This is a guide to the different species of Hamster. Bearing in mind each species can come in various different colours also. The main species are:

  • Syrian hamsters (Mesocricetus Auratus) -also known in the US as teddy bear or black bear hamsters - and originally known as golden hamsters - the original colour - these are the largest of the species
  • Campbells Dwarf hamsters (Phodopus Cambelli)
  • Winter White Russian Dwarf hamsters (Phodopus sungorus)
  • Hybrid Russian Dwarf hamsters (a genetic mix of Campbells and Winter White hamsters)
  • Chinese hamsters - these are not that commonly seen and have a bit of a tail! Which they can wrap round your finger. They can be quite shy
  • Roborovski dwarf hamsters (Phodopus Roborovskii) - these are the smallest of the species and can be only about the size of your thumb - although size varies. They are very fast.

There is no photo of a hybrid dwarf hamster as they can actually look like a winter white or a campbells dwarf - they are a hybrid breeding of those two species - something that has gone on for decades unfortunately via pet shop breeding. They can also come in a variety of different colours. Virtually all dwarf hamsters sold in pet shops will be hybrids as these two species have been interbred for a long time - it risks the original species dying out. They may look like a campbells or a winter white but they will still be a hybrid - unless you get one from a verified breeder belonging to the National Hamster Council and know the breeding history. Hybrid dwarf hamsters can be more prone to disease but most live to at least a year or 18 months and still make lovely pets. 18 months to 2 years is about average for most species. Some Syrians can live till 2.5 to 3 years but they are considered getting old at 18 months. Roborovski hamsters are technically supposed to be the longest lived - up to about 5 years, but again it depends on breeding and genetics and generally their lifespan is similar to other species of hamster. We suggest it's better to adopt or get a hamster from an ethical NHC breeder, rather than promote pet shop breeding. There are ethical breeders to ensure keeping the campbells and winter white species in existence and to ensure the correct colourings are bred together to avoid genetic health conditions.

Winter White can also be a misnoma as a Winter White hamster can be of different colourings as well! See the article "What colour is my hamster" for more information about different colourings for all species of hamster.

All species need similar care - a healthy environment with plenty of enrichment, a species appropriate diet, and some human interaction! They make wonderful pets and they need us humans to care for them and give them the best life.

Hybrid dwarf hamsters, Chinese hamsters and Campbells Dwarf hamsters are particularly prone to diabetes so need a sugar free diet.

Photo of Dwarf Campbells © Viniciussouza06 |