Syrian Hamster Varieties


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Long-haired sable female
There are five species of hamster, which are as follows:
  • Syrian
  • Chinese
  • Winter White Russian Dwarf
  • Campbells Russian Dwarf
  • Roborovski Dwarf

This page will focus on varieties of Syrian hamster, that is, the various colours, patterns and coat types. For information on dwarf hamsters, please see the Dwarf Hamster Variety page.

If you live in North America or are a member of an American forum, you may notice such terms as "teddy bear hamster", "black bear hamster", "panda bear hamster" and so on. These are NOT species of hamster but simply words used by pet shops in the USA (and possibly Canada) to describe the different colours, patterns and coat lengths of Syrian hamsters. Unfortunately, many people in these countries, including some breeders and shop owners, have come to believe that these are separate breeds of Syrian. This is a dangerous thing, as some owners have been informed that "black bears" will live together! This is not true; "black bears" are just Syrian hamsters with black fur. As a general rule, anything with the word "bear" in the title is refering to a particular colour Syrian. American pet shops also use words such as "blueberry" and "blackberry" to describe dwarf hamsters. Again, these can be confusing, but they usually refer to a particular colour of Campbells Russian dwarf.

Each species of hamster has its own coat colours and/or patterns. The Syrian hamster has the greatest variety in colours, basically because it has been bred for much longer than the other species, and therefore there has been more time for mutations to occur.


Syrian Colours, Coats and Patterns

Syrian Coat Types
Hair Length: Syrian hamsters can have either short hair or long hair. The long hair gene is recessive, meaning you need two copies of it to produce a hamster pup with long hair. Note that there is no such thing as medium length hair. I have seen breeders claim to have medium length hair hamsters, but i think this confusion comes from the fact that a long-haired hamster can have a very long skirt or simply some little tufts. The cause of this is varying amounts of testosterone. It is this that gives a male long-haired hamster a lovely flowing skirt where a female long-haired hamster will simply have a slightly longer coat than a short-haired, with a few tufts behind the ears, on the hips and around the rear end. The skirt of a long-haired hamster will be a paler colour than the rest of the hamster as the colour is diluted along the length of each hair.
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Long-haired female aged 16m
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Long-haired male aged 8m
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Long-haired male aged 3m


Satin: Syrians are either satin or non-satin; there is no inbetween. The satin gene is dominant and therefore only one copy is required to produce satin pups in a litter. It is not a good idea to breed two satin hamsters together, as this can result in pups with thin and sparse fur. Satin hamsters have hollow hairs, which act as prisms to reflect the light. This is what gives the coat a shiny effect. A satin hamster will look darker than a non-satin of the same colour. In some colours, such as cream or cinnamon, satinisation is very obvious where in other colours, such as sable and black, it can be difficult to tell if a hamster is satin.
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Satin black-eyed cream (long-haired)
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non-satin black-eyed cream (long-haired)
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Satin sable (Long-haired)


Rex: Rex hamsters have a wavy or curly coat with curly whiskers. The rex gene is recessive and therefore a hamster must have two copies of this gene to be a rex. Rex carriers, that is those with only one copy of the gene, have slightly wavy fur. Ruby, Oswald, Hugo, Hamish and Jock are all rex carriers, identifiable by the gentle waves in their fur and slight curl of their whiskers.


Syrian Patterns

All Syrian patterns are dominant and therefore only one copy of the gene is required to produce the pattern in pups. You should NEVER mate two patterned hamsters together because all patterned hamsters have white bellies, making it impossible to tell whether they carry the 'white belly gene'. Having two copies of the white belly gene (one from each parent) causes a pup to be born with deformities. For more information on the white belly gene, see the roan section, below.
 

Roan: A roan hamster looks like a white hamster with with splattered colour concentrated at the head and then gradually getting lighter towards the rear. Some roans have very little colour and others have a lot of colour. The coloured parts on a roan will be lighter than the same colour on a non-roan. They will often have mottled ears and will always have a reddish glow to the eyes when light is shone on them.

The roan pattern is caused by the Wh gene, also known as anopthalmic white or white belly gene. This is a dominant gene and when present in a hamster of a cream-based colour (black-eyed cream, red-eyed cream, sable and mink), the hamster will be a roan. In a non cream-based hamster, the Wh gene will simply cause them to have some white on their belly, which can be anything from an entirely white belly to a patch or even a few hairs. Another way of spotting the Wh gene in a non cream-based hamster is to look into the eyes when light is shone onto them (do not shine a torch into your hamster's eyes!). A hamster carrying Wh will usually have a reddish shine to their eyes... however some hamster colours have red eyes naturally! Basically, never mate two patterned hamsters together because there's no sure-fire way to tell whether they have the Wh gene or not and NEVER EVER mate two roans together as they definately DO have the Wh gene and some pups WILL be born with deformities - they will be entirely white with no eyes and often no teeth, hence being known as 'eyeless whites'. In some countries, breeders do not dare to breed roans at all because of this risk. The breeder needs to be 100% sure that a roan's partner does not have the Wh gene, but if you know what you are doing and acquire good stock with known backgrounds (preferably from show breeders) then there is no real reason to avoid breeding this lovely pattern.

