The influence of early experience and strain differences on auditory discrimination learning, open field behaviour and brain size was investigated in wild-type Mongolian gerbils (strain Ugoe:MU95) raised in the wild (wild F-0) or in the laboratory (wild F-1) and in domesticated Laboratory Gerbils (LAB). Adult males were conditioned for 10 days in a shuttle box go/no-go paradigm to discriminate two frequency-modulated tones. Significant learning was established within 5 days in wild F-0 and within 3 days in wild F-1 and LAB. Spontaneous jumps in the shuttle box (inter-trial crossings) were frequently seen in wild F-0 and F-1, but rarely in LAB. All groups exhibited nearly the same ability to remember after 2 weeks without training. In the open field test applied on 5 consecutive days, no differences in locomotion patterns and inner field preferences were found. Rearing frequency decreased over 5 days in wild gerbils. Running distances (4-6m/min) were similar in wild F-0 and LAB, but higher in wild F-1. The ratio of brain size to body weight did not differ between wild F-0 and F-1, but was 17.1% lower in LAB. Correspondingly high brain weights in wild F-1 and F-0 support our domestication hypothesis and negate any serious effect of early experience or captivity on brain size in Mongolian gerbils. In contrast, wild F-1 raised in the laboratory show a rapid improvement in learning performance, indicating that early experience rather that genetic differences between strains affect shuttle box discrimination learning in gerbils.