Syrians (Short Haired) - SH Syrians come in many many different colours, they are the easiest hamster to care for especially for those new to hams however they do have a few specific needs such as a cage 80x50x50cm (LxWxH) minimum and a wheel 8 inch to 11inches in diameter - this often means buying a rat wheel.
Syrian (Long Haired) - LH Syrians are the same as SH Syrians the only difference being the length of their fur or 'Skirt'. Male LH Syrians have very long fur, their skirt can grow from 2-3inches in length! Because of this huge coat they do require a few specifics in their cages. For substrate most materials will become entangled in their fur so using a rodent safe, non-clumping, woodbased cat litter will prevent your ham getting in a mess. They will also require a spindle-less wheel to stop their fur being ripped out (See Which Wheel). Female LH Syrians have 'tuffts' of fur meassuring approximatey 1inch in length and because of this they dont usually require special bedding or spindleless wheels but it is still reccomended for some.
Chinese - Chinese hamsters are often misnamed Chinese dwarf hamsters because of their tiny size, however they are not dwarf hamsters they are infact more closely related to rats than hams! Chinese hams' most well know features are their sticky paws that help them to cling to narrow ledges and their owners hands. This makes many people think that they are fun pets for children however, Chinese are very timid and need a quiet home to live in with very gentle handling. Like Syrians Chinese hamsters are solitary and need a home to themselves.
Chinese hamsters are prone to developing diabetes so to prevent this many people keep their Chinese on a sugar free diet their whole lives. Chinese come in two main colours - Normal and Dominant Spot.
Winter White Russian Dwarf - Winter Whites are over looked by many people who think that they only come in one colour - white. Infact, they come in three main Summer colours, Pearl - a white colour with grey flecks. Sapphire - a silvery blue with white belly. Agouti - a brown-black molted mixture with white belly.
Winter Whites get their name from their natural Winter transformation, in the wild when the days become shorter and the nights become colder their coats become fully white. This can be seen with some pet hamsters but Winter Whites in captivity dont always change and you will be very lucy to have one that does.
Winter Whites can only be bought from recognised breeders and will not be found in pet shops. Whether they do well or not in pairs is widely debated but they are known to be the hardest dwarfs to keep together - despite this they make wonderful and loving pets.
Campbells Russian Dwarf - Campbells dwarfs come in a large variety of colours although not all are recognised by the National Hamster Club. These are the easiest to keep in pairs and get along very well together as well as being very friendly and loving towards their owners. Living in pairs they require a cage 70x40cm miminum with enough hight to fit in 8inch wheels. To prevent fighting they need one of each toy, a house each and to be scatter fed. (See Keeping Pairs for more info).
Campbells can also only be aquired from recognised breeders.
Roborovski Dwarf - For information on roborovski dwarfs see My Roborovskis.
Hybrid Dwarf - Though not a recognised or encouraged species Hybrid dwarfs are the most commonly owned dwarf hamster. These are bought in pet shops as "Russians" as they are a cross breed of Campbells Russians and Winter White Russians. These two different species are irresponsibly bred together as they share the same number of chromosomes and so can produce live offspring. They are the only species of hamster that can interbreed but the results can be devistating. Hybrids don't live as long as other hamsters and also have a high risk of developing diabetes. Some are born disfigured or with neurological problems but most are perfectly healthy so don't worry if you do own a Hybrid.
Hybrids must not be bred from because of the risk to their offspring.
Those who wish to own any species of hamster should always be encourage to buy from recognised breeders or adopt/rescue a hamster who does really need a home.