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short-haired cream roan (pale)
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Long-haired cream roan
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A Best in Show Sable roan (picture and hamster owned by Bourne Valley Hams)


Banded: The banded pattern is the most common, regularly found in pet shops (unlike the other patterns). Ideally, a banded hamster will have a perfectly straight band around the middle of the body and the width of the band will be exactly one third of the lenth of the body. However, nature rarely works this way! The quality of a band is random and a mother with a perfect band will not neccessarily have pups with good bands.
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A near-perfect band (picture and hamster owned by Bourne Valley Hams)
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short-haired sable banded
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short-haired satin cinnamon banded


Dominant spot: Ideally, a dominant spot should look like a white hamster with splodges of colour evenly splatted all over the body. The placing of the spots is random. Some dom spots only have a few spots, whilst others have so many spots that they appear to be joined up with very little white showing. Dom spots often have a blaze of white up the middle of their faces. Common colours for dom spots include black, yellow, cinnamon and golden.
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LH black dom spot (picture & hamster owned by Bourne Valley Hams)
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Yellow dom spot (Picture & hamster owned by Rachel Brown)


Tort and Tort & White: A tortoise shell hamster has patches of yellow as well as their main colour. A tort and white has patches of the main colour, yellow and white. This gene is sex-link, like it is in cats, therefore tort hamsters are only ever female. I'm not too familiar with this pattern, having never own one, but below you can see some lovely examples of tort & white hamsters bred by Sue from Bourne Valley hams (who also took the photos).
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Golden tort & white (photo & hamster by Bourne Valley Hams)
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Chocolate tort & white (photo & hamster by Bourne Valley Hams)


Syrian Colours

There are many Syrian hair colours and too many to feature on here, but I shall give examples of the most common colours. Hamster colours are known as either agouti or self. An agouti hamster has cheek flashes and crescents where a self hamster does not; a self is the same colour all over the body. Examples of agouti hamsters include the golden, yellow, cinnamon and grey. Examples of self hamsters include the black, cream, mink and sable.


Golden: A golden hamster has grey ears, black eyes, black cheek flashes and white cheek crescents. The base colour of each hair is slate grey with the tip being ginger.

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Golden (++)
Umbrous Golden. A golden hamster with the umbrous gene (u) added. The umbrous gene creates a sooty effect, to varying degrees, on top of the main colour. Notice the sooty belly and crescents, which would otherwise be white in a golden.
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Umbrous Golden (++Uu)
Black-eyed cream (BEC): A black-eyed cream has black eyes and grey ears. The coat of a cream hamster darkens with age to an apricot colour.
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BEC carrying red-eye (eep)
 
Red-eyed cream (REC): An REC has dark red eyes and pink ears. The red eye gene (p) is recessive and therefore a cream needs two copies to be an REC. With only one copy, it will be a black-eyed cream. The coat of an REC will become darker than that of a BEC as it ages (photo shows a baby).
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REC (eepp)

Sable:
A sable is a black-eyed cream with the umbrous gene added. The base of the hairs are cream whilst the tips are a sooty colour. A tell-tale sign of a sable hamster is the cream eye-rings. As a sable ages, the colour will develop orangey tones. A sable always has grey ears unless it is patterned
.
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A young sable (eeUu)
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The same hamster later in life
Black: A black hamster has black ears and eyes. They are black all over apart from their pink feet. They often have white patches on the chin and belly, but these are not desirable for showing. Black hamsters usually develop brown tones to the coat as they age.
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Black (aa)
Mink: A mink hamster is genetically a red-eyed cream with the umbrous gene added. A young mink hamster will be a beige colour and will gradually develop more orangy tones to the coat as he ages. An elderly mink will look totally different from a baby.
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Mink eeppUu
Cinnamon: A cinnamon hamster has red eyes, white cheek crescents and a white belly. The base colour of a cinnamon is grey and they also have grey cheek flashes. A cinnamon will become more orangy as she ages.
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Cinnamon pp (photo & Hamster owned by Mad About Hams)
Grey: There are 3 types of grey - Light Grey, Dark Grey and Silver Grey. All types of grey have black cheek flashes. In pet shops, greys often carry cream, which changes the colour and makes them look more creamy/grey.
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Silver Grey - homozygous SgSg (Photo & Hamster owned by Autumn Breeze Hamstery)
Chocolate: This colour is pretty much self-describing. A rich chocolate brown coat with chocolate ears.
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Chocolate banded (photo & hamtser owned by Mad About Hams)
Yellow: The yellow can often be confused with the golden to the un-trained eye, but is actually a lot lighter. They have black eyes, grey ears and dark cheek flashes with white cheek crescents and belly.
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Yellow (hamster & photo owned by Mad About Hams)
Yellow black: Another self-describing colour. A yellow black is just that - a yellow hamster with black!
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Yellow Black banded (photo & hamster owned by Penny Hams)