Popular family pets, hamsters are interesting animals that are perfect pets for many families. While there are more than 20 species of hamster found in the wild, most pet hamsters are one of five breeds.
Scientific & Common Names
Kingdom - Animalia
Phylum - Chordata
Class - Mammalia
Order - Artiodactyla
Family - Cricetidae
Subfamily - Cricetinae
Genera - Mesocricetus, Phodopus, Cricetus, Cricetulus, Allocricetulus, Cansumys, Tscherskia
Species - Approximately 25 species. The most common domesticated hamster is Mesocricetus Auratus.
Common Names - Hamster, Syrian Hamster, Golden Hamster
Russian Dwarf hamsters are the smallest hamster, rarely growing more than 4 inches in length. Syrian hamsters are the largest, growing to almost 11 inches long. Most hamsters range between 3.4 and 32 ounces in weight. Hamsters can have brown, black, white, or tan fur. They have short, stubby tails. Their back feet are shaped delicately to ensure that the hamster can run as quickly backward as it can forward. Hamsters' front feet are often used exactly like hands. Because hamsters are rodents, their front teeth never stop growing and must be worn down by constant gnawing.
Female hamsters are ready to breed between 4 and 8 months of age, depending on the breed of hamster. The hamster will be pregnant for 16 to 30 days before giving birth to a litter of about eight baby hamsters. Baby hamsters are weaned when they are about 1 month old.
Hamsters are nocturnal animals that can run very fast. In fact, they love running so much that they may run up to 20 miles per day. Most pet hamster owners install wheels in their hamster cages to give them outlets for their energy. Hamsters are usually solitary animals and will fight other animals that encroach on their territory. In the wild, hamsters dig burrows underground that consist of many chambers and tunnels. The hamster will create separate areas in which it can eat and sleep.
Biologists believe that hamsters were originally from desert areas in eastern Asia. In 1797, a physician found them in Aleppo, Syria, and described them in a book titled The Natural History of Aleppo. In the 1930s, Israel Aharoni found a family of 11 hamsters in a Syrian wheat field and brought them back to his laboratory in Jerusalem. Some of them bred successfully, and the offspring were shipped off to other labs, zoos, and research facilities across the world. Because they are easily tamed, they soon became popular as pets.
Hamsters are found as family pets on all continents except for Antarctica. There are also more than 20 breeds of hamster found in the wild. They are not considered threatened at this time.