They are every kid’s dream pet. But, do you know, all the pet hamsters originally have a lineage from the single brother-sister pairing of the Golden Syrian Hamster.
Where do hamsters come from?
The first recorded hampster on record came from Syria. They came to be described as the Syrian golden hamster.
There was a time when these hamsters created havoc in Syria. Finally, after they have dug many fields and destroyed numerous vegetables, farmers had started hunting them. Their fur was also a profitable business.
By late 1920, the number of the golden hamsters dwindled to almost none. The continuous hunting and poaching played a significant role in the desertion of the hamsters.
How Did Hamsters Become Pets?
Alexander Russell came across some Syrian Hamsters in 1797. He described these first time in the publication named ‘The Natural History of Aleppo’. Almost after 40 years, George Robert Watrehouse, a curator of the London Zoological Society named Syrian hamsters as Golden hamsters.
Until 1930, hamsters were wild animals. Israel Aharoni and a local Sheikh El-Beled found a Syrian hamster and her 11 young babies in 1930. Aharoni put the mother and 11 kids into a wooden box but the mother hamster attacked one baby and chewed its head off.
Aharoni had no option but to raise the 10 babies by his own hand. One day, these babies ran out of the box but then 9 babies returned by themselves. Later, Aharoni took them to the Jerusalem’s Hebrew University where another 5 hamster babies ran away. The last 4 hamsters breed successfully (they have the shortest gestation period of only 16 days).
The offspring of these four then sent to different universities and institutions for studies. In mid-1930, some offspring reached London Zoo and in 1971, some reached the US and rest is history. Now, the hamsters are one of the top pet animals loved all over the world.
Do Hamsters Still Live in the Wild?
Hamsters are originally wild animals. They are now pet-animals. But, there are 26 species of hamsters that still live in the wild of Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. However, the number of hamsters living in a wild is dwindling. They destroy the farm and dig the field, so farmers hate them. This is probably the reason behind the aggressive hunting of hamsters in the wild.
Some Famous Hamster Breeds:
You can see many hamster breeds in the pet shop. The Syrian golden hamster is the common one. Apart from these golden beauties, Campbell, Dwarf and Roborovski Dwarf hamsters are popular pet breed. Let’s dig some more information about these famous hamster breeds.
1) Syrian Hamsters:
The Syrian Hamster (popular as Golden Hamster) comes from the subfamily ‘Cricetinae’ of rodent. Naturally, they are the inhabitants of Syria and Turkey but now they are available at every pet shop around the world. These hamsters are territorial and do not like to mingle with other hamsters.
The golden hamsters live almost 3-4 years in a healthy domestic environment. They grow from 13 to 18 cm long in sizes and weights from 120-125 grams. They are not only popular as a pet but scientists use them in the laboratory for various scientific and medical test as well.
2) Campbell Hamster:
Do you know the Campbell Hamsters found their name from C.W. Campbell? He was the first man to collect these dwarf hamsters on July 1, 1902, from Inner Mongolia. Their biological name is Phodopus cambelli and their genus is Phodopus.
The Campbell Hamsters look like a fluffy ball. Their body length is around 80mm, half of the Syrian hamster. They have a distinguished look. There are white furs on their lips and cheeks while the rest of the face has grey or brown fur. You can see a dark and narrow dorsal strip all along the hamster body from the centre of the back to the nape of the neck.
These hamsters have cheek pouches that make their looks cute and cuddly. Their average lifespan in a domestic environment is 2 years to 2.5 years. They are the only hamsters apart from Djungarian hamsters to interbreed and give birth to hybrid offspring.
3) Dwarf Hamster:
The increasing popularity of dwarf hamster in pet shops is obvious. These hamsters are friendly, love to mingle, not at all territorial, and looks like a small fluffy toy. They are very energetic and active animal and love to run on wheels.
All dwarf hamsters belong to genus Phodupos. There are three famous types of dwarf hamsters.
- Campbell’s Dwarf hamster (Russian Dwarf Hamster)
- Djungarian hamster (Russian winter white dwarf hamster)
- Roborovski hamster (Robo)
They all have cheek pouches. They stuff their food full on their cheek pouches and looks like a puffed face. Their lifespan is between 1 to 3 years and they grow around 4-12 cm depending on the breed. These hamsters are a big foodie. They love their food especially muesli, fresh fruits, and vegetables. They are adorable and quick to adapt their environment.
4) Roborovski Dwarf Hamsters:
Roborovski or Robo is the smallest among all the dwarf hamsters. They are the inhabitant of the desert region especially in the basin of Lake Zaysan (Kazakhstan), Tuya (Mongolia), and Xinjiang (China).
In July 1894, Lt. Vsevolod Roborovski discovered them and made notes about them the first time. In 1960, London Zoo imported some Robo hamsters in the UK from Moscow Zoo. However, these hamsters failed to breed in the weather condition and the environment of London. Later in 1990, the UK imported some Robo from the Netherlands and finally able to breed them. The USA got Robo first time in 1998. Now, these Robo are a famous addition of pet shops in several countries.
Interestingly, you can find 10 variations of Robo all around the world. Agouti, white face, husky, pied, platinum, head spot, red-eyed are some famous variations. Their maximum lifespan is 26 months. Although they are famous among pet lovers, yet these hamsters are not good for pets for young children.
These hamsters are highly active. They can create high-stress predisposition and hard to handle compared to other domestic hamster pet species.
The journey of the hamsters from the wild to your home is incredible. No matter, how they became domestic but they are one of the prettiest pets. If you have one at your home, cherish it and take care of it properly. After all, they travelled a long way to reach your home.