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Hamsters - History

British zoologist George Waterhouse reportedly found a female hamster in Syria in 1839. He named it "Cricetus auratus," Golden Hamster because of its colour.

During the early 1900s the wild hamster was thought to have become extinct. Then around 1930, a zoologist and professor, at the University of Jerusalem Aharoni, found a female with a litter in the Syrian Desert. By the time he returned to his labroratory, all but a couple had died or escaped. The remaining hamsters were inherited by the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where they were successfully bred as Golden Hamsters. They were thought to be a bit bigger than the ones George Waterhouse found, so they were named "Mesocricetus auratus" commonly named The Syrian Hamster, although they are probably the same species. The hamsters were shipped to labroratories all around the world.

They arrived in the United Kingdom in 1931, and in 1938 reached the United States. Just about all Golden Hamsters are descended from the original litter found in Syria.

Picture of Chinese Hamster - Thanks Alison WallisIn the 1970s Chinese, Dwarf Campbells and Russian breeds were all introduced to the pet market in the United Kingdom. The Roborovski hamster arrived from Holland into the UK in the late 1980s.

Because hamsters are so disease-free and breed so rapidly (they can have a new litter every month!) and because they are so friendly and easy to handle, hamsters are used for scientific research. They are a popular choice among scientists for cardio-vascular research. Their cardio-vascular system is very similar to that of humans.

Wild hamsters have been known to store in excess of 30 kg of grain to feed them through a winter. They are classed as an agricultural pest.

 



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