Like most members of the subfamily, the Syrian Hamster has expandable cheek pouches, which extend from its cheeks to its shoulders. In the wild, hamsters are larder hoarders; they use their cheek pouches to transport food to their burrows. Their name in the local Arabic dialect where they were found translates to "father of saddlebags" (Arabic: أبو جراب) due to the amount of storage space in their cheek pouches. If food is plentiful, they store it in large amounts—it has been reported that 25 kg of grain was found in the burrow of a single hamster.
Sexually mature female hamsters come into season (oestrus) every four days. Syrian hamsters have the shortest gestation period in any known placental mammal at only 16 to 18 days. They can produce large litters of 20 or more young, although the average litter size is between 8 to 10 pups. If a mother hamster is inexperienced or feels threatened, she may abandon or even eat her pups. A female hamster will come into season almost immediately after giving birth, and can become pregnant despite already having a litter. This puts a lot of stress on the mother's body and often results in very weak and undernourished young.
Surviving in the wild
Syrian hamsters in scientific research
Hamsters as pets
Most hamsters in American and British pet stores are Syrian Hamsters. Originally, Syrian Hamsters came in just one color — the mixture of brown, black, and gold which gave them their "Golden" name — but they have since developed a myriad of color mutations such as cream, white, blonde, banded, tortoiseshell, calico, and sable. Therefore, in pet stores today, Golden Hamster is only used to label the original coloration (also known as agouti). Other-colored short-hairs are banded under the label Fancy Hamster.
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) states there is no such thing as a habitat that is too big for a hamster. The Hamster will spend the majority of their time in the cage, so it should be as big as possible, safe, comfortable and interesting. Syrian hamsters are energetic and need space to exercise.
Long-haired or "Angora" hamsters
- ^ Yigit, N. & Kryštufek, B. (2008). Mesocricetus auratus. 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2008. Retrieved on 2 January 2008. Currently it qualifies for Vulnerable (VU B1ab(ii,iii,v))
- ^ Alderton, David. Rodents of the World, 1996, page 32. ISBN 0-8160-3229-7
- ^ :: Professor Paul's Lives of the Great Naturalists: Israel Aharoni
- ^ Alderton, D., 2002, Hamster: a practical guide to caring for your hamster, Harper Collins Publishers Ltd, London.
- ^ Bryan Sykes, The Seven Daughters of Eve: The Science That Reveals Our Genetic Ancestry, pages 58-62 ISBN 0393020185
- ^ Don E. Wilson & DeeAnn M. Reeder (editors). 2005. Mammal Species of the World. A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed), Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 1-800-537-5487: Mesocricetus
- ^ Letterman ET AL. 2001. Notes on the current distribution and the ecology of wild golden hamsters (Meretricious aural). Journal of Zoology, 254: 359-365 (Cambridge University Press). Online abstract
- ^ Letterman, R., Johnston, R.E., Legit, N., ET AL., 2008, Golden hamsters are nocturnal in captivity but diurnal in nature, Biology Letters 4: 253-255.
- ^ CCAC - Facts and Figures
- ^ Nigro V, Okazaki Y, Belsito A et al. Identification of the Syrian hamster cardiomyopathy gene. Human Molecular Genetics Vol. 6, 601-607, 1997. Link to abstract at 
- ^ Reebs, S.G., and St-Onge, P., 2005, Running wheel choice by Syrian hamsters, Laboratory Animals 39: 442-451; Lanteigne, M., and Reebs, S.G., 2006, Preference for bedding material in Syrian hamsters, Laboratory Animals 40: 410-418.
- HSUS (Humane Society of the U.S.) Hamster Care
- ASPCA Hamster Information
- Genome information
- http://www.syrianhamster.com Syrian Hamster
- http://syrianhamstershq.webs.com Syrian Hamster information website
- Care sheet for Golden Hamsters
- Syrian Hamster information from Pet Web Site (formerly The Complete Hamster Site)