I guess it’s only fair that the first hamster to be introduced earlier, around 1930, the Syrian hamster has risen to the throne of the most popular of all hamster breeds, outperforming other standard hamsters and dwarf hamsters alike. They were originally used as laboratory test animals, primarily due to their friendly behavior and propensity for rapid reproduction. Thankfully though, they finally made it out of the lab and into pet stores, and we’re all certainly happy with that transition.
Contributing to their great popularity are their easy handling qualities, which means that, unlike their dwarf hamster cousins, they are considered a great pet for children. They are the largest pet hamsters that range anywhere near 6 inches in length and some females reach a maximum length of 7 inches. The typical life expectancy of the Syrian hamster is between 24 and 30 months, with some exceptions that go up to 48 months.
Probably better known as the golden hamster or the graceful hamster, Syrians appear in a mix of colors and popular subspecies names. In nature, the natural coloration of the Syrian is golden brown or “agouti”, which means dark hairs with light bands. In their natural environment, Syrians are solitary and fairly territorial animals. And they are no different in captivity as they are extremely non-social with other hamsters and can quickly engage in a fight to the death when caged together. They can get along well with others when they are quite young, but by the age of 10 weeks it is essential that they are caged separately.
The variety of colors, common to the captive-bred Syrian hamster, serves as the basis for the various names popularized by the lucrative pet store market. European black bear hamster, honey bear hamster, panda bear hamster, teddy bear hamster, polar bear hamster, Dalmatian hamster and black bear hamster. Regardless of the name, it is important to remember that a Syrian is a Syrian. They are sociable with humans, but aggressive and deadly with each other, except when they are very young. So no matter the color, the safety rules still apply.
The golden hamster is a nocturnal (nocturnal) or, to be more precise, a twilight (dusk and dawn) member of the rodent family. This means that they spend most of the hours of the day huddled in their hiding places sound asleep. But, as the sun begins to set behind the horizon, these little creatures come to life and begin their ritual of foraging and exercising. In the wild, this is the safest time of day for the hamster to roam in search of food, as predators are most active during daylight hours or in the dark of night, leaving dusk and dawn as the least likely time. to be discovered and devoured.
As you will discover with most hamsters, the Syrian requires relatively low maintenance. They self-clean (a bath is not recommended or required), need a reasonably inexpensive cage, and consume modest amounts of specialized hamster food and treats. Fresh fruits and vegetables complement the diet and are served in moderation. The only equipment needed is the metal tube spout water bottle to provide an always ready supply of fresh water and the incredibly important hamster wheel that facilitates the essential requirement for life support physical exercise.