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Old 02-12-2019, 11:36 AM   #1
Newborn Pup
Join Date: Jan 2019
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Default Breeding Winter Whites

Hey folks,

My family are preparing to breed our Winter Whites and have just started introducing them. Before we do, however, we want to make sure we've covered all of the bases. So please indulge me while I try to empty my head

We bought the hamsters a few months apart from the same shop at a garden centre we chose within a reasonable distance of home. Now before everyone jumps in with "Hybrids!!!!11one", we watched and waited for pedigree WW for months and none came up within hundreds of miles of us in the north of the UK. IIRC, the only ones that came up were a pair in Somerset, and they were siblings. More on provenance later because it's obviously of paramount importance.

One thing I'm not entirely clear on is the expected litter size. I see numbers from 3 to 15, which can't be right, so was wondering if those with experience of their own litters could perhaps share their litter sizes. It would be great to be able to properly manage expectations in that area and plan accordingly. We already have homes for many future babies and the shop from which the parents came is willing to buy some back but if we're talking 15 kids then it's a slightly bigger deal We've bought many spare houses for the kids though - we are approaching this as if we have to house them all for life. Better safe than sorry and better to be prepared but again, 15 is a different prospect from 3

Another question I'd like to ask is around what to do about separating Mum and Dad before or after the birth. Again, I have read completely contradictory information in this area. Some say that Dad should be removed from the equation before the kids are born and others say that Dad will actually provide help for Mum. I've read stories from breeders saying that babies will choose to go and sleep with Dad from time to time if there's competition for feeding. I love the idea of the kids getting quality Dad-time! I know how important it was for me with my own kids but obviously don't want to anthropomorphise the baby hamsters too much The counterpoint to that is others saying Dad will get jealous and eat the babies Related question - if it is OK to leave Dad in with the family, how soon after the birth would we need to be implementing … erm … birth control? We want to manage the frequency of births carefully and probably only have one or two litters with this pair so how long after birth does Daddy need to do one and go into a separate cage again?

And whilst we're on the subject of eating babies (!) is this something I can expect or is it a rare anomaly? If Mum or Dad killing babies is normal or even rare but expected, then I need to prepare myself and the family for the trauma and make sure I have an educational narrative ready. Again, it's hard to get definitive intel on the interwebs and easy to find contradictory evidence. If everyone is healthy and we do everything "right", should we expect all the babies to live?

My final question on this front (and thank you or indulging me!) is about future generations. Once we have selected King Chungles, the Second of His Name, through whom the dynasty shall continue, will we have to find "new blood" to breed into the family? That seems the logical thing to do for genetic diversity but surely in the wild they'd all be humping each other all the time and rival families would fight, no? So again, it's always best to ask
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Old 02-12-2019, 11:37 AM   #2
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Default Re: Breeding Winter Whites


We checked and checked again with the experts in our chosen supplier and were given assurances that they only sell Winter Whites and that none of them are hybrids or cambpells but they offered no certification. However, you can't be sure and certified pedigree WW in the UK just doesn't seem to be a thing. I have only ever seen one pair of certified siblings for sale in the year I've been looking.

Chungles looks like an absolutely perfect pedigree Winter White. He has all the characteristics, the colouring, the temperament … everything. He doesn't have any characteristics that I can see that would imply a break in his lineage. He just doesn't have a certificate.

Sossij, on the other hand, is slightly different. She's from the same supplier, albeit a few months later. She was nearly pure white when we bought her with her WW markings being a very fine beige or sandy colour. As she has grown up a little and grown out of her white coat, it's a much more silvery colour now and looks like those shown on the interwebs as "Pearl" winter whites. She has the right head shape, she has good boundaries on the side arches - no yellowing in the boundary - she has lighter eyebrows, a thick, but relatively faint, dorsal stripe. Heck, she even changed colour for winter. But … but but but, when you shine light at the correct angle, she has slightly ruby eyes and I hear that's impossible for a pedigree WW. So in short, everything about Sossij says she is a very high percentage WW, in fact I would happily call her a Winter White and not a hybrid, but somewhere in her lineage is an alien and she has inherited a slightly ruby hue to her eyes and a slight variation to her colouration.

tl:dr We have two dwarf hamsters which have all the hallmarks of being Winter Whites except one of them has a ruby hint to the eyes. I think this means they're good to go for mating as there's probably only a small percentage of alien genes deep in the past and they're very close to genetically pure. But I'm not the expert so I'm here asking those who are

I'll endeavour to get some pics up. Is there anything particular people would like to see for peace of mind?

