Where Did Siberian Hamsters Come From?

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Phodopus sungorus is the Latin name for the breed of hamsters that are also known as the Djungarian, Russian winter white or Siberian. Siberian hamsters are kept as pets in Europe and North America. Because of their size, Siberian hamsters are considered a dwarf breed of hamster.

Where Siberian Hamsters Come From

Siberian hamsters originate from the area of Kazakhstan, Siberia, Mongolia, China and Manchuria. Originally, Siberian hamsters and Campbell dwarf hamsters were thought to be the same breed, but later it was decided that they are two similar but distinct species of animal. Siberian hamsters were introduced in the United Kingdom as pets during the 1970s and have been bred in captivity as pets ever since. Before their popularity as pets, these hamsters were used for testing and laboratory experiments.

Natural Environment

In the wild, Siberian hamsters live generally in grasslands and fields. These hamsters are fairly common in the treeless, mostly flat steppes of southeastern Europe and Asia. In the wild, these hamsters live in colonies. In captivity, they are kept alone or in same-sex pairs because of their potential for aggressive behavior toward one another.

What a Siberian Hamster Is

Siberian hamsters are identified most easily by their size and markings. Mature adults are 3 to 4 inches long and weigh just under an ounce. In their normal environment, these hamsters are black and gray, and most have a dark stripe running down their backs. In a natural coloring variation called sapphire, the hamster appears to be bluish-gray instead of black. If the environment promotes it, these hamsters can turn white.

Winter White Hamster

Wild Siberian hamsters can grow a completely white coat during winter for camouflage in snowy surroundings. This is where the name "winter white" dwarf hamster comes from. The winter white coat occurs during periods of shortened daylight in the wild. The hamster will shed his dark coat and grow a white one. In captivity, hamsters might not grow a full winter white coat. Hamster owners might have to control lighting inside the hamster's environment to get it to do so.

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    Jen Davis has been writing since 2004. She has served as a newspaper reporter and her freelance articles have appeared in magazines such as "Horses Incorporated," "The Paisley Pony" and "Alabama Living." Davis earned her Bachelor of Arts in communication with a concentration in journalism from Berry College in Rome, Ga.