Type of Dwarf Hamster
Originating from Siberia
and northern China
. Russian Hamster
s are known by the Genus Phodopus, meaning hairy feet. They are different from the Chinese Hamster
, in having a stumpy tail and body more like the commonly known Golden or Syrian Hamster
. However, unlike the Syrian, Russian Hamsters are sociable animals that should
coexist peacefully in groups.
In my opinion I have found Russian Hamsters to make far more interesting pets than the Golden variety. This is mainly because they are far more active and are able to interact with each other. Although being smaller and speedier means that they are harder to catch when they escape. I haven't found them to bite as much as people say they do, and they don't bite as hard as golden hamsters can, though it is still feels like being stapled.
There are three types of Russian Hamster currently kept as pets. Campbell's, Roborovski's and the Winter White. Each species has been described below.
Campbell's Dwarf Russian Hamster(Phodopus Sungoris Campbelli)
By far the most common variety of Russian Hamster kept. The Campbell's is around three inches long and has a bullet shaped body with pointy ears and a little tail. The males are fairly easily distinguished from the females (They have huge balls), and they have a black dorsal stripe, that should run from head to tail. Of course, this is only for the standard variety, as you can also get banded or mottled hamsters, which don't have the full stripe, along with albino's. The coat colour is usually brown with a pale yellow underbelly, or ginger with a white belly. There are other coat types. These hamsters are surprisingly active for their appearance, and are the only Russian Hamsters that tend to bite humans, but it depends on the hamster's own personality, so it is always worth checking before you buy.
Winter White Dwarf Russian Hamster(Phodopus Sungoris Sungoris)
These are very similar to the Campbell's, except that they have adapted to a colder climate, Hence their name. They become white in winter, or when kept in a dark room. The standard variety in a summer coat looks very similar to Campbell's, apart from a blunter nose and shorter ears. Their are now several variations on the summer coat available.
Roborovski's Dwarf Russian Hamster (Phodopus Roborovskii)
The smallest and therefore cutest hamster kept as a pet, The Roborovski is about 2 inches long and very hyperactive. It is very important that you consider this before buying them, as they need a large cage to run around. They are sandy coloured, with no stripe, and they have more prominent legs, eyes and ears than the other species. They also live longer than the others, to accommodate the fact that they bear less young on average.
Russian Hamster Care
Russian Hamsters are rodents so they need to be provided with things to chew on other than their cage. They will eat almost everything, including insects that fly into their cage, although they are best kept on normal hamster food. As with all animals, human chocolate should be avoided.
Hamsters are by nature hoarding animals that will stuff food into their cheek pouches and hide it in their nests. They are never really toilet trainable so their cages must be cleaned out completely regularly to clear the detriment that they leave everywhere. They should have fresh water and food every day, although they can actually go without feeding for a couple of weeks, when they will enter a semi-hibernative state. Despite this, they should be kept supplied with food to keep them active.
When you buy a cage for them you should think less towards cages designed for golden hamsters and more towards big open ones that they can run around in. Whereas a big hamster will at most 'jog' on its wheel, Russian Hamsters will sprint on wheels, in some cases for hours on end. The hamster life cycle is quite short, and a Campbell's would be lucky to last 2 years. Roborovski's can double that.
Breeding Russian hamsters is quite a random process, as the females are always in heat so that the population of a colony could potentially be explosive, otherwise a pair of hamsters could refuse to breed at all. Their Gestation period is only around three weeks, after which a few tiny and naked baby hamsters are born. Their eyes should open when they are two weeks old, and they are mature at eight weeks, though the sexes should be separated well before then! Hamsters are not disease free, as they can catch colds, and at worst wet-tail, which is a horrid disease that kills the hamsters pretty quickly. They often develop large tumours in old age, which are usually benign, but can be as big as the hamster itself! Despite this, they are not as feeble as they appear, but they definitely do need some responsibility in looking after.