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All About the Campbell’s Hamster

Discover what the most popular of the Russian dwarf hamsters has to offer as a pet.

By Linda Price
Posted: March 21, 2012, 10:15 p.m. EDT

HAMSTERS Table of Contents

The Campbell’s hamster (Phodopus campbelli), one of the four dwarf species of hamster, is the most widely available of dwarf hamsters in North America. In the wild, they are found in Mongolia, the provinces of Northern China bordering Mongolia and southeast Central Siberia in Russia. The Campbell’s hamster tends to be the most outgoing of the dwarf hamsters. Although they enjoy a house and other forms of privacy for their hamster cage setup, they also enjoy coming out to explore their environment.

About The Campbell’s Hamster
On average, Campbell’s live 1½ to 2 years. The males are generally larger than the females, but both genders have similar temperaments. They are curious about their surroundings and always on the move when awake.

Campbell’s are generally the largest of the dwarf hamsters, averaging 3 to 4 inches in length. The Campbell’s is similar in appearance and character to the Winter White dwarf hamster (P. sungorus), but they come in the largest variety of coat colors and patterns compared to the other dwarf species.

Correct Name For Campbell’s Hamster
The Campbell’s are also called Russian dwarf hamsters or furry-footed hamsters due to the fur on their feet. One of the other dwarf hamsters, the Winter White species, also has fur on its feet and sometimes gets called furry-footed.  The other two dwarf hamster species either don’t have as much fur (the Roborovski species) or lack fur (the Chinese species). Other names sometimes associated with the Campbell’s are Siberian hamster or Dzungarian hamster, but these names are incorrect. They don’t properly identify the Campbell’s and may lead to mix-ups with the Winter White species. Because the Campbell’s and Winter White can interbreed, this might result in hybridization, which dilutes the purity of both species.

Campbell’s Hamster Coloring
The Campbell’s hamsters come in an array of colors — more than the other dwarf hamster species, although less than Syrian hamsters — ranging from white to black and from brown tones to orange tones. Agouti colors have multiple bands of color on each hair and a more distinct dorsal stripe and side markings. Self colors have a single color on each hair with the belly color generally matching the color on the rest of the hamster’s body.

The satin gene enhances the appearance of the coat color, adding shine, and gives lift to the hamster’s coat, which may give it a wet or greasy appearance. A similar coat appearance occurs in sickly hamsters, so be aware of this when choosing a hamster. The satin mutation has not yet been found in the other dwarf species, but the satin mutation does exist in the Syrians.

Some Campbell’s genes create spotting in the coats and others cause the colored hairs to be mixed with white hairs. Some Campbell’s colors are associated with nicknames such as the Blackberry or the Blueberry dwarf, but these are purely nicknames for specific colors. The longhaired gene has not yet been discovered in the Campbell’s dwarf hamster.

Although it is tempting to choose a Campbell’s hamster based on its color, this should not be your determining factor when picking out a hamster. Temperament and health should be your primary concerns.

Excerpt from the Popular Critters Series magabook Hamsters with permission from its publisher, BowTie magazines, a division of BowTie Inc. Purchase Hamsters here.

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