Why is the Maxey show cage for fancy mice spelt in this way?

Lilac and tan mouseIt is nothing to do with the size of the cage, as is sometimes thought! Most branches of pet keeping have had their pioneers, and Walter Maxey’s name is still commemorated in fancy mouse circles. Unlike Charles Cruft however, whose name attaches to a dog show, Walter’s name is commemorated in the show cages used for exhibiting fancy mice.

Walter MaxeyWalter Maxey, (seen right, source PD), began keeping mice in 1877, when he was just 10 years old. He remained involved in the fancy right through until his death at the age of 82 in 1949.  The use of the term ‘fancying’ came into fashion during the Victorian era, being used to describe the selective breeding – not only of animals and birds but also of plants – which became very popular at that time.

Maxey himself had originally been invited to become secretary of the newly-formed National Mouse Club (NMC) in 1895, but declined initially, on the grounds that at 28, he felt too young! However, he was then persuaded to take over when the post fell vacant again in 1897, and held this office through until 1906.

During this period, he devised the show cage for mice that now bears his name. At NMC shows even today, the mice themselves are exhibited in what have become known as Maxey cages.  The design features of such cages include the traditional green and red colour scheme originally adopted by the organisation back in 1904, when he was secretary of the NMC.

Maxey show cage for mousemouse.jpgThis comprises the shade known as Middle Brunswick Green on the outside and Signal or Royal Red inside. Standardisation in this way helps to ensures that judges can concentrate on the exhibits themselves, rather than being distracted by the surroundings. (Photo of Maxey show cage seen here, courtesy of Brian Tanner).

A number of the varieties of fancy mouse that Maxey also developed, including the sable, still remain popular today as well. These particular mice have rich, dark brown backs, with contrasting golden-tan underparts.

It is often forgotten that Walter Maxey also did much to promote fancy rats. At the outset, Maxey was asked if rats could also be represented by the NMC. He persuaded the committee to agree to the request, opening the way for the first show where mice and rats could be seen together. This took place in October 1901, at Aylesbury in the English county of Buckinghamshire.