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Dwarf Hamsters
Baby Blue Dwarf Hamster While there are several species of hamsters recognized throughout the world, there are only four that are commonly referred to as "Dwarf Hamsters". To be totally accurate, these "dwarfs" comprise two groups: the "True Dwarf Hamster" and the "Rat-Like Hamster." Three are true Dwarf Hamsters: the Campbell's Russian Dwarf, the Siberian Winter White and the Roborovski while the Chinese Dwarves are members of the "Rat-Like Hamster" group. Although they are two completely different groups of animals most breeders and hamster associations include the Chinese in their itinerary as a dwarf hamster. They are different in size, personality, appearance, breeding habits and activities. Dwarf hamsters are native to the arid desert regions of Siberia, Mongolia, Manchuria, and northern China. Because these areas consist of mostly plains, grasslands and sand dunes, Dwarf hamsters are sometimes referred to as "desert hamsters".

THE FOUR TYPES OF HAMSTERS YOU MAY FIND IN A PET STORE ARE:

1. THE CAMPBELLS RUSSIAN HAMSTER: Also known as the "Russian Dwarf Hamster" or the "Djungarian Hamster" and sometimes incorrectly referred to as the "Siberian Hamster". The Campbells breed of Dwarf hamster is by far the most common found in pet stores.

2. THE WINTER WHITE RUSSIAN HAMSTER: Also known as the Siberian Hamster. This hamster is almost identical to the Campbells variety but is not as common in pet stores, and is actually a completely different subspecies. If you don't know if you have a Campbells or a Winter White continue reading below and we'll tell you how to identify the difference.

3. THE ROBOROVSKI HAMSTER: Hamster variety #3 are also known sometimes as "Robs" and are the smallest of the dwarf varieties. They have recently become more popular though they are still relatively rare in pet stores due to the fact that they haven't been domesticated as long as the Campbells varitey.

4. THE CHINESE HAMSTER: Chinese hamsters are sometimes also called the "mouse-like" or "rat-like" hamster because of it's longer tail.

HOW CAN YOU TELL A WINTER WHITE AND A CAMPBELLS RUSSIAN APART?

'Tricky' - A Campbells Dwarf Russian Hamster!
Campbells Dwarf Russian
'Marley' - A Winter White Russian Hamster!
Winter White Russian

Unfortunately, unless you have actually seen them side by side it can be very difficult to tell the difference between these two varieties. A Winter White (Siberian) has three stripes—the dorsal stripe and one on each crescent (on the side where the belly color meets the top coat). When the "normal" color Winter Whites get their winter coat, they turn white with their three stripes showing. Unfortunately, they don't always get their winter coats in captivity.

The Winter White is also a little larger than the Campbells with a blockier body and slightly thicker fur. Their eyes are larger and the ears are less conspicuous. The normal color of the Winter White is also darker than the normal color of the Campbells—which tends to be more of a greyish black rather than the tan shade of the campbell, furthermore the belly color is brighter.

Once you have seen both varieties it is fairly easy to distinguish the difference.

WARNING: The Campbells scientific name is "Phodopus sungoris campbelli", the Siberians are "Phodopus sungoris sungoris"—they are two different subspecies and therefore should never be cross-bred.

Both species are sometimes called "Djungarian" after the area in which they are found. Although the name is more often used in reference to the Campbells variety of hamster.

One thing to remember is that the Campbells is much more common than the Winter White in pet stores, so if you bought your dwarf from a pet store, it's much more likely to be a Campbells even if the pet store clerk calls it a Siberian. The best bet for getting a true Siberian is to purchase from a professional breeder.
A Campbells Dwarf Russian Hamster!
Campbells Dwarf Russian
A Winter White Russian Hamster!
Winter White Russian


The Dwarf Campbells Russian, Winter White Russian and Chinese Hamster were all introduced to the pet market in the UK in the 1970s. The Roborovski Hamster came from the Netherlands into the UK in 1990.
Graphic Artist Andy Markison
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