Lemming Database

Characteristics Habits
Interesting Facts Suicide Phenomenon


Lemmus lemmus There are several varieties of lemmings, including: Lemmus, the true lemming; Synaptomus, the bog lemming; Dicrostonyx, the collared or Arctic lemming; and Myopus, the red-backed or wood lemming. Lemmings can be tan, gray, or brown and are about 13 cm (5 in.) long, including the tail. They are small rodents, something like mice or rats.


Mommy with babies Lemmings eat vegetation and live near water. They dig soil to build their nests, which they line with hair, grass, moss, and lichen. Lemmings are gregarious animals and are usually found in colonies. They live in vast arctic tundras. The gestation period for lemmings is 20 days, and up to nine can be produced each time.

Interesting Facts

Friends (George and Gracie) The word "lemming" or "Lemmus" comes from a Norwegian word that means "destroying." This refers to the ravages on the landscape that can occur during a lemming migration. Humans have long attempted to explain lemming migrations. The Eskimos said that migrating lemmings spiraled down from heaven during a snowstorm. Early scientists believed that the lemmings were looking for their ancient home Atlantis, which was supposedly submerged in the Atlantic Ocean.

Suicide Phenomenon

Fievel, a baby lemming Lemmings are widely ridiculed for their apparent need to run off cliffs and quite illogically kill themselves. A game has even been created based on this legend. Obviously, this website perpetuates the rumor, but what is the truth?

According to several sources, lemming suicide is a myth. Overpopulation leads to scarcity of food and overcrowding, in turn causing the animals to migrate in search of food. The lemmings embark on their single-minded quest, swimming lakes and rivers, crossing mountains, eating all vegetation in their path. When they reach the sea, they try to swim it as they would a river and drown in the attempt. This occurs infrequently, even though population fluctuations occur every 3 or 4 years.

The story that lemmings habitually commit suicide may even have been perpetuated by Walt Disney himself. It has been reported that lemmings were herded over a cliff during the production of a Disney film in order to obtain footage of this bizarre (and uncommon) behavior. Visit the Urban Legends Reference Page, or this article from Outside Online to learn more.