Last edited by Maestro; 02-12-2019 at 11:59 AM. Reason: typos
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Old 02-12-2019, 11:43 AM   #3
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Default Re: Breeding Winter Whites

Chungles and Sossij in profile: (apologies for focus on Sossij photo)

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Old 02-12-2019, 11:53 AM   #4
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Default Re: Breeding Winter Whites

A few more Sossij pics so you can better see her colouration. In the last two pics, you can just see the ruby tint to her eyes that first sparked my doubt:

Last edited by Maestro; 02-12-2019 at 11:54 AM. Reason: typos and bbcode
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Old 02-12-2019, 12:43 PM   #5
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Default Re: Breeding Winter Whites

I wouldn’t be comfortable breeding Sossij. I think it’s already a question of ethics to breed uncertified winter whites (certainly ones from a gardening store, where you have absolutely no knowledge of their relationship to each other for starters)- but you’re going down a whole other moral footpath to breed from one who is *very* obviously a hybrid. I think it’s a very far stretch to say that a ‘winter white’ with red eyes and a beige coloured coat is “almost genetically pure” when neither of these colours (eye colour nor coat colour) are a trademark of winter whites. She is, however, a poster child for what a hybrid hamster typically looks like; with obvious traits she’s inherited from each species.

She's not a pearl, either - nor does she look like one. Pearl winter whites are completely white individuals with a darker dorsal stripe who remain that colour their entire lifespan. She may potentially look like one in her winter coat, but she's certainly not a pearl. Her turning white for the winter also wouldn’t reassure me in any way that she’s “mostly” winter white. They turn lighter in reaction to daylight hours (so can technically turn white at any time of the year!), so few actually turn lighter in captivity due to artificial lighting in the home - I know of some purebred WW’s who have never changed, but I also know of hybrids who have… so it’s not necessarily a good indicator of how much WW is in her.

I’m not a breeder, just someone passionate about Winter Whites, so I’ll leave it there. I just have some concerns with the idea of breeding obvious hybridised individuals, and I think it’s unethical, personally. No hard feelings! just some of my concerns.
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Old 02-12-2019, 12:54 PM   #6
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Default Re: Breeding Winter Whites

I would never try to judge on looks alone, hybrids can look like either species but that isn't a guarantee that they are purely one species or another, unless you've met the breeder, seen the parents & the pedigree I would never trust that you have a pure bred hamster.
It seems highly dubious that anyone selling much sort after pure WW would be selling them to a garden centre & as you have one at least that is a hybrid then that surely raises doubts that you can take the word of the garden centre in regard to any of their hamsters.
If you really want to breed WW & it certainly sounds as though you want to try & do it properly then I would recommend going to hamster shows, meeting other breeders & finding some true pure bred hamsters, there's a lot to learn before you even begin.
I would wait & learn & not take any risks with the hamsters you have.
Slave to Míriel, Zak, Calyanwë & Gusto.
Always loved, never forgotten, forever in my heart
T'ycor, Ziggy, Zephyr, Flynt, Mickle, Little Whisp, Zen, Zeki, Tinwë & Zylvan
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Old 02-12-2019, 12:56 PM   #7
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Default Re: Breeding Winter Whites

Sorry I can’t answer the questions but I do have to agree with emma&chester. Sossij does not resemble a pearl WW and instead is a classic example of a hybrid. Breeding hybrids comes with an array of problems - birthing complications, and lots of potential illnesses due to the fact that winter whites and campbell’s are entirely different species with different traits. There is a lot more to them than just their colourings, the difference in body shapes for example can cause lots of problems. If you really want to breed winter whites I would really urge you to find purebred ones either at a show or breeder and make sure you have fully researched beforehand.
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Old 02-12-2019, 01:19 PM   #8
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Default Re: Breeding Winter Whites

