Most of the gerbils available as pets are the Mongolian Gerbil species, Meriones unguiculatus. This translates as ‘clawed warrior’. A little over-dramatic for the cute gerbil, perhaps; but there is a legend to match.
It is said that the warlike name was bestowed by none other than the Emperor Genghis Khan, after a Mongolian Gerbil bit the foot of a would-be assassin just as he was about to strike the slumbering Emperor. The assassin cried out in pain as the little teeth dug in. Waking, Khan grabbed his sword and saw off the assassin. Afterwards, Genghis was inseparable from his gerbil, and wherever he went his ‘clawed warrior’ went too.
Like all good legends, this one may dip fewer than one toe in the well of truth; but Genghis would certainly have been familiar with this common Mongolian rodent.