The Golden, or Syrian, is the hamster most commonly kept as a pet. When most people talk about hamsters it is normally the Golden they are thinking about. Golden hamsters, as you may have guessed, are gold in colour on their backs with a white belly. However once these animals became popular people began selectively breeding them to produce many other colours. They are now available in colours, such as cream, cinnamon, silver, white, black and others. There are also a lot of different coat patterns to choose from. It is unlikely that these colours or patterns would be seen in the wild as the hamster would become more noticeable to the animals that prey on them and would not live long enough to pass its genes on.
Longhaired hamsters or those with short, velvety coats would not be found in the wild either. However these Teddy-bear hamsters have become quite popular. There are also longhaired and shorthaired rex hamsters with wavy coats. There are even completely bald hamsters available.
Some breeders believe, and are probably correct, that the most genetically sound hamster is the original golden. This is due to the fact that often, to fix certain characteristics, breeders will inbreed their stock, i.e. brother to sister, father to daughter, mother to son etc. In the long term this leads to genetic diseases becoming more commonplace and will eventually destroy the animals’ immune systems or even make them sterile.
As already mentioned, the golden, or Syrian, hamster is the one people are normally thinking about when they talk about hamsters. Today, however a relatively new pet is taking the hamster world by storm. These are dwarf hamsters, cute little critters whose popularity is growing by the day.
Dwarf hamsters can be anything from 2 to 4 inches in length. They have small delicate feet and have a compact ball-like physique. Unlike Golden hamsters dwarfs actually like to live with others like themselves. On the down side some owners have reported that dwarfs are more likely to nip you than Goldens. Others have said that while they may be more difficult to tame, they like the fact that they enjoy being with their own kind and are more entertaining to watch. Whether your hamster bites you or not is probably more down to the way in which the animal has been socialised than what type it is. The more positive the hamster’s association has been with humans, the less likely it is try to take a chunk out of you.
In the early 1900’s W.C. Campbell discovered a small hamster species which bears his name today. Nowadays the Campbell’s dwarf is the most popular of the dwarf hamsters on the market. This hamster is also called the Russian, although it can also be found in China and Mongolia. Russian dwarfs have a soft coat and a dorsal stripe that runs down its back. It is small and round and can be found in many colour variations. It usually has a sleek shiny coat, like that of the Golden hamster.
As well as Mr Campbell’s Russian dwarf hamster, there is also one known as the Siberian dwarf. This type is smaller and is also called a winter white, as its grey coat will turn pure white if it is kept in a cool environment. Siberians are reported as being more friendly and quite easy to tame.
The Roborovski Dwarf
Another popular dwarf hamster is the Roborovski dwarf. These are the smallest of the dwarfs and there was an Olympics for hamsters they would be in the sprint events as they are the fastest hamsters out there. If you decide to spend time with your Roborovski outside its cage you will need to be extra careful and ensure it has no easy means of escape. Unlike the Russian, they do not have a stripe on their backs but they do have cute white eyebrows.
The Chinese Dwarf
Chinese dwarfs sort of look like mice. The main reason for this is their tails. They normally come in two colour variations, white with brown patches, or brown with a white dorsal stripe. Their bodies are long and thin. Chinese hamsters are not renowned for their friendliness so you will never know what you are going to end up with. It very much depends on how they were tamed when they were young. With this type it is important to find a breeder who has taken the time to hand tame their youngsters. This has become easier as Chinese dwarf hamsters are growing in popularity amongst the hamster keeping public.