Hamster species

Hamsters come in many shapes and sizes. We have listed the different types below, to help you find the best hamster for you!

Syrian hamster

Syrian hamster
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Syrian hamsters are the biggest and one of the most popular hamster types around. The Syrian hamster makes a fantastic pet and comes in a huge array of colours and coat textures. The live for approximately 2 years, however some can live longer.

Syrian hamsters are native to the Middle East, particularly Israel and Syria. However they are currently classified as endangered in the wild, until recently they were thought to be extinct in the wild as there were no sightings. It was in the late 1990’s when an expedition was able to locate some wild hamsters, and some of these found are not the basis of a breeding program in Germany.

The Syrian hamsters generally reaches 5.5 inches (13cm) however some can exceed this. It is the males that tend to be smaller than the females. The wild Syrian hamster is a golden colour with black flecks on the coat and a white underbelly, this is how it go its common name ‘golden hamster’.

Long Haired Syrian Hamster
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Syrians come in four different coat types; longhair, shorthair, satin and rex. It is only the male that develops the full long skirt (this will need grooming regularly to prevent matting) , the female longhair will just be fluffy. The satin coat will appear lovely and glossy, caused by some on the hairs being hollow, and the rex coat will make the hamster appear as if the coat and whiskers are crimped.

There are loo many coat colours and patterns to discuss, but details of these can be found on the National Hamster Council website.

These hamsters must be kept alone.

 

Campbells Dwarf Hamster

campbells dwarf hamster
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Campbells originate from Russia and North China, they live on average 2 years but diabetes (which is common in these hamsters) can drastically shorted the life of these little hamsters.

They are small 3-4 inches (7.5-10cm) on average. The come in many colours thanks to the efforts of many hobby breeders, however the main colours are normal (shaded browns with black eyes (this is the wild colouration)), argente (orange/sandy top coat and grey undercoat with red eyes), and albino (white with red eyes).

There are 3 coat types; normal, satin and rex. Satin coats have a shiny somewhat greasy appearance and rex coats have some texture to the coat and the whiskers are curly. The satin and the rex coats are not particularly common.

These little hamsters can often be quite quick and to start with may be tricky to handle, especially for children. They do become trusting of people but it often takes some time and a little work to allow these hamsters to become comfortable enough to sit on your hand.

Campbells hamsters can often suffer with diabetes, this can limit the life span. Care must be taken to limit the amount of sugar that they have in their diet. Go easy on the tasty sugar filled treats and swap this for something more healthy.

 

Winter White Dwarf Hamster

winter white hamster
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Winter whites originate from Kazakhstan and Siberia (sometimes referred to as the Siberian Hamster). They live on average 2 years, however a little longer than this is not uncommon.

winter white hamster
Photo credit: cdrussorusso / Foter / CC BY

Their appearance is very similar to that of the Campbells Dwarf hamster however they are separate species and should not be housed together.

They come in 3 colours; normal, sapphire and pearl. Normal are black and grey with black eyes, this is the wild colouration (in the wild they would moult in the winter to a white colour to help with camouflage with the snow covered terrain of siberia). The sapphire variation is a blue grey colour with black eyes. The pearl variety is white with some black ticking on the end of the hairs, with black eyes.

These hamsters are a similar size to the Campbells and they are quick little hamsters, so the same issues with handling can arise. But with some patients they can make very loving pets.

 

Roborovski Dwarf Hamsterroborovski hamsters

The Roborovski hamster is the smallest and fastest hamster of all. They are captivating to watch rushing around their cage, and racing on their wheel.

They are originally from Central Asia (Northern China, Mongolia, Northern Russia) and live in a desert environment. They were not discovered until 1894, and all of the hamsters available in captivity can be traced back to a few hamsters imported to Holland in 1990.

The Roborovski hamster is very small, only  about 2 inches (4.5-5cm) when fully grown. They live on average 2-3 years, however some can live as long as 4 years.

roborovski hamster
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They are hamsters that love to burrow, in the wild they will often construct steep burrows upto 6 feet or more. They are very social hamsters and should be kept in same sex pairs or groups. Due to their small size they should be kept in cages with no bars, such as an aquarium, this also allows for a deep layer of substrate in which these little hamsters can make their own burrows.

These hamsters are mainly available in one colour, agouti. This is the wild colour and is a sandy brown with grey tips, white belly and tail and white eyebrows. However the white faced (husky) colour is sometimes seen, this gives them a lighter brown colour with a white face. There are various breeding programs which are producing platinum, white and pied colourations, however these are hard to come by at the moment.

 

Chinese Hamster

Despite their size these are not Dwarf hamsters, they are just small hamsters.chinese hamster

They make fantastic pets and are often seen clinging to their owners fingers. They are intelligent and what they lack in size they make up for in personality. Their appearance is different to the Dwarf hamsters, they are more slender with striking eyes and an elongated tail. They are quick, so handling can sometimes be difficult, especially when the hamster is young. But within a short amount of time they will become very comfortable with their owner and are more than happy to sit on your hand.

chinese hamster
Photo credit: jonboy mitchell / Foter / CC BY

They originate from North East China and fully grown are roughly 4 inches (10-12cm). They love to climb and burrow and will appreciate a large layer or substrate that they can burrow and dig until their hearts content.

They come in two main colours, the normal (brown with black ticking with a white underbelly and black eyes and a black dorsal stripe) and the dominant spot (white with patches of the normal colour, usually down the back of the hamster with a black dordal stripe). Black eyed white can occur rarely when two dominant spots are bred together, however this variation is sporadic and not often seen.

 

Feature Photo credit: digital_image_fan / Foter / CC BY

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