Sunday, September 11, 2011

Russian Dwarf Hamsters

Left: Winter White Russian dwarf hamster, Right: 2 Campbell's Russian hamsters

Learn the difference between the Campbell's Russian dwarf hamsters commonly found in petshops and the almost identical winter white Russian hamsters.

The easiest way to spot the difference is viewing the 2 next to each other: the Winter White or Siberian has a slightly thicker fur, a blockier body and is a little bit bigger. The main distinction are the 2 extra side stripes versus the common grey dorsal stripe on both subspecies: the Siberian has a stripe on each side of the body where the belly coat touches the coat of the back. You can easily see the 2 side stripes when the winter whites turn into their winter coat. In order to enjoy their white wintercoat, you need to have a dark winter and you need to put your pet in an area without artificial light.

Further on you wil notice that the nose of a Winter White will fit smoothly into the rest of its head, where the Campbell's have kind of their nose attached on their snout like a little ball.

looking from above, Winter whites have an egg shape(narrow shoulders and a broad back), where the Campbell's look like an 8-shape.

Of mice and men, and rats and hamsters

Hamsters are part of the rodent family, which means they are related to mice, rats and guinea pigs. The Russian hamsters are also called Djungarians, referring to the area where they are native: the steppes of Siberia, Djungaria, northern Kazakhstan, Manchuria, Mongolia and northern China.

There are 2 other dwarfs:

  • the smallest is the Roborovski dwarf hamster, which is less quit than the Russian
  • the ones with clearly visible longer tales are the Chinese hamsters, but are more related to mice than to hamsters.

Phodopus sungoris

The Russians Latin name is Phodopus sungoris and more specific:

  • Phodopus sungoris sungoris are the white winter Russians and
  • Phodopus sungoris campbelli are the Campbell's.

These hamsters can live up to 1.5 to 2 years. However, do know that they have poor eyesight and they can easily jump of your hand of from a table and badly injure themselves.

Since both hamsters are subspecies from Phodopus sungoris, they can interbreed, which is commonly done "by mistake" in petshops and leads to lots of health problems in these hybrids. If you want pure breed Russian dwarf hamsters, get in contact with a professional.