Libby Hanna holds a gerbil prior to the New England Gerbil Show. (Rodrique Ngowi/AP)

Libby Hanna holds a gerbil prior to the New England Gerbil Show. (Rodrique Ngowi/AP)

“When you judge a male gerbil, a helpful human model is a football player.”

So said Libby Hanna, president of the American Gerbil Society, which recently hosted a competition in Bedford, Mass. featuring dozens of gerbil vying  for best in show.

For female gerbils, Hanna said the ideal models are figure skaters or gymnasts.

But personality still plays a critical role in the competition.

“We’re looking for friendly, curious, happy animals,” Hanna said. “In a close competition many a gerbil has edged his or her way into first place by running up the judge’s arm and sitting on her shoulder or something like that.”