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Hamster Breeds – Differences and Similarities

Last Updated: 28.02.20


If you want to get more information on the differences and similarities between the pet hamster breeds available on the market, make sure you read the following lines. There are five popular hamster breeds today that are mostly nocturnal and can be kept in small groups, except for the Syrian hamster, and most of them can be tamed easily.

Hamsters have been around for a long time, and although there are many hamster breeds around the world, only a few of them became part of our homes and lives as beloved pets. What makes them special? They look cute, are friendly, can easily get tamed, and proved to be quite adaptable to living with people.

Hamsters were first domesticated in 1939, after almost a decade of attempts, as the first hamster to be captured in the wild was a Syrian hamster, and that happened in 1930. They were first bred by the University of Jerusalem, and from there on they rapidly became the popular household pets we know today. 

To many of us, who are no hamsters experts, all pet hamsters might look the same. But things are very different when you look closely at the many differences between the various hamster breeds. You might be wondering what these breeds are, so here they are!


Syrian hamsters

Also called “Golden hamsters”, these are the most popular breed of pets, as they are quite friendly, easily tamed, and will adapt to most living conditions across the world. Syrian hamsters are also the largest of the bunch, as they grow up to seven inches in length. Their life expectancy is around four years, but can sometimes exceed that age.

This breed comes in a variety of colors, such as the golden ones, black and white colors, or the black bear Syrian hamster, that has the same colors in his or her fur as a black bear. Lengthwise, Syrian hamsters can have short coats, long ones or umbrous coats. An umbrous coat means that the tips of the hairs are colored gray.

Syrian hamsters that are well looked after, and have all of their basic needs and requirements met, do not bite or nip unless you disturb them during their sleep in a way that makes them get scared. As they are nocturnal animals, it is quite hard to handle them during the day without causing them quite an inconvenience.

The downside of Syrian hamsters is that they must be kept alone in the cage. You can never pair them up with other hamsters, not even Syrian ones, as they will viciously fight, and someone will definitely get seriously hurt. This is because they are very territorial animals, and will not accept anyone else in their home.



Campbell Russian hamsters

This is the most popular breed of dwarf hamsters, as these tiny, cute-looking animals make good pets for children that are just now learning what caring for another living being means. As opposed to the Syrian hamster, Campbell hamsters will only grow to be approximately four to five inches long. However, they only live for about two years.

With this hamster breed, in particular, you need to carefully watch their daily diet, as they are prone to become obese and suffer from sugar-related diabetes, which only comes to shorten their lifespan, which is already not that long. The last thing you want to deal with is the sudden death of your kid’s best buddy, and having to explain that to him or her.

Yet another thing to be considered with Campbell hamsters is the type of cage you are housing them in. They have particularly tiny feet that can easily get stuck in their cage wires or playtime accessories, therefore it’s best to choose dwarf-hamster-appropriate items only. In case they get stuck, they might bite as you attempt to free them, and they can hurt their feet and paws.

As they are totally nocturnal, it’s best to keep them in small groups of same-sex hamsters, to give them the balance of social life, as they will have very little interaction with their owners. Also, they come in a variety of colors, from agouti and black to cinnamon and opal. They are very beautiful animals that are a delight to own and watch. 


Winter White dwarf hamsters

You would think they are all white, but they come in three color varieties, all including grey. They only grow to be three inches in length and live for about two years. They are very delicate animals, so it’s best to keep them in a glass tank, with plenty of ventilation and proper lids, to be able to both enjoy their beauty and behavior while keeping a close eye on their health status.

As small as they are, Winter Dwarfs love being handled and are very playful, energetic pets. It’s mandatory that you provide them with many playtime accessories, such as wheels, tubes, ladders, and hide-outs. Otherwise, they will get irritated, keep to themselves in one corner of the tank, become stressed, bite you, and eventually get sick from the lack of activity.

Their small size and delicate bodies make them unsuitable for very young children, that might hurt them accidentally. Also, their fur might trigger allergic reactions in some kids and adults. So, it’s best to visit someone that already has them before getting one for yourself, just to make sure you and your children are safe from any possible allergies.

The interesting fact about Winter Whites is that they make high-pitched squeaks when something is not quite to their liking. So, if you are keeping a small group of them in your bedroom or the bedroom of your kids, there is a high chance they will wake you up at night. Keep in mind they are fully nocturnal, so all of their activities go on while you are asleep.


Roborovski dwarf hamsters

They are the smallest of the group, measuring up to 2.5 inches in length. However, they are also the cutest of the bunch, and one of many people’s favorite hamster pets. One main advantage Roborovskis come with is that they stay up during the day too, so it is quite easy to interact with them, as they are also very friendly animals, that are easy to bond with.

As they are social pets, it’s best to keep them in same-sex small groups, to keep them interested and playful, as they engage in playtime with each other when their owner is not around. This is an important aspect of this breed, in particular, because they are highly active animals that thrive when they are active and live balanced lives.

Their lifespan is yet another advantage that this breed comes with, as they often outlive Syrian hamsters, meaning they will live for more than four years. Their coat is sandy brown, with white bellies and feet, and two white spots above their eyes that make them look incredibly cute. They can also come with a white face, but that is quite rarely seen among them.

The drawback this hamster breed comes with is that they are escape artists. They will always be on the look-out for their next escape and will seize every opportunity they have. So, unless you want to spend part of your spare time organizing lost hamster search parties in your home, this breed might not be the right one for you. 



Chinese hamsters

Chinese hamsters have a black stripe running down their back, which is why they are sometimes referred to as “striped hamsters”. They grow up to 4 inches in length and will live for about three years. At first, you might get them confused with regular house mice, as they look very much the same, both color and size-wise.

It’s best to keep these little guys in a glass tank, in small groups and watch them play and have fun as they go about their regular activities of the day, as they really don’t like being touched or handled and they will make a run for it the first chance they get. This trait also makes them highly unsuitable for families with small children.

Although they are quite hard to tame, they are very clever animals, and if you like watching their everyday activities, they will amaze you with their tricks. Also, if you do manage to tame them and get them used to be handled, they will make great buddies that you can have a lot of fun with. Just make sure you do not drop them around the house by accident.

Their food is something you need to keep a close eye on, as they are prone to diabetes and other food-related health issues. The best way to go about this is by seeking advice from renowned Chinese hamster breeders and vets that will teach you exactly how to care for them to make sure you enjoy their presence and lovely personalities for as long as possible.



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Irina Ionescu

As a long-term learner and animal lover, Irina helps her readers find the best products and accessories for their pets, as well as the latest training techniques, tips & tricks on how to handle animals.

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