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Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless credited to others.
Copyright ゥ Ecology Asia 2024







House Shrew or Brown Musk Shrew

Fig 1

Fig 2

Fig 3

Fig 4









Family : Soricidae
Species : Suncus murinus

Head-Body Length : Up to 15 cm
Tail Length : Up to 8 cm
Weight : Up to 60 grams

The Brown Musk Shrew, more commonly called the House Shrew, has become adapted to a quiet, nocturnal existence among agricultural areas, villages, towns and cities. Unbeknownst to millions of Asia's urban dwellers, this quiet, unassuming insectivore helps in reducing the population of insects which we consider pests.

It is possible that the species became introduced to Southeast Asia many centuries ago by human activities, because 'wild' populations in natural habitats in this region are largely unheard of.

The species is easily identified by its pointed snout and short, thick tail : the latter is almost hairless apart for a few long, sparse hairs. The ears are rounded and forward facing, and the eyes small. Fur colour varies from grey to brownish to reddish-grey. On each side of the body is a musk gland which exudes a strong odour during the mating season.

Two litters of up to 5 young (though usually 3) may be born throughout the year. The young are known to travel in a convoy train with the mother, each clamping its jaws tightly to the rear or base of the tail of the preceding shrew. It is reckoned that the mother can be picked up with all the young hanging from her rump like a string of pearls.

The House Shrew ranges from Northern Africa, through the Middle East and the Indian Subcontinent to most of Southeast Asia and the Far East.

Fig 1 : Example from a leafy, suburban neighbourhood in Singapore.

Figs 2 and 3 : Example from a high-density urban housing area. The musk gland can clearly be seen along the flank (Fig. 3.) as a raised area with a small hairless centre.

Fig 4 : Example from coastal forest on the island of Sentosa, Singapore.

Fig 5: Taking shelter in a narrow drainage channel at the edge of a golf course.

References : M2, M3