When you start thinking of getting a hamster most likely you will come across Syrian hamster. As it is the most popular breed as a pet you should know more about them.
You should know that Syrian hamsters are also known as Teddy bears. The most common hamster breed kept as pets. Syrian hamsters are the largest type. Adults grow to 5-7 inches long which almost double compared to other hamster types. This breed is solitary so keeping two or more Syrian hamsters together is not recommended. They are nocturnal animlas so not the best possible pet option for small kids.
To decide if ”Teddy” is right for you can check this article and learn more about this breed.
Where do Syrian (Golden) Hamsters Come From?
Syrian hamsters first lived in desert areas of northern Syria and south of Turkey. There is an interesting story that one female hamster was caught together with her babies in the region of Aleppo, Syria in 1930.
They were taken to the lab in Jerusalem for some behavioral study. People who were working in the lab discovered that those cute animals were very friendly and easy to love so they decided to take some of them to their homes.
I guess this was the start of the pet hamsters era. This story is proof that today all Syrian hamster pets are practically descendants of Syirian’Eva’ hamster and her litter.
Some other characteristics such as short life expectancy and large litters made these tiny creatures also perfect lab animals.
So at the same time hamsters became pets they were also sent to many European labs to serve as animal test objects.
First hamsters were brought to the USA in 1938 according to the Louisiana Veterinary Medical Association.
Just a decade later these furry balls were already very popular as pets. Today only dogs, fish, rabbits, and cats are more popular than hamsters.
Syrian( Golden) Hamsters Behavior
Syrian hamsters are solitary animals. They do not like the company of other hamsters so you should never place Syrian hamsters with any other hamster in the same cage.
They are very territorial and even if it seems that young hamsters that growing up together are getting along, separate them while you still have a chance as if they stay together after they turn 8-10 weeks they can fight to the death.
It is said that Golden hamsters are very curious creatures who like to explore but they also need plenty of mental stimulation to keep them happy.
If you leave them alone for a great deal of time, they will try to find a way to escape. These animals bond easily with their owners and they like to spend some time with them on a daily basis. Remember that before you buy/adopt one furry ball.
Provide your furry friend bunch of toys as Syrians like to be kept busy. The suitable toys are hamster wheel ( avoid this toy if you have long-haired Syrian) cardboard tubes and boxes, as well as plastic and ceramic houses and hideouts especially made for hamsters.
Just always special attention to the size, like house or wheel for Dwarf or Chinese hamster will not be suitable for your large Syrian hamster guy.
Although Syrian hamsters will not tolerate another hamster in its vicinity, your little furry friend will enjoy it in your company. These hamsters are pretty friendly, usually very obedient, and easy to tame.
That is why they are perfect pets and even for children. When I say children I do not mean very small children.
All hamsters are nocturnal animals.
Although there are some tips and advice you can find on the web which might help you to train your pet hamster to stay awake during one part of the day or to sleep a bit during the night, do not try this with Syrians.
These are 100% nocturnal animals which make them unsuitable pet for small kids are going to bed early.
Syrian hamsters have poor eyesight that is why they rely more on other senses. Having that in mind together with the fact that hamsters are prey animals you understand why loud noise, sudden movements, and touch can scare them and provoke them to bite.
But hamsters are not animals that will bite you for no reason. Do not take your furry ball if you have just touched the food because your pet will want to taste some so it might nibble you.
Syrian hamsters are very sensitive so be gentle with them, avoid grabbing, and instead of that pick him/her up slowly and tenderly with both hands so your pet can feel confident and safe.
Like all hamsters, Syrians also have the habit of holding the food in their cheeks pouches. This is possible due to the absence of salivary glands.
Hamsters will take the food, store it in their cheeks and eat it later. Typical hoarder conduct. Also pretty normal for any hamster.
But Syrian hamsters can hold an immense amount of food in their cheeks – almost half of their own size! Can you imagine that?!
Health Problems in Syrian ( Golden) Hamsters
Syrian hamsters are less prone to different health issues than other hamster breeds. That does not mean that they cannot be affected by some disease.
The most common health problem in Syrian hamsters is bacterial stomach infection called Wet tail. It is a severe case of diarrhea. The main symptom of this condition is a wet backside bottom.
The infected hamster would look tired, lack of energy, suffer from abdominal pain, lose some weight. This condition requires medical attention and usually is treated with antibiotics.
Syrian or Golden hamsters also can suffer from fur and ear mites. This can be prevented if you clear its bedding regularly. Hamsters can catch a cold, same as humans.
The signs are similar to those we have but do not neglect them, take your pet to the vet. In older age hamsters are prone to tumors and cancers. It is advisable to visit the vet and talk to him/her about treatment possibilities.
