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Subject: Chinese hamster, Allocricetulus, Sokolov's dwarf hamster, Hamster, Hamster zona-free ovum test
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nger, although sometimes they are just carrying the pups in their cheek pouches.[4] If captive female hamsters are left for extended periods (three weeks or more) with their litter, they may cannibalize the litter, so the litter must be removed by the time the young can feed and drink independently.


An adult female and several juvenile dwarf hamsters (Phodopus sungorus) feeding

Hamsters are born hairless and blind in a nest the mother will have prepared in advance.[2] After one week, they begin to explore outside the nest. They are completely weaned after three weeks, or four for Roborovski hamsters. Most breeders will sell the hamsters to shops when they are three to nine weeks old.


Syrian hamsters typically live no more than two to three years in captivity, and less in the wild. Russian hamsters (Campbell's and Djungarian) live about two to four years in captivity, and Chinese hamsters 212–3 years. The smaller Roborovski hamster often lives to three years in captivity.[1]

Hamsters as pets

The best-known species of hamster is the golden or Syrian hamster (Mesocricetus auratus), which is the type most commonly kept as pets. It is also sometimes called a "fancy" hamster. Pet stores also have taken to calling them "honey bears", "panda bears", "black bears", "European black bears", "polar bears", "teddy bears", and "Dalmatian", depending on their coloration.[14] Several variations, including long-haired varieties, grow hair several centimeters long and often require special care. British zoologist Leonard Goodwin claimed most hamsters kept in the United Kingdom were descended from the colony he introduced for medical research purposes during the Second World War.[15]

Other hamsters kept as pets are the various species of "dwarf hamster". Campbell's dwarf hamster (Phodopus campbelli) is the most common—they are also sometimes called "Russian dwarfs"; however, many hamsters are from Russia, so this ambiguous name does not distinguish them from other species appropriately. The coat of the Djungarian or winter-white Russian dwarf hamster (Phodopus sungorus) turns almost white during winter (when the hours of daylight decrease).[2] The Roborovski hamster (Phodopus roborovskii) is extremely small and fast, making it difficult to keep as a pet.[1] The Chinese hamster (Cricetulus griseus), although not technically a true "dwarf hamster", is the only hamster with a prehensile tail (about 4 cm long) —most hamsters have very short, nonprehensile tails.

Many breeders also show their hamsters, so breed towards producing a good, healthy, show hamster with a view to keeping one or two themselves, so quality and temperament are of vital importance when planning the breeding.



Taxonomists generally disagree about the most appropriate placement of the subfamily Cricetinae within the superfamily Muroidea. Some place it in a family Cricetidae that also includes voles, lemmings, and New World rats and mice; others group all these into a large family called Muridae. Their evolutionary history is recorded by 15 extinct fossil genera and extends back 11.2 million to 16.4 million years to the Middle Miocene Epoch in Europe and North Africa; in Asia it extends 6 million to 11 million years. Four of the seven living genera include extinct species. One extinct hamster of Cricetus, for example, lived in North Africa during the Middle Miocene, but the only extant member of that genus is the European or common hamster of Eurasia.

Relationships among hamster species

Neumann et al. (2006) conducted a molecular phylogenetic analysis of 12 of the above 17 species using DNA sequence from three genes: 12S rRNA, cytochrome b, and von Willebrand factor. They uncovered the following relationships:[16]

Phodopus group

The genus Phodopus was found to represent the earliest split among hamsters. Their analysis included both species. The results of another study[17] suggest Cricetulus kamensis (and presumably the related C. alticola) might belong to either this Phodopus group or hold a similar basal position.

Mesocricetus group

The genus Mesocricetus also forms a clade. Their analysis included all four species, with M. auratus and M. raddei forming one subclade and M. brandti and M. newtoni another.

Remaining genera

The remaining genera of hamsters formed a third major clade. Two of the three sampled species within Cricetulus represent the earliest split. This clade contains C. barabensis (and presumably the related C. sokolovi) and C. longicaudatus.


