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Syrian Hamster or a Dwarf Hamster: What Type is Right For Me?

So, you have decided you want a pet hamster as part of your family. And that’s a great choice!

Hamsters are cute, cuddly and are bound to attract the “nawh” expression from both young and adults.

In addition, they are compatible with a busy life and require minimal maintenance.

The first thing to know is there are five types of hamsters used as pets:

5 Types of Hamsters

  • Syrian Hamster also known as the Teddy Bear Hamster – our recommended hamster for new hamster owners
  • Campbell’s Dwarf Hamsters
  • Russian Dwarf / Winter White Hamster
  • Roborovski Dwarf Hamster
  • Chinese Dwarf Hamsters

Besides being adorable pets and closely related biologically, these five types of hamsters share a keen sense of hearing, a very good nose, and unfortunately, poor eyesight.

However, there are also many differences both in terms of size, appearance, and expected life.

Below, we will explore the habits of our furry friends, show pictures, and present facts so you know how to take care of the hamster, that is just right for you.

Or, if you’re in a rush you can use our table below to quickly compare the different types of hamsters.​

TypeLifespanSizeSocialColors
Syrian2-3 years6-7 inches(15-17 cm)Keep aloneLarge variety
Campbell1.5-2 years4 inches(10 cm)Alone or same-sex pairingGrey Brown White Ears
Russian Dwarf1.5-2 years4 inches(10 cm)Alone or same-sex pairingGrey BrownWhite Belly
Roborovski3-3.5 years2 inches(5 cm)Alone or same-sex pairingVariety of colors
Chinese2-3 years3 inches(8 cm)Best kept aloneDark Brown on TopWhite Belly

READ MORE: Why Are Hamsters Good Pets?

Syrian Hamster (or Teddy Bear Hamster): The Most Common Hamster as a Pet

a syrian hamster

Meet the Teddy Bear Hamster also known as The Syrian Hamster.

Teddy Bear Hamsters are the preferred choice by many due to their fluffy appearance with a golden-brown coat and white belly.

Further, they have a lively personality and a curious nature which makes them fun to be around and interact with (just like a good ol’ bulldog).

For these reasons, the Syrian Hamster is our recommended choice for families getting their first hamster.

All About the Syrian Hamster

Expected Lifespan:

2 – 3 years old.

Size:

Syrian Hamsters usually grow to a size of 6-7 inches (15-17 cm) in length. At that size, they will have a weight of 5-7 ounces (140-200g).

Appearance: Teddy Bear Like

Through breeding, the Syrian Hamster comes in a variety of colors from including white, brown, and grey with a white belly. The color they usually come in, however, is their “trademark” golden-brown coat.

The jawbone and their ears will often be dark brown.

Behavior: Easy to Tame and Handle

a hamster playing with owner, Syrian hamster vs dwarf hamster

Syrian Hamsters are generally slow-paced, good-natured, calm, and easy to tame and handle. These factors combined make them relatively easy to train.

As with other animals, it is also true for the Teddy Bear Hamster that the earlier you train it the easier it is.

Social: Always Keep the Syrian Hamster Alone

Unlike other hamsters, Syrian Hamsters are highly territorial. While easy for humans to be around, they should always live in solitary confinement.

​So, the rule is one cage per hamster!

Otherwise, the hamster will get stressed, and fights with other hamsters will break out which may be fatal.

The territoriality of the Syrian Hamster has led to them having a reputation for being nippy. While they can be nippy they are so no more than other types of hamsters.

Daily Cycle: A Nocturnal Animal

The Syrian Hamster is nocturnal so don’t wake it during the day (unless it takes one of its few short sleeping breaks)! It is usually most active in the hours around 7 PM.

Habitat:

You should have a cage or aquarium with a ground floor of at least 15×12 inches (38×30 cm). In total, it should have an area of 2 cubic feet (55 liters). The space between bars in the cage should not be more than 2 inches (5 cm).

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As mentioned the Syrian Hamster should always live alone.

The room temperature should be between 69 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit (20-22 celsius).

