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Hamsters, an overview

The hamster belongs to the order Rodentia, along with ALL rodents. The name Hamster is believed to be derived from the Middle High German “hamastra” which mean to store. This is why hamsters stand out amongst the other small rodents as burrowers and hoarders.

Hamsters are thick furred, short tailed rodents with large cheek pouches for storing food, and have short limbs. Hamsters belong to the rodent family having large incisor teeth that are continually growing. Their teeth have a small gap between their incisors and molars called the diastema. This gap allows them easy manipulation of food and bedding material.

Of the large variety of hamsters only five are found on the pet market. The most well known hamster is the Syrian, ”Mesocricetus auratus”, the “big” hamster. The Syrian Hamster is also know as the Golden Hamster but despite its name can now be found in a wide verity of colors due to selective breeding. Because of the new selection of color it is now most commonly referred to as the Syrian Hamster.

However there are still a few common names used for the same Syrian hamster that can be misleading such as the term “teddy-bear” hamster. It’s often a label for the long-haired verity of Syrian hamsters. The “black bear hamster” or the “European Black Bear Hamster” usually refers to the Black Syrian Hamster.The teddy bear and black bear were adopted by US pet shops. These terms are not found at all over the UK. When black Syrians were first introduced to the US they were show stock and larger than the hamsters people were used to, hence the "black bear".Another breed of Syrian is the hairless hamster that is also referred to as the alien hamster. (see The Hairless Hamster)

Other kinds of hamsters are the dwarf variety including the Campbell’s,"Phodopus campbelli" the Winter Whites that are also called the Siberian hamster"Phodopus sungorus", the Chinese"Cricetulus griseus" and the Dwarf Roborovskis Hamster"Phodopus roborovskii". The name Djungarian “jung-gair-rian” is another used for the Dwarf Campbells Hamster and the Winter White Hamster hamsters because at one time it was believed they were subspecies of the same animal.

The Chinese Hamster is not a "true" dwarf hamster (Phodopus being the dwarf hamster genus) but a member of the "mouse-like" hamster genus, and have a relatively long tail for a hamster.

The hamster is a popular pet; they are generally easy to care for, friendly and docile, and easily affordable. They are short-lived creatures but in their life can offer companionship as well as teach young ones about responsibility as they make great pets for children.

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