The remaining clade contains members of Allocricetulus, Tscherskia, Cricetus, and C. migratorius. Allocricetulus and Cricetus were sister taxa. Cricetulus migratorius was their next closest relative, and Tscherskia was basal.

Similar animals

Some similar rodents sometimes called "hamsters" are not currently classified in the hamster subfamily Cricetinae. These include the maned hamster, or crested hamster, which is really the maned rat (Lophiomys imhausi). Others are the mouse-like hamsters (Calomyscus spp.), and the white-tailed rat (Mystromys albicaudatus).

Media depictions

A hamster called Rhino features in the 2008 animated film Bolt and the spin-off 2009 short film Super Rhino.[18]

In "Tales of the Riverbank", narrated by Johnny Morris, the main character was Hammy the Hamster.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f Fox, Sue. 2006. Hamsters. T.F.H. Publications Inc.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Barrie, Anmarie. 1995. Hamsters as a New Pet. T.F.H. Publications Inc., NJ ISBN 0-86622-610-9.
  3. ^ Patricia Pope Bartlett ([2003). The Hamster Handbook. Barron's Educational Series. p. 113.  
  4. ^ a b c d Fritzsche, Peter. 2008. Hamsters: A Complete Pet Owner’s Manual. Barron’s Educational Series Inc., NY ISBN 0-7641-3927-4.
  5. ^ a b c d e Kuhnen, G. (2002). Comfortable quarters for hamsters in research institutions. In "Comfortable Quarters for Laboratory Animals" Eds V. Reinhardt and A. Reinhardt. Animal Welfare Institute, Washington DC. pp.33-37
  6. ^ Friedrich Gabriel Sulzer (1774). Versuch einer Naturgeschichte des Hamsters. Dieterich. Retrieved 19 December 2011. 
  7. ^ Douglas Harper, The Online Etymology Dictionary, entry for "hamster"
  8. ^ Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, s.v. "hamster" (29 May 2008)
  9. ^ King, LeeAnne Engfer ; photographs by Andy (1997). My pet hamster & gerbils (ed. ed.). Minneapolis: Lerner. p. 13.  
  10. ^ translated; Scott, revised by Thomas A. (1995). Concise encyclopedia biology (Rev. ed.). Berlin: Walter de Gruyter. p. 299.  
  11. ^ a b "hamster." Encyclopædia Britannica. Standard Edition. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica, 2007.
  12. ^ torpor. Retrieved on 2011-12-18.
  13. ^ Gattermann, R., Fritzsche, P., Neumann, K., Al-Hussein, I., Kayser, A., Abiad, M. and Yakti, R., (2001). Notes on the current distribution and ecology of wild golden hamsters (Mesocricetus auratus). Journal of Zoology, 254: 359-365
  14. ^ "Syrian Hamsters". Syrian Hamsters. 2012. Retrieved 2012-04-05. 
  15. ^ "Leonard Goodwin – Telegraph". The Daily Telegraph. 14 January 2009. Retrieved 18 January 2009. 
  16. ^ Neumann, K; Michaux, J; Lebedev, V; Yigit, N; Colak, E; Ivanova, N; Poltoraus, A; Surov, A; Markov, G (2006). "Molecular phylogeny of the Cricetinae subfamily based on the mitochondrial cytochrome b and 12S rRNA genes and the nuclear vWF gene". Molecular Phylogenetics & Evolution 39 (1): 135–48.  
  17. ^ Lebedev, V. S., N. V. Ivanova, N. K. Pavlova, and A. B. Poltoraus. 2003. Molecular phylogeny of the Palearctic hamsters. In Proceedings of the International Conference Devoted to the 90th Anniversary of Prof. I. M. Gromov on Systematics, Phylogeny and Paleontology of Small Mammals (A. Averianov and N. Abramson eds.). St. Petersburg.
  18. ^ Barnes, Brooks (14 November 2008). "The Voice Behind the Drawing Board". New York Times. 

External links

  • National Hamster Council (UK)
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