The Four Types of Dwarf Hamsters

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There are four types of dwarf hamster available for purchase as pets. Three species are in the genus Phodopus, and are commonly known as the Russian dwarf hamsters. These are the Campbell's dwarf hamster, the Winter White Dwarf Hamster, and the Roborovski dwarf hamster. Another tiny hamster belongs to a separate genus altogether. That is the dwarf Chinese hamster, which belongs to the Cricetulus family.

The following two types are often confused because they reach the same length at maturity – four inches – and can be similar in appearance at certain times of year.

Campbell's Dwarf Hamster – Phodopus campbelli

These are the most common types available in pet shops. The natural coloration, called Agouti, is brownish gray with a dark stripe down the back – (a dorsal stripe) – and a white belly. Captive hamsters have been selectively bred to create other colorations such as Argente, Opal, Black or Albino, and with fur textures that are normal, satin or rex.

Winter White Hamster – Phodopus sungorus

These creatures are not often found in North American pet shops. When they are seen in captivity, they rarely sport the white coat that gives them their name. However, it is possible to manipulate the lighting so that the hamsters lose their dark gray coats and grow their winter wear, which is all white except for the dark dorsal stripe.

These are the friendliest of all the types of hamsters, and are easiest to handle. Like the Campbell's Hamster, the life expectancy is about two years.

Roborovski Dwarf Desert Hamster – Phodopus roborovski

This is the smallest type, reaching only two inches in length at maturity, and weighing about a half ounce. Robos, as they are commonly called, have a slate gray undercoat topped with sandy brown fur and a white belly. They have white fur where their eyebrows should be. They also have longer legs than the other Russian hamsters, and lack the distinguishing dorsal stripe of their cousins. The average lifespan of this creature is about three and a half years. They are also the most active of the Russian hamsters, and their extremely small size combined with their speed can make them difficult to hold onto.

Dwarf Chinese Hamsters – Cricetulus griseus

Some breeders would disagree that these are actually types of dwarf hamster. However, they are certainly small enough, only reaching a maximum of three and a half inches in length at maturity. Technically, they belong to the rat-like hamster family, which is identical in their long, hairless tail.

Their coloration in the wild is also somewhat mousy – grayish-brown with a white belly and a dark dorsal stripe. A common color variation in these types is called Dominant Spot, which results in a hamster that is white all over except for the dark stripe down the back.

Unlike the Russian hamsters, these types can not live in groups, because warring Chinese hamsters will fight to the death. Putting a male and female in the same cage generally results in the death of the male hamster.

Although they are more difficult to tame than other types, once they have become accustomed to their human caretaker, they are mild mannered companions animals, and rarely nip or bite. Another complicating factor for these types is the fact that they are restricted in some parts of the United States. More so than with other types of hamsters, it is afraid that once let loose on the landscape, they will wreak havoc by out-competitiveness native wildlife.

Which type is right?

When choosing a pet, it is important to take into consideration temperament, activity levels, longevity and availability. Typically, a good match can be found from one of the four types of dwarf hamster.

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Source by Jeremy Smart

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