Pregnancy:

The Syrian Hamster is pregnant for 16 days

Consumption:

The Syrian Hamster eats between 1/3 to 1/2 ounce of hamster food daily (10-15g) and will consume about 6 tablespoons (30ml) of water per day.

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Other Names:

Often referred to as a Golden Hamster (due to its coat), teddy bear hamster (due to the length of its hair), European Black Bear Hamster, Fancy Hamster, Standard Hamster.

There is also a hairless variety often referred to as the Alien Hamster. The Species name is Mesocricetus Auratus.

Dwarf Hamsters – 3 Different Hamsters Under 1 Name

As the name suggests, dwarf hamsters are smaller than Syrian Hamsters. Another key difference from the Syrian Hamster is that they are faster and jumpier.

Finally, they have the ability to live with other hamsters (of the same breed) in a cage.

The term dwarf hamster is often used as an umbrella term for 3 different types of Hamsters.

3 Types of Dwarf Hamsters

  • Campbell’s Dwarf Hamster
  • Russian Dwarf / Winter White Hamsters
  • Roborovski Dwarf Hamster

These three types share the same characteristics:

  • ast and agile making them a bit harder to handle than Syrian Hamsters
  • More social and can live both alone or in pairs (if introduced at a young age)

Campbell’s Dwarf Hamster: The Most Common Dwarf Hamster

a dwarf hamster

Campbell’s Dwarf Hamsters is the type of dwarf hamster most often found in pet stores.

It is the largest of the dwarf hamsters coming in at around 4 inches (10cm) with a weight of a little less than 2 ounces (50g). They have a relatively short lifespan of 1½ to 2 years.

Expected Lifespan:

1.5 – 2 years old.

Size:

It is the largest of the dwarf hamsters coming in at around 4 inches (10cm) with a weight of a little less than 2 ounces (50g).

Appearance: Grey Brown with White Ears

Campbell’s Dwarf Hamster is usually grey or brownish with a white belly. They also have a stripe down their spine.

The jawbone will be somewhat darker and their inner ears will be all white creating a nice contrast to the grey fur.

Finally, the Campbell Hamster is noted for having furry feet.

Behavior: Not Ideal for Small Children

The Campbell Dwarf is probably the most curious and outgoing of the dwarf hamsters. It is quick and agile and will spend a lot of time exercising on its hamster wheel or in a hamster ball.

Its exercise level and quickness make it less than ideal for small children who will have a hard dealing with a small and quick animal in their little hands.

Social: Can Live Both Alone and Together with Other Campbell Hamsters

dwarf hamster

The Campbell Dwarf Hamster functions well with other hamsters of their own species and can both be kept with their own sex.

If done so, the hamsters should be introduced to the same habitat at a young age and preferably before their 8-week birthday.

If you have two or more hamsters already living together you should not introduce any new ones to the group.

Like all other hamsters, it can become nippy but only if it is stressed or held against its will.

Daily Cycle: A Nocturnal Animal

Like most other hamsters, Campbell Hamster is nocturnal. It is usually most active in the hours around 6 PM.

Habitat:

The Campbell Dwarf Hamster needs a habitat that is at least 1 cubic foot (28 liters). For each dwarf hamster, you add, you should add another 0.5 cubic feet (14 liters). You should have one hamster wheel for each hamster in your habitat.

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  • EVERYTHING YOU NEED: the cage comes with lots of accessories including tunnels, exercise wheel, two houses, a penthouse, a water bottle and more.
  • HUGE SIZE: The hamster heaven metro cage lets you build a heavenly home for you hamster. The cage measures 80cm x 50 cm x 50cm with 9.5mm bar spacing.
  • LARGE BASE: The large lower area ensures your pet will have lost of frolicking and tunneling fun.
  • EASY TO MOVE: the cage comes with two large handles so you can move the cage to any location. The large door gives you easy access to your hamster.
  • The cage is proudly made in Belgium. Additional tubes are available to customize you hamster house.

The room temperature should be between 69 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit (20-22 celsius).

Pregnancy:

The Campbell Hamster is pregnant for 18-21 days.

Consumption:

The Campbell Dwarf Hamster eats between 1/3 to 1/2 ounce of food daily (10-15g) and will consume about 6 tablespoons (30ml) of water per day.

