The Origin of the Golden Hamster


In 1930 Mr. I. Aharoni, a professor of the Department of zoology, Hebrew university, Jerusalem, decided to explore and animal Burrell near Syria.  At the end of the 8 foot tunnel he came upon a mother with her 12 young.  These were the first golden hamsters to be found alive in nearly a century.  The professor took his find back to the HebrewUniversity.  Some of the young died during the journey and soon after their arrival.  Finally only one male and two females survived.  Four months later, one of the two females gave birth to a litter, the first to be born in captivity.


In 1931, 2 pairs of descendents of these hamsters were sent to England where they were found to be valuable laboratory animals.  In 1938, golden hamsters arrive for the first time in the United States at the public health service in Carville, Louisiana.  It is estimated that in this country alone in 1950, the level off point of their popularity, they numbered 100,000.  All of them descended from the family of hamsters that the professor found in Syria.

Geographical Habitat of the Golden Hamster

The native habitat of hamsters varies in geographical distribution and habits. The animal that has been abundant in Europe for many years is the common giant hamster. The species can grow from eight to 12 inches long. The species is also fierce, untamable, and unsatisfactory for laboratory use. Another hamster that is unsatisfactory for laboratory use is the dwarf hamster which is only 2 1/2 to 4 inches long. The giant hamster is most abundantly found in Germany. The greatest distribution of the giant hamster is found around the RhineRiver. The word hamster comes from the German word ‘hamstern’ which means to store or to hoard. You will begin to realize where the animal gets its name because there have been reports of 60 to 100 pounds of grain have been found in a burrow of a giant hamster. Because of this hoarding nature, the hamster is considered a pest in Europe.

The hamster which is today in such widespread use in the United States is the Mesocricetus auratus, which is the Syrian golden hamster. In their native state Golden hamsters inhabit waste and pasturelands and also grain fields. They are capable of burrowing from 1 1/2 to 8 feet to nest. Up to this time the Golden hamster has been located only in Asia Minor. In the wild state, when food and water became scarce while the mother is still nursing her litter, she may become highly carnivorous, preying on the nest of birds, mice, and other small animals to supply food and drink that she and her young need. Generally, however, grains are the staple diet.

Why Are Hamsters So Popular

So what is a golden hamster and why is it so popular? The golden hamster is a small rodent, measuring, in a good specimen, about six to 7 inches and weighing, when fully adult, three to four half ounces. It resembles a miniature bear; it has fur that is dense and sleek, of a deep, rich gold color and any undercoat which ranges from medium to dark gray, according to the shade of the top coat. The belly fur, although originally light gray, is becoming very much whiter in present day hamsters, while the head, which was once narrow and skinny, is growing shorter through selective breeding. The cheeks carry bands that are flashes; and a dark broadband sometimes runs completely unbroken across the chest. The tale is short and stubby and is approximately one third to 1/2" long. The large ears set wide apart and healthy eyes are bright and bold. The eyes express a lively curiosity which seems to be the characteristic of this fascinating animal On each side of its face, extending from the cheap back to the shoulder, the hamster is employed with an unbelievably elastic pouch that is not connected with the digestive organs. The skin is so extremely loose and pliable that the animal can be lifted or held by a fold of the skin. The front feet are somewhat like hands. The back legs and feet have three functions: they carry the hamster on all fours, support his way in a sitting position, and enable him to move backwards. The third function is useful in the native habitat for the hamster needs to retreat into his burrow.


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