Syrian (Golden ) Hamster – Physical Appearance
Syrian hamsters have a strong and chunky body with a small tail, short legs but wide feet. They have large eyes but small ears covered with fur.
Golden hamsters are the largest. They are almost twice as big as other hamsters. Adults can grow 5-7 inches long and weigh about 5-7 Oz. Bear that in mind when buying/ adopting this type of hamster as you will need a big cage (minimum 24 x 12 inches and 12 inches tall)
It does not really matter which cage type you will decide for ( classic wire or plastic or glass tank )but it is crucial to be large enough so your furry ball has plenty of space to run and play.
Coat Types, Color, and Patterns in Syrian Hamsters
The usual fur color of the Syrian hamster is golden brown with a lighter colored belly. Dark markings can appear on their cheeks, all the way from the jaws to the ears.
There are 4 main types of Syrian hamster’s coat :
In the beginning, all Syrians were short-haired but later on breeders succeded to breed a hamster with longer hair so the new type was developed. You will hear the term ‘fancy’ hamster is widely USA across the USA particularly for short-haired hamsters.
Long-haired hamsters can have either very long hair or just a few tufts but in general, they are all long-haired hamsters, there is no such a thing as medium long-haired. If you want to produce a long-haired hamster you have to be sure that both parents are long-haired.
Responsible gene is recessive so you need to copies of it in order to produce hamster babies with long hair.
Males have long hair due to the amount of testosterone and also have very lovely ‘skirt’ around their bottom part but females have just a bit longer hairs then short-haired hamsters with few tufts around the waist area.
Unlike the gene responsible for the long-haired coat, the gene for the satin coat is dominant so therefor you need only one copy to make satin hamster babies.
Even it is not recommended to mate two satin hamsters as the result would be pups with thin and greasy fur. Satin hamsters have that glossy and shiny look thanks to the fact that some of their hair shafts are empty.
The gene responsible for producing Rex hamsters is recessive so you will need two copies of it to produce Rex hamster babies.
For this type the curly coat is characteristic. This type of Syrians is pretty new to the North American market, they are more common in Europe.
Even though Syrian hamsters are also called Golden and that most of them have that warm golden brown color, Syrians can also have other colors. The possible colors are beige ( the rarest one), white, cinnamon, cream, black, sable, and silver grey.
Your Syrian can have different coat patterns: Roan, Dominant Spot, Tortoiseshell Tortoiseshell and White, Piebald, and Banded.
Syrian are very similar to white hamsters but have some different colors around the head area. It is highly recommended not to breed two Roan hamsters. Roan pattern is caused by the WH gene(anopthalmic white or white belly gene)
If you mate two Roan hamsters pups can be born with a range of deformities ( no eyes, no teeth ) These pups are known as ‘eyeless whites’.
Some of the breeders do not mate Roan hamsters at all because of this risk. It is not always easy to spot WH gene and if you are not 100% sure that other hamster does not have that gene it is better not to breed them at all.
The Dominant Spot Syrian hamster first was discovered in the USA in the 1960s and spread quickly as it was easy to breed. This hamster coat type is very attractive and usually described as a white coat with colored spots.
The Tortoiseshell Syrian hamsters are animals with two colors on the coat of which one is usually yellow Interesting thing about this coat type is that only females can be The Tortoiseshell as the responsible gene has connected to the female gender.
Tortoiseshell and White -very similar to the Tortoiseshell but with white stripe and belly.
Piebald Syrian is also very common in local pet shops. This type is similar to the Dominant spot one but Piebald has mainly white spots over a different color. Spots can be very few or can be all over the body, just as in the Dominant stop type.
The Banded Syrian is the most common and easy to find in any pet shop. It has a straight band of white around the middle area of its body. The rest of the hamster can be any of the available colors.
Different Names of Syrian ( Golden ) Hamsters
if you live in the US you might find many different names of the Syrian hamsters. Maybe you have heard for ‘Fancy bear hamster’ (often used for a short-haired hamster) or you read on some US forum ‘Black bear hamster’ or ‘Teddy bear hamster ‘.
These are not some other hamster species but Syrians with different names. I also come across other names as well such as Panda or Angora hamster(the usual name for a long-haired hamster).
If you search pet stores you will find that they are very creative when it comes to the names for Syrian hamsters. Hardly any store will put ‘Syrian hamster’ on the label.
If you decided to get a hamster as a pet, why not adopt one Syrian. Just always keep in mind its size when you buy a cage, transport cage, wheel and other necessary things for your new furry friend. Also do not forget to keep him/her separated from other hamsters ( if you have any) . The Syrian hamster is ‘one-man show’ but you will love it, I am sure.