Sossij is without a doubt a Hybrid. She has red eyes for sure These are not found at all in Winter whites. She is a hybrid with an argente Campbells somewhere in her genetic make up. They can still change colour in winter even if Hybrids. This combo was sold as a Mandarin WW by some but it's still a hybrid. The shape is also wrong for a WW. Once an animal has been hybridized you simply cannot breed out those genes. It is fixed in the the animals and their desendents forever. Chungles is a Sapphire in colour however again though closer to a WW in type and colour he will still be a Hybrid if he came from the same source. He does not have the head type of a WW. I'm sorry but your supplier is incorrect.
There have been pure WW at a number of the Northern Hamster Club shows for sale or collection so I'm not sure where you searched and how far north you are.
I really would suggest you do not breed them. To knowingly breed them and breed more hybrids is unethical to me. The problems that can occur further down the line due to the hybridization can produce pups who may suffer illness and other issues with temperament. One of the main problems is with the mother and the delivery of pups. The two species vary slightly anatomically and if the pups are more WW and the mother more Campbells then the difference in head shape can result in pups getting stuck in the birth canal and her dying due to being unable to deliver them. Both species have health problems such as the eye condition glaucoma, diabetes and neurological problems. Hybrids can 'double up' these genes resulting in pups suffering from these conditions more commonly.
To answer your questions litter size is quite varied between 3 and 15 is possible but average is about 6 I would say.
You need to have cages for all the groups of males and females separately or else within months you will have dozens on inbred pups.
Should you go ahead then you must separate the male as soon as you see that the female is bulgy and looks pregnant. They will mate as soon as a litter is born and I mean literally' as soon as' if not inbetween delivering pups. She will be pregnant again while nusing and a second litter arrives around 22 days later. This is not good for the female to have back to back litters. They will be fine apart. Dad will sometimes take in the male pups as long as you put them with him about 4 weeks of age. Don;t put the females near him as they can breed at about 5 weeks themselves so essential they are sexed properly or you get a population explosion.
Mother is always right and she will cull pups if she cannot cope with or that she senses are weak or ill. Dad seldom does but in reality he shouldn't be there anyway as you don't want more litters.
You can't keep inbreeding them as this fixes and amplifies bad traits in. Some of these don't show till they are older so you won't know now if either of these two might develop glaucoma or diabetes will you. In the wild the young males are driven away and find their own territories and will not breed in to the same lines. In the wild also Campbells and WW live in totally different regions and would not hybridize.
Enjoy them as pets would be my advice.
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Old 02-12-2019, 02:05 PM   #9
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Default Re: Breeding Winter Whites

I'm sorry but I would have to agree with what everyone else has already said.

The only way of knowing for sure that you have a pure Winter White is with a pedigree from an experienced club breeder as Hybrids can often have a closer resemblance to one particular species depending on what may have been in their ancestry. Have you tried getting in touch with anyone from the Northern Hamster Club who may be able to help you find some purebred Winter Whites to help you get started?
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Old 02-12-2019, 02:18 PM   #10
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Default Re: Breeding Winter Whites

Guys thank you for all your info. I’m grateful to you all

We’ll just have to carry on enjoying these two for the lovely individuals that they are. I’m still hopeful they’ll play together, although they will have to only do so during supervised sessions on neutral ground

Genuine question: since hybrids are so easy to come by and since everyone says don’t breed them because of complications etc (and yes, ethical reasons which I understand), then how do they all exist in the first place? There must be hundreds of hybrids being successfully bred each week in the UK if that’s what all the pet shops are selling. Even these hybrids must have ancestry which one must conclude is genetically sound, at least inasmuch as they have viable offspring.

Thanks again for all your help and advice
Proud father to the Gerbil Horde
Gerbils: Nobby, Turkish, Rambo and Andrex | Duprasi: Shroomi | Robos: Terry, FlipFlop & Knuckles | Winter White: Mihnkeh | Campbells: CheaseyPeas | Syrian: SnorzyBear
RIP: Bob, Jeff, Chungles, Sossij, Achilles
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