The year 2009 is the 100th anniversary of the founding of the first inbred strain of mouse, called DBA. During the last 100 years, inbred strains have proved their value for biomedical research and the number of such strains has mushroomed to over 450, each with different genotypic and phenotypic characteristics and useful for the study of disease and normal function. However, although inbred strains are stable, they are not fixed entities and researchers need to be aware of the phenomena of new mutations and of genetic drift, which occur within all mouse colonies. If the mutations are what we term in this review 'quiet mutations', then they might result in rather unexpected and sometimes tremendously valuable results. Here, we discuss these phenomena and look at how new genomic technologies might help us to detect 'quiet mutations' and use them to our advantage.