Hamster Facts and Statistics
If you are in need of facts about hamsters, here you go. You can find hamster facts on: anatomy structures, behavioral characteristics, scientific terminology and classification, a history time line of hamsters as well as some popular cultural references and other random info.
General Facts and Info
- The hamster belongs to the rodent family (Order: Rodentia).
- There are 26 species and sub species. About 5 are found in the pet world.
- Hamsters have an average lifespan of a 1.5 to 3 years but many live longer (2 yrs = 60 human years).
- Certain states have Anti-Vermin laws that make it illegal to buy or sell them as pets.
- Golden hamsters originate form North of Syria in Turkey
- Dwarf species originate in Russia, Mongolia and China
In pop culture
- The Hamster Dance became one of the first viral pieces of content on the Internet . By: Deidre LaCarte in August 1998.
- in 2008 the movie Bolt featured an animated hamster named Rhino. Voiced by Mark Walton.
- A Japanese anime series called Hamtaro was about a hamster who went on adventures with other hamsters called “ham hams” (02-04 in the US)
- Zhu Zhu pets created the children toy Kung Zhu hamsters in 2010. Additionally, in the fall of 2011 the “Quest for Zhu” animated movie goes to DVD.
- in 2010, Kia releases a series of commercials featuring hamsters driving around in a new Kia Soul while other hamsters run in place in their wheels.
Facts Related to Behavior
- A hamster is a clean animal and will clean and groom itself to stay clean.
- They collect and hoard their food in a safe place.
- The majority of their time is spent underground in their tunnels and burrows (up to 90%).
- They are most active during the twilight hours when the sun is not out.
- Since they eat both plants and small insects or grubs, they are considered omnivores.
- Syrian breeds don’t live well with others; dwarf breeds however can live in communities.
- When they begin to breed, they can have a litter of 4-14 babies within 15-22 days after mating (gestation period).
- Mother hamsters can smell their babies and if thee scent is not normal, they may abandon or eat their young.
- Babies should not be handles until 20 days after birth.
- Some hamster play dead when frightened.
- They are susceptible to many of the same illnesses as humans are (see a list of common hamster illnesses).
- In times of cold temperatures, a semi-dormant state of sleep can occur but not a complete hibernation (below 46*f, 8*c).
Facts about Anatomy
- Cheek pouches on the insides of a hamster’s mouth allow it to gather and transport food.
- The tail is short and stubby except for the Chinese dwarf breed.
- Short legs help hamsters burrow and dig tunnels efficiently.
- Their eyesight is poor (they are nearly color blind; see in greens and yellows).
- Their hearing is exceptional but sensitive as the can hear very high pitches.
- Hamster can use their sense of smell to seek food and recognize other hamsters (scent glands).
- Their incisor teeth will continue to grow like finger nails do, requiring constant wearing by gnawing.
- There are three main coat types: satin, rex and long haired.
- The lungs of a hamster have five lobes unlike our two lobes.
- They have two stomachs to help in the digestion process.
- The Roborovski dwarf is one of the smallest breeds (1.5-2 inches 4-5cm).
- The European breed is the largest but the Syrian is the largest kept as pets at (6-8 inches 15-20cm).
- See more on anatomy and breeds
Scientific Terminology and Classification
- The term “Hamster” originates from the German word “hamstern” which means to hoard
- Mesocricetus auratus (Genus – Species) is the name or the Golden species. It means “medium hamster”
- Phodophus campbelli : Campbell’s Dwarf
- Phodophus sungorus: Winter White Dwarf
- Phodophus roborovski: Roborovski (Robo) Dwarf
- Cricetus griseus: Chinese Dwarf
- Class: Mammals – Mamalia
- Order: Rodent – Rodentia
- Family: Mouse like – Muridae
- Subfamily: Squeaking ones – Cricetidae
- Genra (genus)
- Species: (species)
- More on classifications
- 1773: Chinese Dwarfs were first cataloged
- 1973: The Winter White breed was cataloged. Discovered in West Siberia
- 1797: Was the first mention of the Golden hamster in writing (The Natural History of Aleppo by Alexander Russell)
- 1839: Was when Goldens were scientifically classified by George Waterhouse (Hamster remains at: Natural History Museum of London, UK)
- 1903: The Roborovski dwarf was first discovered by Dr. K. A. Satunin
- 1919: Chinese dwarfs kept in laboratories
- 1930: Israel Aharoni, a zoologist collected the first living specimens in Syria. (A mother and her babies)
- All pet hamsters are descendents of Aharoni’s hamsters*.
- 1945: First hamster club was formed.
- 1940s: Syrians gained popularity as pets in the US
- 1948: Harvard Medical School acquires two Chinese dwarfs for research
- 1949: National Hamster Council was formed (oldest active hamster organization)
- 1970s: Russian dwarf breed was introduced into the pet market
- 1970s: Winter Whites show up in the pet market in the UK
- 1970s: Campbell’s dwarfs are introduced into the pet market in the Uk
- *1971: Reports of a litter 12 wild hamsters was discovered in Aleppo and later bred.
- 1975: The Institute for Zoology in Halle Germany began to study the behavior of this Golden breed
- 1978: Two females found in Aleppo and brought to the US.
- 1982: A female was discovered in Aleppo and brought to the UK.
- 1980s: Pet dwarf hamsters became available in shops
Random, Weird and Odd Facts
- 2000, over 200,000 hamsters were used in research projects in the United States.
- Researchers used them to help find a cure for Leprosy but hamsters like other animals were resistant to the disease. Armadillos are an exception.
- more to come…