Hamster Facts and Statistics

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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.

Hamster Facts Stats and History

General Facts and Info

hamster facts

  • 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 (GenusSpecies) 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

History Timeline

  • 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…
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