Domestic hamster species

There are five species of domestic hamsters: the Syrian hamster and four dwarf hamsters (Russian, Campbell, Roborovski and Chinese). We are talking about species not races. They are not variations of the same type.

In the wild, these species still exist, as do many other species and subspecies. The Great Hamster of Europe (or Alsace) is the most famous wild species, but there are many others, such as the Balkan hamster, the Turkish hamster, the migratory grey hamster…

It is important to know the species before think about adoption, as each has character traits and a “crush” adoption can ultimately be disappointing if you were expecting a other behavior on the part of your new baby. Of course, each one will have a special character, with which you will have to deal.

Most hamster species are solitary; they live alone and only meet to have babies. However, there are so-called gregarious species, which are not really gregarious, not in the same way as rats or mousses for example.

The hamsters called gregarious live alone for their greatest happiness, but can coexist with each other, if the habitat and character of each one allows it (very large habitat, and accessories double/threefold so that everyone can benefit). However, fights may still occur that, one time out of two, result in a necessary and definitive separation; otherwise it can lead to death of one of the hamsters.  In any case, different species are not made for live together.

This article will describe each of the five domestic species, with all the existing varieties. The varieties were not classified in alphabetical order, but rather by genetics: first the simple mutations, then the most complex. New mutations are discovered and worked on regularly; I have tried to indicate here all known mutations in 2019.

The Syrian hamster

The Syrian hamster, also called golden, or common, is usually the best-known species of hamster domestic. It originates from the deserts of Syria, where several researchers have captured and raised towards the mid-1700s. Syrian hamsters lead a solitary life, tolerating other hamsters only to mate. Babies are raised quickly, then quickly driven out of the family nest; they must then find a territory that will belong to them. They live in underground galleries, which they dig and have many hiding places.

These galleries can descend to a depth of two meters, to escape the heat of the desert. They sleep there all day long, and then when the cool evening comes back, they begin their awakening period. They run a lot (up to seven kilometers per night), to find food they store in their jowls (pocket outlet they have on each side of their mouth) and then bring them back to one of the hiding places.

Syrian Hamsterboss
Syrian Hamster

It is an animal that becomes quite large (150 grams for a length of about fifteen centimeters), even if, unfortunately, the industrial farms that supply the pet shops have made a bad selection, coupled with uncontrolled inbreeding, and provide small and often stunted animals (100 grams maximum, in general). It is available in a multitude of varieties (colors, markings, and several types of hair), and everyone will be able to find a physique that they like.

The Russian dwarf hamster

The Russian dwarf hamster, also called Siberian hamster, is native to the plains of Siberia, the Russian dwarf hamster is prey to birds of prey, so it behaves for fear of flattening and wait, which makes it a slightly aggressive and rather placid animal. In the wild, it lives in colonies on large territories (which makes cohabitation in a cage generally complicated and leading to fights).

Russian dwarf hamster

It is a dwarf species, which reaches 40 to 50 grams on average adult. They have a ball shape, a little “teddy bear”, which often makes it the favorite species of children. There are many colors, several markings, and now even different types of hair, which leaves a wide choice to the physical level.

A Russian hamster lives on average two years (generally less than Syrian hamsters). They have a schedule usually less late than Syrian hamsters; some Russians even get up at the end of the day or early at the evening.  It’s not because it’s smaller than it needs a smaller habitat, rather, it is a very active and acrobatic animal, which likes to run and climb. They are generally kind and easy to tame, and can easily remain quiet for a hug. Always ask for advice from the breeder to know the character of each one. 

Despite their gregarious initial nature, they generally have a poor tolerance for living together in a small space with the exception of a male/female duo (which should therefore only stay together for a period of one to two maximum ranges for reproduction). The particularity of Russian is its change of color, which must be normally produced in winter but often occurs at other times. It then becomes almost completely white in an environment like we offer (constant brightness, constant heat), many Russians no longer molting.

Campbell’s Dwarf Hamster

Originally from the Altai Mountains (Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and China), Campbell (or Campbelli) is prey to snakes and other reptiles. Unlike the Russian hamster, it will rather attack and flee for a chance to survive, which makes this species more nervous and biting if it is not well selected and handled from a very early age.

In the wild, it lives in settlements that can be reproduced in captivity in a suitable environment. (Large space, repetition of strong points such as bowls and wheels). It is better to form the group (unisex!) when the animals are young (ideally from weaning). Adding an individual to the group requires a very good knowledge of the social codes of animals, as well as careful supervision and integration carried out step by step, otherwise it may result in the death of one or more animals.

It is a dwarf species whose morphology is very close to the Russian hamster, a close cousin. It weighs about 40 to 50 grams. There are a multitude of mutations (colors, markings and hair types). Unlike the Russian hamster, the Campbell does not turn into a winter coat.

Campbell’s hamsters live an average of two years. They have a shorter schedule than Syrian hamsters, just like Russian hamsters, and get up more easily at the end of the day or early at the evening, sometimes also in the early morning. They need a large habitat, especially for who live in group. They are kind and curious, but as mentioned above, it is better to choose your breeder carefully, so that the animal has been handled from birth and is not a bitter.

Roborovski’s dwarf hamster

Originally from Mongolia, Russia and northern China, it owes his name to an experienced member of the team who captured a copy in 1894. In the wild, it lives in camps that can be reproduced in captivity in an appropriate environment (large space, repetition of strong points such as bowls and wheels).

The roborovski is the smallest of the domestic hamsters, with a weight about 30 grams. Its longevity average is the longest among domestic hamsters: about 3 years.

Roborovski’s dwarf hamster

It is a small and lively animal, whose taming can sometimes take time, and which, as a result, is not really suitable for children. It is, however, very amusing to observe, because it is an agile and fast acrobat. It is generally not a bitter, preferring rather to flee than to attack.  We should be even more vigilant for the walks because it slips everywhere.

There are currently not many mutations, and most of the recent mutations are only visible among farmers who select and import from foreign farmers. In pet stores, we generally find the classic and the “white head”. The hair of the roborovski is slightly longer than in other dwarf species, which makes the under-color much more visible. The soles of the legs are also hairy.

Now that you know the different species of hamster. Find out in this article how they behave and live.


  1.  “Anatomy | About Hamsters | Hamsters | Guide | Omlet US” Retrieved 20 November 2019.
  2. IUCN, 2004. “2004 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species” (On-line). Accessed June 13, 2005 at

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