Types of Hamsters — Which One is Right For You?

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3. Chinese Hamsters

Popularity has been fleeting for Chinese hamsters, but they make wonderful pets and shouldn’t be forgotten.

Native to northern China and Mongolia, the Chinese hamster has been in the United States since at least 1919, but was not widely kept even in medical laboratories due to the difficulty in breeding. In the 1970s, after the first appearance of the Dwarf Russian hamster, Chinese hamsters came into vogue as “the other small hamster,” but they have fallen out of fashion in recent years.

The Chinese hamster is about 9 centimeters long. He is “mouselike” with a short, slightly prehensile tail, and his body and jaws are narrow. The female is smaller than the male. They can be timid, although they do well in pairs or small colonies. They do not become more aggressive or shorter-lived if kept on their own but they will be less often out and about. They can be easier to pair up as adults than other hamsters, but some females do take an intense dislike to some males and may kill them.

In general, Chinese hamsters are a grayish brown, with a conspicuous black dorsal stripe. The belly is whitish. Juveniles tend to be rather grayer than the adults. In the early 1980s, a mutation of these types of hamsters occurred in a university in the United Kingdom. This white-spotted variety has a normal background color, but is patched with various amounts of white over his back. So far this is the only mutation to have occurred.

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