How Many Types Of Hamsters Are There?

There are more hamster species than you might think 🐹

types of hamsters

Hamsters are super common pets, and we’re definitely not surprised. They’re entertaining to watch, relatively inexpensive to care for and can be pretty social with their human families. Not to mention, they’re super cute!

But just how many types of hamsters are there? And what should you know about a hamster before deciding to adopt one? As with any animal, there are lots of things to consider.

We spoke with Molly Flynn, a small animal rescue expert with Magic Happens Rabbit Rescue, for some insight on types of hamsters and what you should know before deciding to bring a hamster home.

How many different types of hamsters are there?

There are many! “What’s particularly fascinating about hamsters of different sizes is that they’re not just different breeds, they’re actually different species (in fact, there are over 20 species of hamsters worldwide). Of the 20, there are five types of hamsters that are domesticated,” Flynn told The Dodo.

According to Flynn, here are the five types of hamsters that are domesticated and popular with pet parents:

  • Syrian — The largest and most popular of all hamster breeds is also known to live the longest. Syrians can be long haired (also called "Teddy hamsters") or short haired, and their coat is often a golden color. Some of the short-haired Syrian colorations have specific names, like "panda" or "panda bear," and are traditionally black and white. Syrians are known to have a friendly personality and can be easily trained.
  • Roborovski dwarf — These hamsters are the smallest of all the species and also the most recently domesticated. The Roborovski hamster tends to take more work to socialize, in Flynn’s opinion, but every hamster’s different.
  • Campbell's Russian dwarf and Russian winter white dwarf — White ones are called winter white, and if darker colored, they’re generally called Russian dwarfs. These two species are similar enough that they can interbreed, so there’s a tendency to just refer to this group collectively as dwarfs. While both species can be timid at first, they have sweet personalities if given the time and attention to be socialized.
  • Chinese — This breed of hamsters has a distinct body shape (long and thin) and color (often striped!) compared to both dwarf and Roborovski hamsters, and they have the longest tail. While this breed can be very friendly, it’s also known to require more activity than other hamster breeds.

What to know before selecting a hamster to adopt

There are a few important things you should know about hamsters before deciding to adopt one.

  • Space — Although tiny, hamsters need space to roam. A proper sized habitat that’s over 800 square inches of floor space will require at least 2 by 4 feet of real estate in your home.
  • Hamsters are night owls — A very important detail, especially if you have small children at home. Hamsters are nocturnal, which means they're awake in the evening and early morning, and when they're sleeping, it's not a great idea to wake them up if you don't have to (an exception would be waking your hamster up to bring him to the vet).
  • Nibble nibble — A reminder that hamsters have teeth, and any animal who has teeth has the ability to bite when they feel scared, threatened or unhappy. If there are children in the home, it’s important for them to learn proper handling to prevent biting from happening (for example, not waking up the hamster when he’s sleeping and how to hold the hamster without squeezing him).
  • Exotic vet visits — Hamsters should see a vet when they're sick. Hamsters, gerbils, rabbits and guinea pigs fall into the exotic vet category in the United States, so you’ll need to find a veterinarian who specializes in exotics (not small animals). This is important to do before bringing a hamster home. Once you bring your hamster home, bring him to the vet so he can be established as a patient there before he gets sick.
  • One is the magic number — Because hamsters are known to be territorial, it’s best to only have one hamster at a time.

A hamster can make a great family pet. As always, it’s important to do your research and make sure you’re bringing home the right type of hamster to fit your family dynamic.