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Syrian Hamster
Scientific classification
A hamster is a kind of rodent. There are many distinct hamster species, most of which are distinguished by their expandable cheek pouches, which reach from their cheeks to their shoulders.

Most hamsters in American and English pet stores are Syrian (aka Golden) hamsters. Even the "Teddy Bear" and the so-called "Black Bear" hamsters are all recently bred varieties of Syrian hamsters. All of them may well indeed be the descendants of a single mother.

Hamsters have been used in scientific research in the study of many diseases.

Table of contents

Discovery of the Syrian hamster

In 1839 British zoologist George Waterhouse reportedly found an elderly female hamster in Syria, naming it Cricetus auratus, the Golden Hamster. The hamster's fur was on display at the British Museum. The Syrian hamster was then ignored by European science for the next century. Around 1930, zoologist and Professor at the University of Jerusalem Aharoni found a mother and litter of hamsters in the Syrian desert. By the time he got back to his lab, most had died or escaped. The remaining hamsters were given to the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where they were successfully bred. They were a bit bigger than the ones Waterhouse found, so they were named Mesocricetus auratus, although they were probably the same species. Mesocricetus auratus is the name that Syrian hamsters go by today.

Descendants of these hamsters were shipped to scientific labs around the world, for use as research animals. They arrived in the United Kingdom in 1931, and in 1938 reached the United States. Just about all Golden Hamsters are descended from the original litter found in Syria, except for a few that were brought into the United States by travellers who found them in the desert. A separate stock of hamsters was imported into the US in 1971, but it isn't known if any of today's North American pets are descended from them.

Today there are two other popular varieties of hamsters sold in pet stores: The Dwarf Campbells Russian and the Winter White Russian hamsters. Further, there are two other breeds (Chinese and the Roborovski hamster) that on occasion can be found.

Types of hamsters (Partial list)

Genus mesocricetus

  • Syrian hamster (Golden hamster) - Mesocricetus auratus
Some breeds of Syrians are known as teddy bear hamsters, standard hamsters, fancy hamsters, or black bear hamsters. All Syrian hamsters were originally from Syria. They may now be extinct in nature, but are popular as house pets all across the world. Adults grow from 5" to 7" in length, and in captivity will usually live from 2 to 3 years.

  • Turkish hamster - Mesocricetus brandti. Also called the Brandts' Hamster, Azerbajaini hamster

The Turkish hamster (http://www.petwebsite.com/turkish.htm)

  • Georgian hamster - Mesocricetus raddei (Also: Ciscaucasian Hamster)

  • Romanian hamster - Mesocricetus newtoni

Genus Phodopus

  • Siberian hamster proper - Phodopus sungorus sungorus (Also: White Russian hamster; sometimes referred to as a Djungarian)

  • Campbell's Dwarf Russian hamster - Phodopus sungorus campbelli (Also often called the Djungarian hamster)

  • Mongolian hamster - Phodopus roborovskii. More commonly known as the Roborovskii hamster, these tiny hamsters are now becoming popular as pets.

Genus Calomyscus

  • Mouselike hamster - Calomyscus bailwardi
Sub-species of the mouse-like hamster include: C. bailwardi baluchi, C. bailwardi mystax, C. bailwardi urartensis
Mouselike hamster (http://www.petwebsite.com/mouse.htm)

Genus Cricetus

  • European hamster - Cricetus cricetus
(Also called the common hamster, black-bellied field hamster)

Genus Cricetulus

  • Mongolian hamster - Cricetulus baranensis (Also: Chinese striped hamster)

  • Mongolian Hamster - Cricetulus curtatus

  • Long-tailed hamster - Cricetulus longicaudatus

  • Tibetan hamster - Cricetulus kamensis

  • Kazakh hamster - Cricetulus eversmani (Also: Eversmann's Hamster)

  • Chinese hamster - Cricetulus curtatus. These are now becomingpopular as pets; due to their small size, they are inaccurately referred to as "dwarf" hamsters.

  • Ratlike hamster - Cricetulus triton. Also: Greater Longtailed Hamster, and the Korean Hamster.

  • Ladak Hamster - Cricetulus alticola

  • Armenian Hamster - Cricetulus migratorius. Also called the Migratory Grey Hamster

  • Gobi - hamster - Cricetulus obscurus

  • Transbaikal Hamster - Cricetulus pseudogriseus

Genus Mystromys

  • South African hamster - Mystromys albicaudatus

Animals that are not really hamsters

Note that there are some rodents sometimes called "hamsters" that are not part of the hamster family. These rodents include

  • South African Hamster (Mystromys albicaudatus), which is really the White Tailed Mouse.
  • Maned hamster, or Crested hamster, which is really the Maned Rat (although not nearly as marketable under that name.)

External links

About Hamsters on Petwebsite.Com (http://www.petwebsite.com/about_hamsters.htm)

Genome information (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/Taxonomy/Browser/wwwtax.cgi?mode=Info&id=10036&lvl=3&keep=1&srchmode=1&unlock)

Hamsteriffic.Com (http://www.hamsterific.com/)

California Hamster Association (http://www.geocities.com/CalHamAssoc/index)

American Hamster Association (http://www.hamsterclub.org/)

Hamsters Galore! Community website (http://communities.msn.com/Hamstersgalore)

Owners of pet hamsters can find help and support at this website: The Alt.Pets.Hamsters newsgroup FAQ (http://www.rodentrefuge.co.uk/hamsterfaq)

Hampsterdance2 (http://www.hampsterdance2.com/)

Hampsterdeath, part of freepuzzlearena (http://www.cs.rose-hulman.edu/~yerricde/b/)

Hamster is a computer jargon term referring to a cordless computer mouse that uses radio or infrared technology. The name derives from the fact that hamsters are similar to mice but lack tails.

All Wikipedia text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

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