This is the same as the Syrian Hamster despite them being much smaller. This is due to a more active lifestyle and higher metabolism.

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  • Promotes Natural Foraging
  • Best Ever Taste - No Added Sugar
  • Added Vitamins For Health & Vitality
  • Suitable For All Breeds Including Dwarf Hamsters

Other Names:

Djungarian Hamster. The Species’ name is Phodopus campbelli.

READ MORE: Hamster or Guinea Pig: Which is the Right One for You?

Russian Dwarf / Winter White Hamsters: Shifting colours!

 

russian dwarf hamster

The Russian Dwarf or the Winter White Hamster depending on your preference is quite unique and rapidly increasing in popularity.

This is because of their unique ability to change colors. In Winter, this little Hamster will turn white (from dark grey) to protect itself on the snowy, Siberian steppes.

It is, however, rare for the Winter White Hamster to do so in captivity due to being exposed to a constant temperature and with a day cycle that is far less pronounced compared to Siberia.

Expected lifespan:

1.5 – 2 years old.

Size:

Together with Campbell Hamsters, they are the largest dwarf hamsters coming in at around 4 inches (10cm) with a weight of 1-2 ounces (30-55g).

Appearance: Grey Brown with White Belly

The Russian Dwarf is normally dark grey with a black dorsal stripe along its spine and with a white belly.

As mentioned it can change its appearance to white in the winter but don’t expect this unless you live further from the equator than most people do.

Behavior: Not ideal for Small Children

Due to its close affiliation with the Campbell Dwarf, the Russian Dwarf has many similarities to it. For example, they share a curious and outgoing nature and both are quick and agile.

As with the Campbell Dwarf, its exercise level and quickness make it less than ideal for small children who will have a hard dealing with its quickness.

Social: Can Live Alone or in Pairs

russian dwarf hamsters in group

The Russian Dwarf can live alone and together with other Russian Dwarfs of the same sex. If living together, the hamsters should be introduced to the same habitat at a young age and preferably before their 8-week birthday.

Like other hamsters, you should not introduce other hamsters to their habitat once their habits have formed.

Like all other hamsters, it can become nippy but only if it is stressed or held against its will.

Daily Cycle: A Nocturnal Animal

Like most other hamsters, Campbell Hamster is nocturnal. It is usually most active in the hours around 6 PM.

Habitat:

Same as the Campbell Dwarf Hamster. It needs a habitat that is at least 1 cubic foot (28 liters).

If you have two hamsters it should be at least 1.5 cubic feet (42 liters). You should have one hamster wheel for each hamster in your habitat.

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  • ✔ SILENT - Innovative dual ball-bearings create a whisper-silent spin. Two stainless steel ball-bearings are within the back plate of the wheel, ensuring the wheel glides smooth and silent. The bearings SPIN around the bolt as your pet runs, unlike annoying squeaky wheels on the market that have a center axle that creates friction and noise.
  • ✔ PACKAGE SET - Includes wheel, stand, and cage attachment washers for easy installation.
  • ✔ IDEAL FOR - Hamsters (Teddy Bear, smaller Syrians, larger Dwarfs / Robos, etc.), Gerbils, Mice, and other similar small animals (not suggested for chewers).
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The room temperature should be between 69 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit (20-22 celsius).

Pregnancy:

The White Russian Dwarf is pregnant for 18-21 days.

Consumption:

Same as The Campbell Dwarf Hamster. It eats between 1/3 to 1/2 ounces of hamster food daily (10-15g) and will consume about 6 tablespoons (30ml) of water per day.

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  • A Nutritionally Balanced, Tasty Mix For Hamsters
  • Promotes Natural Foraging
  • Best Ever Taste - No Added Sugar
  • Added Vitamins For Health & Vitality
  • Suitable For All Breeds Including Dwarf Hamsters

Other Names:

Winter White Dwarf Hamsters, Siberian Hamster. The Specy’s name is Phodopus Sungorus.

Roborovski Dwarf Hamster

The Robo Hamster (as it is often called) is the smallest hamster you can find. It is also an extremely active species which can make it very entertaining to have around.

