This hamster is the largest of the animals. It is often more than twice as large as the dwarf hamster species. Its scientific name is Mesocricetus auratus, and it was discovered in 1930 by Israel Aharoni of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Beginning shortly thereafter, it entered the pet trade. It has been bred time and time again, often selecting for tameness. Thus, most Syrian hamsters that are for sale today are quite docile towards humans.
This is not necessarily the case with the dwarf hamsters, since they have not been bred in captivity nearly as long. These animals are smaller and faster than their Syrian cousin, making it easy for them to escape and hard to catch.
Four hamster species fall into the dwarf category because of their size. Three of them are members of the genus Phodopus and one is a member of the genus Cricetulus.
This animal is often called the Winter White dwarf hamster. It can also be called the Russian or the Djungarian, two names that are confusing. It has a pointed nose, and the feature for which it is most known is that it changes its coat colors in winter. Interestingly, the change does not occur because of the decrease in temperature, but rather due to the decrease in light during the winter.
This animal is named after hamster named after Charles William Campbell, a member of the British Consular service. In 1889 he spent two months traveling in the land that is now called North Korea. He captured the dwarf hamster on the Sino-Russian border in 1904. The animal is approximately the same size as Phodopus sungorus, and so the two are often confused. Phodopus Campbelli does not change colors during the winter, and its nose is more rounded than that of Phodopus sungorus.
This animal is the smallest of the dwarf hamsters. It prefers to live in groups, and it is quite the speed demon. Experts advise against getting this pet for children. It is hard to handle, and will readily leap out of your hand. Though fairly tolerant and tame, this animal is better for viewing than for holding. If they are not running at full speed, then they move in short, jerky motions. They are incredibly entertaining to watch.
Cricetulus griseus barabensis
This animal is known as the Chinese hamster. It is long and thin compared to its cousins. In fact, it could be mistaken for a mouse or even a rat. Whereas the other dwarf hamsters have tails that are nearly invisible, this animal has a noticeable tail that is prehensile. This means that it can be used to help support the hamster. As opposed to the other hamsters, this animal can climb and cling with skill. The other species are able to only climb shallow hills; the Chinese hamster is able to climb straight up.
In summary, then we have discussed the Syrian hamster, and four species of dwarfs. Whichever animal you choose, expect to have a great time with your new pet hamster.