Dwarf Hamster Varieties


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There are four species of dwarf hamster, which are as follows:
  • Chinese
  • Roborovski Dwarf
  • Winter White Russian Dwarf
  • Campbells Russian Dwarf

There are also hybrid dwarf hamsters, which are sold in pet shops. These are created by breeding Winter White and Campbells Russian dwarfs together. Many pet shops are not even aware that there are two separate species of Russian dwarf. These hybrids are not a proper species and are a bad thing, as they can suffer from many health issues (including fatal disorders). The breeding of hybrids also promotes the extinction of the separate species, which is a terrible thing as the two species are very different, both physically and behaviourally. There is more information about hybrids here.


Chinese

Chinese hamsters are not technically dwarf hamsters, but tend to get put under the dwarf category due to their small size. Chinese hamsters are often sold in pairs, but very often end up needing to be separated due to fighting, especially females. It is my belief that female Chinese are solitary and should never be sold in pairs.

Chinese hamsters love climbing, burrowing and creating secret dens. I find them to be very private about their territories and enjoy having several hidey-holes in their cages. They can be quite shy and timid, but once tame, make lovely pets.

There are 3 coat colours for the chinese hamster - normal (wild colour), dominant spot and black-eyed white (BEW). However, the BEW is extremely rare and only bred by a few specialist Chinese breeders.

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Dominant Spot female (Pebble)
Dominant Spot: The dominant spot has the appearance of a white hamster with a dark dorsal stripe and then varying amounts of dark pigment. The hamster on the left (Pebble) would do much better in a show than the hamster on the right (Gemma), who has far too much pigment.
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Dominant spot female (Pebble)
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Dominant Spot female (Gemma)
Normal: the term normal refers to the natural colour that would be found in the wild. Other colours are mutations that have occured since the hamster has been bred in captivity. A normal Chinese hamster is a light brown colour with a dark dorsal stripe.

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Normal Chinese: photo by foreverhams
Black-eyed White: The genetic make-up of the BEW is not yet certain as this is a new mutation. This colour is not usually found in pet shops and is unavailable to the general public. For more information on the BEW please see the website of Foreverhams, who breed this colour.
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BEW Chinese: photo by foreverhams

Roborovski Dwarf

Roborovski dwarfs are often called 'robos' or sometimes 'robs' for short. They are the smallest and fastest of all the hamster species. They have a well-deserved reputation for being quick, hard to catch, hard to handle and hard to tame. I would not recommend robos for children or for someone who wants a pet to cuddle. The most enjoyable thing about owning robos is simply watching them at play, as they are extremely cute and amusing.

Robos have not been on the pet market for very long and therefore there is currently only the wild colour and one mutation available in the UK. This mutation is called White-Faced or Husky and can cause the robo either to have just a white face or to be almost completely white, with a small area of tan on its back. In both cases the colour is caused by the same gene, the exact nature of which is not yet 100% understood.

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normal agouti robo
Normal: The wild colour, known as 'normal', or 'agouti', has a white belly, white nose and distinctive white 'eyebrows', which make it easily identifiable as a roborovski.

The rest of the body is a tan colour with black roots
. As a robo ages, this black undercoat will show through to a greater extent. The tan colour will also start to look more gingery.
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2 normal robos
 
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Husky/White-Faced robo
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A normal with a husky

Winter White Russian Dwarf

Pure Winter Whites are usually only available at hamster shows or from a show breeder (who will have an NHC certificate if they have been showing for over a year and have registered a showing 'prefix'). Winter Whites are often advertised on various websites and sometimes even in pet shops, but be very careful because most of these are not pure. Personally, I would never buy a Winter White from anywhere other than a show or from a breeder recommended by a hamster club (addresses under Links).

There are 2 colours of Winter White - the wild colour, which is known as normal or agouti, and sapphire. There are then 2 patterns - pearl and marble (sometimes called merle). These patterns can be found on both normal and sapphire Winter Whites, so a pearl can be a normal pearl or a sapphire pearl and the same for marble/merle.

Sometimes you will see Winter Whites advertised as 'mandarin', 'mushroom' or other colours. Do not buy these as they are not pure Winter White (the colour comes from their Campbell genes).
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a young normal
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sapphire
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marbled normal (hamster & photo owned by Custard Hamstery)
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3 normals and a sapphire
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sapphire pearl (photo & hamster owned by Custard Hamstery)

Campbells Russian Dwarf

I have to hold my hands up and admit to never having kept any Campbells, but thanks to the kindness of other keepers, I do have the following photos to demonstrate some of the colours. There are a lot more colours, patterns and coat types for the Campbells than any other dwarf. Colours and patterns available in the UK include normal, albino, argente, black, black-eyed white, opal, fawn, lilac, platinum and mottled. The Campbell can also be satin coated, unlike other dwarfs.
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normal platinum (left) and black-eyed white (right). Photo & hamsters owned by nooboo hamstery
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normal (photo & hamster owned by Bailey)
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normals and argentes with platinums of both (photo & hams by nooboo hamstery)
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Lilac fawn (right) & satin lilac fawn (left). Photo & hams owned by nooboo hamstery
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argente (photo & hamster by nooboo hamstery)
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mottled (photo & hamster by Sian)