Expected Lifespan:

3 – 3.5 years old.

Size: They Don’t Come Smaller

The tiniest hamster around comes in at 2 inches (5cm) with a weight of around 0.5 – 0.75 ounces (14-20g).

Appearance: Small and No Dorsal Stripe

Unlike other dwarf hamsters, the Roborovski Dwarf Hamster does not have a dorsal stripe along its spine. Compared to its size, it also has slightly longer legs than other dwarf hamsters.

The variety in color is also greater than for other hamsters. Its top will usually be brown (made it blend in, in the desert) with a white side and belly.

Behaviour: Extremely Active

It is extremely active and when you take it out of the cage, it is a good idea to do so in an area that it cannot get out of and with no hiding places.

Due to the activity, you should have a wheel (as you should with all hamsters).

Silent Runner 9" | Wheel + Cage Attachment | Hamsters, Gerbils, Mice
  • ✔ SAFE - The axle-free design eliminates a dangerous center bar, reducing the risk of fur/tail entanglement, pet wrap-a-round, curvature of the spine, and other injuries.
  • ✔ SILENT - Innovative dual ball-bearings create a whisper-silent spin. Two stainless steel ball-bearings are within the back plate of the wheel, ensuring the wheel glides smooth and silent. The bearings SPIN around the bolt as your pet runs, unlike annoying squeaky wheels on the market that have a center axle that creates friction and noise.
  • ✔ PACKAGE SET - Includes wheel, stand, and cage attachment washers for easy installation.
  • ✔ IDEAL FOR - Hamsters (Teddy Bear, smaller Syrians, larger Dwarfs / Robos, etc.), Gerbils, Mice, and other similar small animals (not suggested for chewers).
  • ✔ FAST, FREE SHIPPING in USA! Avg 3 days! ZooPro sells exotic animal food and accessories that are manufactured by Exotic Nutrition Pet Supply Company. Exotic Nutrition has been the industry leader of exotic animal products since 1998, specializing in sugar gliders, hedgehogs, prairie dogs, marmosets, degus, skunks, opossums, chinchillas, rats, hamsters, gerbils, squirrels, rabbits, guinea pigs, rodents, ferrets, chickens, bluebirds, wild birds, monkeys, marsupials, reptiles, amphibians & more

They are generally very gentle and it takes significantly more stress for the Robo hamster to start nipping compared to other hamsters.

Due to their small size and lifestyle, it is not advisable to let children under 8 handle the Roborovski Dwarf Hamster.

Social: Can Live Alone or in Pairs

hamster in pairs

Much like the Campbell Hamster, the Robo Hamster live alone and together with other Russian Dwarfs. If living together, the hamsters should be introduced to the same habitat at a young age and preferably before their 12-week birthday.

Like other hamsters, you should not introduce other hamsters to their habitat once their habits have formed.

Like all other hamsters, it can become nippy but only if it is stressed or held against its will.

Daily Cycle: A Nocturnal Animal

Like most other hamsters, the Robo Hamster is nocturnal. It is usually most active in the hours around 6 PM.

Habitat:

Same as other Dwarf Hamster. It needs a habitat that is at least 1 cubic foot (28 liters). If you have two hamsters it should be at least 1.5 cubic feet (42 liters). You should have one hamster wheel for each hamster in your habitat.

Sale
Savic Hamster Heaven Metro Cage
  • EVERYTHING YOU NEED: the cage comes with lots of accessories including tunnels, exercise wheel, two houses, a penthouse, a water bottle and more.
  • HUGE SIZE: The hamster heaven metro cage lets you build a heavenly home for you hamster. The cage measures 80cm x 50 cm x 50cm with 9.5mm bar spacing.
  • LARGE BASE: The large lower area ensures your pet will have lost of frolicking and tunneling fun.
  • EASY TO MOVE: the cage comes with two large handles so you can move the cage to any location. The large door gives you easy access to your hamster.
  • The cage is proudly made in Belgium. Additional tubes are available to customize you hamster house.

If you want to know more about a cage for a dwarf hamster you can check out the guide linked here.

