Where Do Hamsters Come From: A Comprehensive Guide to their Origins and History

The Natural Habitat of Hamsters

Hamsters are rodents that belong to the family Cricetidae. These small, furry creatures are typically found in the wild in arid regions of the world, such as deserts, grasslands, and steppes. The natural habitat of hamsters can vary depending on the species, but they are often found living in burrows or tunnels that they dig in the ground.

Hamsters are native to several parts of the world, including Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. The Syrian hamster, which is the most common type of hamster kept as a pet, is native to Syria and surrounding areas.

Early Discovery and Study of Hamsters

Hamsters were first discovered in the late 1700s by European explorers who were traveling through Syria. The first scientific study of hamsters was conducted by George Robert Waterhouse in 1839, who classified them as a separate genus called Cricetus.

In the early 1900s, hamsters became popular as research animals in laboratories because of their small size and fast reproduction rates. This led to more scientific studies on hamsters and their behavior, which helped to increase our understanding of these animals.

Domestication and Breeding of Hamsters

The first hamsters were brought to the United States in the 1930s by a zoologist named Frank A. Lutz. These hamsters were caught in the wild and bred in captivity for use as research animals.

In the 1940s, hamsters were first bred as pets in the United Kingdom. The Syrian hamster was the first species to be bred in captivity, and it quickly became popular as a pet because of its friendly and docile nature.

The Rise of Hamsters as Pets

In the 1950s and 1960s, hamsters became increasingly popular as pets in the United States and Europe. This was largely due to the availability of commercially bred hamsters that were specifically bred for use as pets.

Today, hamsters are one of the most popular small pets in the world, with millions of people keeping them as pets in their homes.

Hamsters Around the World

Hamsters are found all over the world, although they are most common in Europe and Asia. Different types of hamsters are native to different regions of the world, including the Syrian hamster in the Middle East, the Russian dwarf hamster in Russia, and the Roborovski hamster in Mongolia and China.

Different Types of Hamsters

There are several different types of hamsters, each with unique characteristics and personality traits. Some of the most popular types of hamsters include the Syrian hamster, the Russian dwarf hamster, the Roborovski hamster, and the Chinese hamster.

The Behavior and Characteristics of Hamsters

Hamsters are known for their curious and playful personalities, and they are often kept as pets because of their friendly and sociable nature. They are active animals that enjoy running, climbing, and exploring their environment.

Hamsters are typically nocturnal, which means that they are most active at night. They are also solitary animals that prefer to live alone, although they can be kept in pairs if they are introduced to each other at a young age.

Hamsters have several unique characteristics, including their ability to store food in their cheeks and their sharp teeth, which they use to gnaw on objects. They are also known for their fast reproduction rates, with females able to give birth to litters of up to 12 pups.

Health and Nutrition of Hamsters

Like all animals, hamsters require proper nutrition and care to stay healthy. They should be provided with a balanced diet that includes a variety of foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, grains, and protein sources like nuts and seeds.

Hamsters also require access to clean water at all times, as well as regular exercise and mental stimulation. It is important to keep their living environment clean and free of potential hazards, such as sharp objects and chemicals.

Caring for Hamsters as Pets

If you are considering getting a hamster as a pet, it is important to understand the proper care and maintenance required to keep them healthy and happy. This includes providing them with a suitable living environment, feeding them a balanced diet, and providing them with regular exercise and mental stimulation.

It is also important to handle your hamster regularly and to socialize with other people and animals. This can help to prevent them from becoming aggressive or territorial, which can lead to health and behavioral problems.

Fun Facts about Hamsters

  • Hamsters can run up to five miles in a single night.
  • Hamsters have poor eyesight and rely on their sense of smell to navigate their environment.
  • Hamsters can swim, although they are not strong swimmers and can easily drown in deep water.
  • Some species of hamsters can hibernate in cold weather, which allows them to conserve energy and survive the winter months.
  • The name “hamster” comes from the German word “hamster,” which means “to hoard.”

Hamsters in Popular Culture

Hamsters have become a popular subject in popular culture, appearing in movies, TV shows, and children’s books. Some famous hamsters include:

  • Hamtaro, the star of the Japanese children’s anime series of the same name.
  • Mr. Jingles, the pet hamster owned by the character Scout in the novel “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
  • Speedy, the hamster owned by the character Penny in the animated TV series “Inspector Gadget.”

The Future of Hamsters

As more people become interested in keeping hamsters as pets, it is important to ensure that these animals are properly cared for and protected. This includes measures to prevent the illegal trafficking and trade of wild hamsters, as well as efforts to promote responsible breeding and pet ownership practices.


Hamsters are fascinating creatures with a rich history and a unique set of characteristics and behaviors. From their natural habitat to their domestication and popularity as pets, there is much to learn and appreciate about these small but mighty animals.


  1. What is the most common type of hamster kept as a pet?
  • The Syrian hamster is the most common type of hamster kept as a pet.
  1. Can hamsters be kept in pairs?
  • Hamsters are typically solitary animals, but they can be kept in pairs if they are introduced to each other at a young age.
  1. What should I feed my hamster?
  • Hamsters should be fed a balanced diet that includes fresh fruits and vegetables, grains, and protein sources like nuts and seeds. Commercially available hamster food can also be a good option.
  1. How often should I clean my hamster’s cage?
  • Hamster cages should be cleaned at least once a week, and more frequently if the cage becomes soiled or smelly.
  1. What should I do if my hamster seems sick or injured?
  • If your hamster seems sick or injured, it is important to seek veterinary care as soon as possible. Hamsters can be prone to a variety of health problems, and prompt treatment can help to ensure the best possible outcome for your pet.

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