A little history of the Russian dwarf hamster

There are two types of Russian dwarf hamsters: the Dwarf Campbell Russian Hamster and the Dwarf Winter White Russian Hamster. Both of them belong to the genus Phodopus under the subfamily that embodies all species of hamsters, Cricetinae, of the super family Muroidea that envelope the one large group of rodents in the animal kingdom.

Whenever we hear of an animal name it is our nature to somehow wonder how in the world they got that name. Most of the time, just like roads or cities are named after famous personalities that created a huge impact in that territory, so it is as well in the case of an animal’s first discoverer. Their names are usually derived from scientists who first discovered them and made further studies to develop more facts for the sake of science. They may also be named after the places where they were first found.

The species P. campbelli, or the Dwarf Campbell Russian hamster, was discovered by Thomas Campbell in 1905. After being kept in Moscow, hamsters of this kind were imported by London’s Holloway College around 1963 to 1964. The London Zoological Society also imported some around 1963. By the year 1968 there were already a number of successful breeds that were used in laboratories. It was not until the 1980’s that they gained popularity as a pet. Today, more Campbell Russian dwarf hamsters are available at pet stores as well as breeders for purchase.

As early as 1770, there was already some unearthing of the species P. roborovskii, or the Dwarf Winter White Russian hamster. However, a chemist/biochemist by the name of Klaus Hofmann, famous for his works on the synthesis of a fully active, shortened chain of pituitary hormone adrenocorticotropin (ACTH), bred this type of hamster for laboratory experiments in the 1960’s at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Medicine, Biochemistry Department. They were later introduced to the laboratories in the United Kingdom in 1970’s and became famous pets in that country by 1978. Their name did not come from Hofmann; it is due to their ability to turn into white in the winter.

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