A Brief History of the Two Substrains of BALB/c, BALB/cJ, and BALB/cByJ Available from Animal Resources

JAX® NOTES Issue 443, Fall 1990

E.P. Les, Ph.D., Senior Staff Scientist

Dr. Halsey J. Bagg, while at Memorial Hospital in New York, obtained albino (white coat with pink eyes) breeding stock from a mouse dealer in Ohio in 1913. In 1920 some of these mice were obtained from Dr. Bagg by Dr. C.C. Little and Dr. E.C. MacDowell at the Carnegie Institution of Washington in Cold Spring Harbor, New York. At Cold Spring Harbor the mice were inbred by MacDowell and by 1927 they were at F12 (MacDowell, 1927).

According to Potter (1985) "H.J. Muller, then at the University of Texas, acquired some of these mice from MacDowell, and when George Snell came to work with him in 1913 Snell acquired the colony (personal communication from George Snell to H.C. Morse, III). In 1935 Snell moved to The Jackson Laboratory and took the Bagg albinos with him. They were then at F26".

In 1935 Dr. Snell sent BALB/c breeders to Drs. Walter E. Heston and Howard B. Andervont at the National Institutes of health (NIH). The Andervont subline was incorporated into NIH main colonies in 1951. Dr. Snell added the "c" to the strain name to indicate that the genotype at the "color" locus was c/c. Thus the name of the strain was established as BALB/c. The strain name, originally Balb/c, was capitalized as a result of action by the Committee on Standardized Nomenclature for Inbred Strain of Mice.

Breeding stock was also provided by Dr. Snell to Dr. J. Paul Scott who was a visiting behavior scientist at The Jackson Laboratory in 1938 or 1939; Dr. Scott took these mice to Wabash College and then brought them back to The Jackson Laboratory in 1945 (Potter, 1985). Dr. Scott's behavior laboratory (located at the Hamilton Station portion of The Jackson Laboratory) was not affected by the 1947 Bar Harbor fire which destroyed the main buildings of the Jackson Laboratory and Dr. Snell's BALB/c mice.

In 1947 Dr. Scott gave some of his BALB/c mice (at F41) to The Jackson Laboratory's Production Department. Those mice were the progenitors of the present BALB/cJ strain.

In 1961 Dr. D. W. Bailey acquired a colony of BALB/c mice while he was at NIH. He moved some of this stock to the University of California at San Francisco and then brought the strain (BALB/cBy) with him to The Jackson Laboratory in 1967. In 1974 some of the breeding stock was transferred to the Production Department of The Jackson Laboratory at F136 and the J designation was added.

In Fig. 1 the BALB/cJ and BALB/cByJ substrains are indicated among others that are maintained at The Jackson Laboratory. According to this diagram these two substrains were separated at generation 38 of brother by sister inbreeding in 1935 when some of Dr. Snell's BALB/cSn mice were transferred to Drs. Andervont and Heston at NIH.

For a brief summary of information about the characteristics of these two substrains of BALB/c, please consult JAX Notes No. 430, July 1987.

The N substrain is maintained at NIH (C. Hansen, personal communication). The Ei, Rk and By substrains are in The Jackson Laboratory research colonies maintained by Drs. Eicher, Roderick and Mobraaten, respectively (Fig. 1).


Bailey DW., Sources of subline divergence and their relative importance for subline of six major inbred strains of mice, pp 197-215. In: Morse HC III (ed), Origins of Inbred Mice. Academic Press, NY 1978.

Ibid,. p 120

MacDowell EC, Allen E, MacDowell CG. The prenatal growth of the mouse. J Gen Physiol 1927; 11:57-70.

Morse HC III (ed), Origins of Inbred Mice. Academic Press, NY. 1978.

Potter M. History of the BALB/c family, pp 1-5. In: Potter M (ed), The BALB/c Mouse: Genetics and Immunology, Current Topics in Microbiology and Immunology, Vol. 122. Springer-Verlag, NY. 1985.

Roderick TH, Langley SH, Leiter EH. Some unusual genetic characteristics of BALB/c and evidence for genetic variation among BALB/c substrains, pp 9-18. In: Potter (ed), The BALB/c Mouse: Genetics and Immunology, Current Topics in Microbiology and Immunology, Vol. 122. Springer-Verlag, NY. 1985.