There are 19 types of hamsters in the world (this figure varies depending on the classification), but only 5 of them are used as pets:
- Syrian hamster
- Roborovski hamster
- Chinese hamster
- Campbell’s Dwarf hamster
- Winter White Russian dwarf hamster
You can read more about them further down…
Here’s a complete list of all 19 hamster species, including all of their different names:
|Common name||Binomial name||Also known as|
|Syrian hamster||Mesocricetus auratus||Golden hamster
European black bear
|Chinese hamster||Cricetulus griseus||Rat hamster|
|Campbell's dwarf hamster||Phodopus campbelli||Russian dwarf
|Winter white Russian dwarf hamster||Phodopus sungorus||Djungarian hamster
|Roborovski hamster||Phodopus roborovskii||Desert hamster
|Mongolian hamster||Allocricetulus curtatus|
|Eversmann's hamster||Allocricetulus eversmanni||Kazakh hamster|
|Gansu hamster||Cansumys canus|
|Tibetan dwarf hamster||Cricetulus alticola||Ladak hamster|
|Chinese striped hamster||Cricetulus barabensis||Striped dwarf hamster|
|Kam dwarf hamster||Cricetulus kamensis||Tibetan hamster|
|Long-tailed dwarf hamster||Cricetulus longicaudatus||Lesser long-tailed hamster
|Gray dwarf hamster||Cricetulus migratorius||Armenian hamster
Migratory grey hamster
|Sokolov's dwarf hamster||Cricetulus sokolovi|
|European hamster||Cricetus cricetus||Eurasian hamster
|Turkish hamster||Mesocricetus brandti||Brandt's hamster
|Romanian hamster||Mesocricetus newtoni||Dobrudja hamster|
|Ciscaucasian hamster||Mesocricetus raddei||Georgian hamster|
|Greater long-tailed hamster||Tscherskia triton||Korean hamster|
The Syrian hamster (often called Golden hamster) is the most common species of hamster used as pet.
Why is it so popular? Well, it has a good size (not too small), it’s cute, and it’s more social and curious than the other types.
Normal adults are 5-7 inches long (13-18 cm) and weigh around 120-125 g. In the wild they live for 2-3 years, but as pets they can become up to 4 years old (when given a healthy and well-balanced diet).
The original color of Syrian hamsters was a mix of gold, brown and black, but nowadays they come in all sorts of patterns and color variations.
An adult Syrian hamster can’t share cage with another, because they are very territorial. They will fight furiously, sometimes even to the death. So make sure your little friend gets to live alone (in a cage suitable for Syrian hamsters).
Pups must be separated from mothers and siblings before they are sexually mature. Four weeks is a good rule of thumb. Litters normally consist of 8-10 pups.
The Roborovski hamster (Robo) is relatively small. Adults are only 1.8-2 inches (4.5-5 cm) in length and 20-25 g in weight.
The fur is sand-colored, and they have white spots just above the eyes and a white belly. However, there are ten variations of the Robo, all with slightly different characteristics.
Robos usually live for around three years, and their average litter size is six pups.
The Chinese hamster has a longer and thinner body, and a longer tail, than the other four species that are used as pets.
Adults are around 3.2-5 inches (8.2-12.7 cm) long, and normally weigh 30-45 g. The average life expectancy is 1½ – 2 years.
Brown with a black stripe along the back is the most common color, although it also exists in two other variations.
Chinese hamsters are popular to keep as pets thanks to their calm and gentle behaviour (once tamed).
Campbell’s Dwarf Hamster
Campbell’s dwarf hamster is closely related to the Winter white Russian dwarf hamster.
An adult is usually around 3.9-4.7 inches (10-12 cm) long and weighs somewhere in the region of 30-45 g.
Their life expectancy is 1-2.5 years, depending on diet and the season they are born. Those born during summer seem to live longer.
When living as pets, they get four to six pups per litter. In the wild, the average is eight.
A good thing about Campbell’s dwarf hamster is that they are sociable enough to be able to live both by themselves and in groups.
Winter White Russian Dwarf Hamster
The Winter white Russian dwarf hamster (also known as the Djungarian hamster) is a short and almost ball-sized hamster that can withstand very low temperatures.
It has a grey stripe along the spine, and a dark fur that turns white during winter. However, when living as pet the fur doesn’t always change in color.
Winter whites are normally 3-4 inches (8-10 cm) in length, and around 30-45 g in weight,
Normal life expectancy in captivity is 1-3 years, and only one year in the wild.