Dwarf Hamsters: Understanding Scientific Classification, Characteristics, and Their Species

In the study of animals, it is important for a lay person to understand the basic scientific terms associated in the quest of fully understanding the concept of one animal. For example, when we speak of insects, there are many insects around that are similar with or differing to other forms of insects.  As for hamsters, they may not possess that level of popularity dogs and cats have, but there are absolutely many types of hamsters existing around the world. There are many articles that speak about hamsters, and chances are you will be left with many questions for they seem to be presented in a way that only people with scientific backgrounds can understand; or, these articles will claim to present “everything you need to know about hamsters” and yet they are so simple and basic you really weren’t guided at all with your reading. Before moving any further, this article will focus largely on a special variety of hamsters: the Dwarf Hamsters.

To start off, the hamsters basically belong to a group of rodents. In science, Rodentia is the name of the mammal order of rodents. Their primary characteristic is two constantly growing incisors in the upper and lower jaws which have to be kept short by biting or chewing. Common rodents are mice, rats, porcupines, squirrels, voles, guinea pigs, chipmunks, and beavers. It is known that rodents make up the largest order of mammals in the world. Now that we know Rodentia is the order of rodents, we now move on to its suborder, or the subdivision of Rodentia where hamsters belong.

Myomorpha represent about 1,137 mouse-like rodents. Under the suborder Myomorpha is the superfamily Muroidea which occupy a gigantic range of rodents that have originated and lived in every continent except Antarctica. From the superfamily Muroidea are 6 families grouped into:

  1. mouse-like hamsters;
  2. mice and rats, gerbils;
  3. climbing mice, rock mice, white-tailed rats;
  4. spiny dormice;
  5. mole rats, bamboo rats, and zokors; and
  6. hamsters

The family of hamsters is known as Cricetidae, and under that is a subfamily referred as Cricetinae that are then grouped into 6 genera that differentiate all hamsters to be ever discovered in history and were later bred for scientific and hobby (pet) purposes.

The term genera is the plural form of genus, a taxonomic category which falls below a family and above a species and usually consisting of a set of species. If you are wondering now, the genus that the species of dwarf hamsters belong to is Phodopus.

Under the belt of Phodopus are 3 species: the Dwarf Campbell Russian Hamster, or P. campbelli; the Winter White Russian hamster, or P. sungorus; and the roborovski hamster, or P. roborovskii. Therefore, in summarizing all these facts, we arrive at a review of the dwarf hamster’s scientific classification as follows:

  • Order: Rodentia
  • Suborder: Myomorpha
  • Superfamily: Muroidea
  • Family: Cricetidae
  • Subfamily: Cricetinae
  • Genus: Phodopus
  • Species: P. campbelli, P. sungorus, P. roborovskii

Certainly by now you got a clearer glimpse of all the scientific facts about the dwarf hamsters. It is a lot easier for you to move forward into understanding the nature of dwarf hamsters.

Dwarf hamsters are tiny and cute hamsters that are literally smaller than other hamster genera and species. They fit in the palm of our hands, sociable, inexpensive, and very easy to train and tame. They are generally fragile and sensitive therefore making it a pet for kids must be supervised by adults because too much handling or stroking will only stress them and eventually shorten their life span which may range from 2 to 4 years. They are nocturnal animals so they are basically active at night. Yet, unlike most hamsters, they may be active during the day for short periods of time. The dwarf hamsters are three of only five species widely kept in captivity as pets along with the Syrian hamsters, which represent golden, fancy, teddy bear and standard hamsters; and Chinese hamsters.

Here is a quick look at the history of the three species of dwarf hamsters:

  1. Campbell Russian Dwarf Hamster. Its original habitats are found in the steppes and semi-deserts of Central Asia, Mongolia and some provinces in Northeastern China. Thomas Campbell first discovered them in 1905 and was kept in Moscow. In the late 1960’s breeding of this species was exhibited in the United Kingdom. It became popular as a pet around the world by 1980’s.
  2. Winter White Russian Dwarf Hamster. The least common pet among the dwarf hamsters, it originated in Eastern Kazakhstan and South West Siberia. Its discovery was first recorded in 1770 but breeding only began in the 1960’s led by a biochemist in the University of Pittsburgh by the name of Klaus Hofmann. It was introduced as a pet nearing the start of the 80’s decade.
  3. Roborovskii Dwarf Hamster. It comes from Western and Eastern Mongolia and Northern China. By 1960’s they were imported into the United Kingdom for breeding, and were later imported into the United States and other parts of the world to become pets in the 1990’s only.

It is of great hope that you have been well-informed with your reading. You may go on researching more about the three species to decide on which among the three you would like to have as a pet depending on your personality and making special consideration as well with each species’ specific nature. It takes a lot of responsibility and knowledge to become a good pet owner. Learn everything there is to know to ensure a good home, safe environment, and healthy lifestyle for your future dwarf hamster.

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