“Breed” is a term that is used a lot, and very often improperly. The Panda Bear, Teddy Bear, and Black Bear hamsters are all different breeds of the Syrian Hamster, Mesocricetus auratus.
Before we talk about hamsters, let’s discuss how this works in dogs. I used to own a Chihuahua, and my cousins’ owned a Schnauzer. We had different breeds of dogs. The dogs had different morphologies – that is they looked differently; and they had different personalities – up to a point. Both my cousins’ pet and my pet were definitely dogs -There was no mistaking them for cats, and there was no mistaking them for wolves. Both animals barked, both animals had superb hearing, and neither had much tolerance for strangers. Scientifically, they were both characterized as Canis lupus familiaris.
Now let’s return to hamsters. If you have a panda bear hamster, and you have a friend Juan who has a teddy bear hamster, and you both have another friend Alexandra, who has a black bear hamster, how do they compare? Well, the panda bear hamster has black and white fur; and the teddy bear hamster probably has fur that is shaded brown, and the black bear hamster has a black coat. Any of them could be longhaired, or shorthaired, or even rex (which means that its hair is curly.) You and your friends have different breeds of hamsters. Yet, all three of you own the same species of hamster: Mesocricetus auratus, more commonly called the Syrian hamster.
This means that, although your hamster looks differently than Juan’s, and both look differently that Alexandra’s, all three are the same kind of animal. They like human company, but don’t like other hamsters; and they sleep most of the day. The teddy bear hamster, the panda bear hamster, and the black bear hamster are different breeds of the same species, Mesocricetus auratus.
So, all three of you could call your hamsters Syrian hamsters, and you would be correct.
Now, you may wonder about your other friend Chris, who has a Robo hamster. Is that also a type of Syrian? Well, this hamster likes to be around other Robo hamsters, and it moves too quickly to ever enjoy human companionship. So, what do you think? Does that describe a Syrian hamster? Not at all. A Roborovski hamster is, in fact a different species of hamster. Not only that, but this animal also belongs to a different genus as well. (The Syrian hamster belongs to the genus Mesocricetus, and the Roborovski hamster belongs to the genus Phodopus.)
You may be wondering if any of this is important. Well, it is, because different hamster species have different requirements for keeping them as pets. One example is what we said earlier: Robo hamsters like to be around other Robo hamsters; whereas if you put 2 Syrians together, they will fight, often until one of them is dead. Also, if you plan to take your hamsters to a hamster show, then it is important that you know which species and breed you have. Also, if anyone in your house has aspirations to be a scientist, then you should know scientists speak in precise terms, so that they can communicate clearly with one another. Finally, it’s just pretty darn cool that you now know more about the difference between a breed and a species than most Homo sapiens (people)!