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Old 02-24-2020, 04:29 PM   #1
Ria P
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Default Who invented the hamster wheel?

Does anyone know who invented the hamster wheel, when or how it came about or what the first ever hamster wheel looked like or what it was made of?

Info on Google is vague and i've always been curious about it. I think that hamsters have only been pets since the 1930's which isn't that long and someone must have realized that hamsters need to run and came up with a wheel.
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Old 02-24-2020, 06:15 PM   #2
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Default Re: Who invented the hamster wheel?

That's an interesting question, and there doesn't seem to be a lot of information about it online.

I did some research and it seems the term "hamster wheel" didn't come into common use until the late 1970s. The earliest reference I could find to a hamster wheel was in 1969. This was a metaphorical usage in a work of fiction, indicating that hamster wheels were at least familiar to the general public.

https://books.google.com/ngrams/grap...0wheel%3B%2Cc0

There were references as far back as 1929 to the invention of an exercise wheel for minks. I couldn't tell whether this was the first invention of such a wheel, or just the adaptation of a previous invention. The earliest mentions of exercise wheels were those used for animals raised for fur, such as foxes and minks.
https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=...jxAn4Q6AEIZzAI

In the 1940s there are references to the use of exercise wheels for laboratory mice, then later in the 1950s mentions of their use for laboratory Syrian and Chinese hamsters.
https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=...eel%22&f=false (contains some images of hamsters restrained for procedures, and details of such procedures)

I also found a reference to the "flying saucer" style of wheel as early as 1955, which surprised me as I thought those were a more modern innovation. A "hamster guide" from 1955 also recommends a wheel no smaller than 10 inches, preferably 12 or 15. The link to the full guide is below, and it makes very interesting reading. It also recommends building hamster cages from asbestos shingles, so...

https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?...iew=1up&seq=21

All this makes me think that hamster wheels probably first came into use in laboratories, having already been used for other rodents, then entered the pet trade along with hamsters.

Last edited by sushi_78; 02-24-2020 at 06:27 PM.
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Old 02-25-2020, 02:45 AM   #3
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Default Re: Who invented the hamster wheel?

Somebody posted these images on a facebook group i'm in (not the romanian one) I believe some of them are pre-WW2.










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Old 02-25-2020, 02:53 AM   #4
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Default Re: Who invented the hamster wheel?

Very interesting. I don’t know either. There were definitely wheels in the early 1970s - I had a childhood friend with a hamster.

I think that Sushi’s analysis sounds likely. That there were already wheels for other pets before hamsters. Those old cages are fascinating!
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Old 02-25-2020, 02:59 AM   #5
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Default Re: Who invented the hamster wheel?

Apparently a certain breed of dog used to run in a wheel as a sort of power to turn spits. In 1800! So they had thought of wheels for animals a long time ago although it was for production rather than for fun. Click on the bit headed work and there’s a picture!

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turnspit_dog
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Old 02-25-2020, 03:00 AM   #6
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Default Re: Who invented the hamster wheel?

That 1955 manual provides a better wheel than some pet owners do today.....i can't believe that. Those cage dimensions are sick, the best cage they described was that fruit basket one. Oh and i liked that the manual was teaching kids how to make a water bottle but after that, it was advising how to keep hamsters outside...

Edit: i just red now that they advise to give water to hamsters. Somehow i wish i had this book in 2003 because i was advised against giving water at that time so i didn't provide it.
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Old 02-25-2020, 03:03 AM   #7
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Default Re: Who invented the hamster wheel?

Those are really fascinating pictures. I had hamsters in the 60's and we had wheels then. Cages were usually metal and quite tiny. The wheels were usually the type with rungs on. As kids we didn't really know anything else. My hamsters were out a lot and very tame. I must have been forward thinking as I ended up getting a fish tank for mine with my pocket money!
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Old 02-25-2020, 09:29 AM   #8
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Default Re: Who invented the hamster wheel?

A very interesting topic, thank you for raising it Ria P.
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Old 02-25-2020, 11:07 AM   #9
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Post Re: Who invented the hamster wheel?

Thank you all! Your research, replies and pictures make absolutely fascinating reading.
Sushi's reckoning that wheels where used in laboratories for other animals first and then for hamsters in the pet trade makes perfect sense.
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Old 02-25-2020, 03:03 PM   #10
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Default Re: Who invented the hamster wheel?

I had a hamster in the 1970s he had a solid and a small cage but was out a lot and very tame.

Interesting thread.
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