As its common name suggests the four-striped grass mouse is easily identified by the 4 distinct dark longitudinal stripes running the length of the back. Colour varies from dark grizzled russet brown to a gray-white. The sides and underparts are lighter but vary from off-white to pale grey-brown. The backs of the ears and the snout are russet to yellowish brown. The upper surfaces of the feet are usually lighter in colour than the body. Research has shown that the average body size does vary in different geographical areas, and that tails can be shorter or equal to the body length.


Body length 18 - 21 cm; weight range 30 -55 g

Dental formula

I C P M = 16

Distribution and habitat

Widely distributed in South Africa and Namibia, with patchy occurrence in Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. It has a wide habitat tolerance, from desert fringe to high-rainfall mountain areas, but does require the presence of grass.

General Behaviour

Striped mouse are active during the day, but are seldom active at night as they cannot maintain their body temperature if the environment is below 5 degrees C. They excavate a burrow system with the entrances well concealed in clumps of grass and create a radiating system of runways with their regular excursions to the feeding grounds. They are common around houses.


The four-striped grass mouse is an omnivore, eating seeds, other plant material, and insects. Its diet varies seasonally. It builds up fat stores that assist it to survive in times of limited food supply. Green plant material forms the largest portion of the diet with seed consumption higher in the summer months. The insect component of the diet seems to be fairly consistent.


During the breeding season the adult females appear to be territorial and have a reduced home range. Litters are usually born in summer after a 25 day gestation period. Average litter size is 5-6 altricial (helpless and blind) young. At birth the four dark stripes are visible as deeply pigmented lines in the skin. The young are born in grass nests either within the burrow system or above ground. They only begin to wander from the nest after 14 days. Life span: 18 months


Currently there is no conservation status for the four-striped grass mouse.

Text by Denise Hamerton