The room temperature should be between 69 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit (20-22 Celsius).

Pregnancy:

The Roborovski Hamster is pregnant for 27-30 days.​

Consumption:

Same as other Dwarf Hamsters despite their size. It eats between 1/3 to 1/2 ounces of food daily (10-15g) and will consume about 6 tablespoons (30ml) of water per day.

Sale
Supreme Tiny Friends Farm Hazel Hamster Tasty Mix 2lbs
  • A Nutritionally Balanced, Tasty Mix For Hamsters
  • Promotes Natural Foraging
  • Best Ever Taste - No Added Sugar
  • Added Vitamins For Health & Vitality
  • Suitable For All Breeds Including Dwarf Hamsters

Other Names:

Robo Hamster, Desert Hamster. The Species name is Phodopus Roborovski.

Chinese Dwarf Hamster

 

The Chinese Dwarf Hamster is often mistakenly put “in the same bucket” as the other dwarf hamster, but it has noticeable differences.

The most notable difference in the Chinese Hamster is a clearly noticeable tail which makes it the most “mouse-like” of the hamsters.

Expected Lifespan:

2 – 3 years old.

Size: Smaller and larger than other dwarf hamsters!

The body of the Chinese Hamster is usually around 3 inches (8cm). However, including the tail, it can have a full length of 5 inches (13cm). It weighs between 1 – 1.5 ounces (28-42g).

Appearance: Small and No Dorsal Stripe

Like other dwarf hamsters, the Chinese Hamster has a dark brown color on the top and white on the belly. However, it also exits in purely white versions. They have a black dorsal line along their spine.

Unlike all other hamsters, the Chinese Hamster has a very noticeable tail. This has led to the hamster looking somewhat like a crossover between a chinchilla and a hamster.

Behavior: Extremely Active

Like the Robo Hamster, the Chinese Dwarf Hamster is extremely active and when you take it out of the cage, it is a good idea to do so in an area that it cannot get out of and with no hiding places.

Due to their small size and lifestyle, it is not advisable to let children under 8 handle the Chinese Dwarf Hamster.

Social: Usually Live Alone

The Chinese Hamster can live with other hamsters. However, unlike other dwarf hamsters, once two Chinese Hamsters get along they don’t necessarily do so forever.

As such unless you expect to spend a significant amount of time observing how your hamsters are doing, it is an easy solution to simply keep Chinese Hamsters apart.

Daily Cycle: A nocturnal animal

Like most other hamsters, the Robo Hamster is nocturnal.

Habitat:

Same as other Dwarf Hamster. It needs a habitat that is at least 1 cubic foot (28 liters). If you have two hamsters it should be at least 1.5 cubic feet (42 liters). You should have one hamster wheel for each hamster in your habitat.

Although you can have a cage for a dwarf hamster we recommend an aquarium so the hamster does not squeeze itself out of those bars.

The room temperature should be between 69 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit (20-22 Celsius).

Pregnancy:

The Chinese Dwarf Hamster is pregnant for 18-21 days.​

Consumption:

Same as other Dwarf Hamsters despite their size. It eats between 1/3 to 1/2 ounces of hamster food daily (10-15g) and will consume about 6 tablespoons (30ml) of water per day.

Other Names:

Chinese Striped Hamster, Striped Hamster. The Species name is Phodopus Griseus.

Resources:

  • “Pet Hamster Breed Information | PetSmart.” 2021. Petsmart.com. 2021. https://www.petsmart.com/learning-center/small-pet-care/so-you-want-a-hamster/A0010.html.
a cute hamster

​What type of hamster do you have? We’d love to hear them in the comments below!

Alina Hartley
Alina Hartley

Alina Hartley is a small-town girl with a ginormous love of bearded dragons. It all started with Winchester, a baby bearded who was abandoned at the shelter by his former owners because of a birth defect that caused one front leg to be shorter than the other. Alina originally went to the shelter looking for a guinea pig, but one look at Winchester and it was love at first sight. From that day on, Alina has dedicated her life to learning everything she can about bearded dragons. She loves helping new beardie parents start their incredible journey with these magnificent reptiles.
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