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Syrian hamster facts for kids

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Syrian hamster
Golden hamster front 1.jpg
A female pet hamster
Conservation status
Scientific classification

Cricetus auratus

The Syrian hamster (Mesocricetus auratus), also known as the golden hamster, is a breed of hamster. Their natural geographical range is in an arid region of northern Syria and southern Turkey. They are also known as golden hamsters because the first ones kept as pets were gold coloured. Now there are over 100 different colours because of selective breeding.

Their numbers have been declining in the wild due to a loss of habitat from agriculture and deliberate elimination by humans. Thus, wild golden hamsters are now considered endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Syrian hamsters are kept as pets in many countries including the United States, Canada most countries in Europe and many more.


Golden hamsters originate from Syria and were first described by scientists in the 1797 second edition of The Natural History of Aleppo. The Syrian hamster was then recognized as a distinct species in 1839 by British zoologist George Robert Waterhouse, who named it Cricetus auratus or the "golden hamster".

Descendants of the captive hamsters were shipped to Britain in 1931, where they came under the care of the Wellcome Bureau of Scientific Research. These bred and two more pairs were given to the Zoological Society of London in 1932. The descendants of these were passed on to private breeders in 1937. A separate stock of hamsters was exported from Syria to the United States in 1971, but mitochondrial DNA studies have established that all domestic golden hamsters are descended from one female – likely the one captured in 1930 in Syria.


A Syrian hamster's anatomy is similar to other rodents. It is very close to other hamsters.



Syrian hamsters have 16 teeth. There are 4 incisors and 12 molars. There is a space between the incisors and the molars. That space is called the diastema.

Spine and tail

The spine, like in other animals, is made up of several bones called vertebrae. A Syrian hamster has 43-44 vertebrae. Thirteen to fourteen of them are in the tail.


All hamsters have short legs. Because of this, their legs have small bones which can get broken more easily. Obese hamsters are more likely to have problems with their legs.

Sense organs

Syrian hamsters have, like most animals, five senses. They can see, hear, touch, taste and smell. They have bad eyesight. They use smell to find food. Some people believe they are colorblind and don't see well in daylight. This is because they are nocturnal and can see blue-green colours but not red colours. Other evidence suggests they can see very well. Their tongue senses taste in the same way as humans do, salty at the tip of the tongue, bitter at the back and sweet at the sides.


Not much is known about Syrian hamster breeding in the wild. They have been bred well in captivity (i.e. in labs, by breeders and when kept as pets).

Breed variations

Often long-haired hamsters are referred to by their nickname "teddy bear". They are identical to short-haired Syrians except for the hair length and can be found in any color, pattern, or other coat type available in the species. Male long-haired hamsters usually have longer fur than the female, culminating in a "skirt" of longer fur around their backsides. Long-haired females have a much shorter coat although it is still significantly longer than that of a short-haired female.

Images for kids

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Mesocricetus auratus para niños

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