April 15, 2024


Mad about real estate

Are Russian Dwarf Hamsters Really Russian?

Of the 25 known species of hamsters that we find scattered about the world, only four of them are referred to as dwarf hamsters. And, one of the four, the Chinese dwarf hamster, which is similar in size to the larger dwarfs, is technically not a true dwarf hamster. In fact, they look more like a rat and actually have an inch long hairless prehensile tail, which has the capability to grab and hold. The true dwarf have a very short, fur covered tail that is usually undetectable when in the sitting position. The Chinese hamster male also has a much larger scrotal sac than the true dwarf hamster types. In any event, the “rat-like” Chinese hamster or “mouster” as they are sometimes referred to, are not as commercially available as the three true dwarfs.

The species that is most commonly found in the typical pet store is the Campbell’s Dwarf hamster, which is most commonly known as the “Russian Dwarf hamster”. Curiously, the Russian label in no way distinguishes them apart from the many other species also found in Russia. And, if that isn’t confusing enough, they are also commonly referred to as the “Djungarian hamster”, since most of them are native to the Mongolian region of Djungaria. In the end however, and putting all names aside, nearly all dwarf hamsters available in any pet store will be the Campbell’s dwarf. They typically reach a length of around four inches and have a rounded shape to their bodies.

Out in the wild, these little rodents have adapted to the extreme temperatures typical of the semi-arid regions of the Russian plains. Burrowing down nearly three feet below the surface, the Campbell’s dwarf hamster creates a comfortable habitat featuring numerous tunnels and openings that facilitate frequent and sudden escapes from predatory animals. It also utilizes the insulating qualities of materials such as sheep’s wool, which is commonly found in that region, as well as dried grass, to line the walls of the burrowed chamber. This aids in maintaining a consistent burrow temperature in the low to mid 60s, while the surface temperatures can range anywhere from below zero to the mid 70s Fahrenheit.

The natural color of the Campbell’s Dwarf is brownish gray, with a whitish under belly, however twenty or so years of captive and creative breeding have yielded quite a variety of designer coats, sporting a mixture of browns, grays, whites and unique patterns commonly referred to as pearls, platinum, spots, cinnamon, sandy, fawn, black and mottled, just to name a few. In fact, the variety of colors represented in a litter of pups is nothing short of remarkable. So, if you decide to buy a hamster, don’t think the multitude of choices will make it any easier to decide on which one to bring home.

Campbell’s dwarf hamsters do make excellent pets, as one would gather from their immense popularity, but they do have the unpleasant reputation of biting, when startled or threatened. Their small size makes them somewhat delicate and less than ideal for smaller children to handle. Additionally, their thick fur makes them appear to be a little larger than their actual body size, so don’t assume they can’t escape from a typical barred enclosure. Unlike some hamster species, these little guys do get along with each other, especially when introduced at a young age. Siblings of the same sex are ideal playmates and companions for housing in the same hamster cage.

Copyright 2010 Walter Tekman. All rights reserved. Please feel free to share the entire contents of this article with your friends or post it on your site as long as it is left intact with all links unchanged, including this notice.