Mouse Toe Numbering Scheme

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How to count to 9,999 with only four fingers on each of four paws.

Step 1: Look at the Cute Little Mouse Toes! (background)

I'm posting this to complement Kabukistar's instructable on counting methods.

Toe clipping is one of many methods of mouse-numbering used over the years in large lab colonies. The IACUC now recommends against toe clipping, instead preferring techniques that are less invasive and/or require lower levels of training. Properly clipped toes are easy to read, and make for unambiguous numbering. Even though you'll probably never need (or want) to clip a mouse's toes, the counting method is still of interest.

When you hold a mouse, they quite obligingly splay their toes for you to observe and count. (Because I don't keep rodents anymore, I found this nice picture on the internet.) They have four fingers and a thumb. This numbering method utilizes 1-2 fingers per paw, leaving the thumb intact for proper mouse motility.

Step 2: Scheme

The idea: toes are clipped to represent 0-9, with each foot representing a different power of ten.

Thus, the front right paw is the "ones paw", 1-9, (100); the front left paw is the "tens paw", 10-90, (101); the rear right paw is the "hundreds paw", 100-900, (102), and the rear left paw is the "thousands paw", 1000-9000 (103). Mix and match.

The mouse is held as shown, with splayed toes facing the reader. Toes are read left to right in all cases.
The following demonstration only uses the 1's and 10's paws (since I can't do much with my hindpaws) but hopefully you can extrapolate.

Step 3: Count to 9

Pictures of 1-9, using my fingers. Not clipped, otherwise I couldn't really show you all the numbers.

1-4 are obvious, right? Then you move onto combinations of two, walking along left to right. Follow along on your own fingers if the progression doesn't immediately make sense.

Step 4: Count by 10's

Same thing, left forepaw.

Step 5: Test

Now use this technique to signal your friends across a room.

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11 Discussions

This seems a LOT like the American Sign Language numbering system. I'd post a link, but that would require more effort. Just google ASL numbering and you should do just fine. ... People clipped the toes of mice to number them? Definitely not the first thing I'd think of . . . the world is truly a strange, strange place.

(Note: I wrote this up before I noticed dafasa's post, so I am putting it up anyhow)

Even though it is a bit harder for most people to read, you could do a toe numbering scheme in binary which would allow you to number 65,536 mice.

Each digit represents a binary digit, 0 or 1. 216 = 65,536.

If you don't understand the scheme, i will explain a four-digit binary number:

0100

from the right most digit: 0 x 20 power (0 or 1)

+ 0 x 21 (0 or 2) + 1 x 22 (0 or 4) + 0 x 23 (0 or 8).

So, a 0 would be toe-gone, a 1 would be toe-there (or perhaps reverse that to save on toes if you dont have a large number of mice)

The disadvantage of this method is that the poor mice lose a lot more toes. The advantage would be being able to keep a fairly large number of distinct mice.

And yes, I don't like the idea of cutting off mouse toes, but I like to count in binary, and figured the application would be fun here too.

I wonder why didn't they use binary. Using the binary system you get more numbers. If each toe is a binary digit you get 2 to the power of 16 = 65,536 combinations. ( more than six times 9,999). With a little practice each group of 4 toes could be converted into hexadecimal. (1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-A-B-C-D-E-F) then you can represent the numbers in a compact , readable form ranging from 0000 to FFFF.