Friendly Hamsters: 5 Most Friendly Hamster Breeds

Friendly Hamster Breeds

Friendly Hamster Breeds

As is the case with any pet, when adopting or purchasing a hamster it is helpful to do as much research as you can into the breed that you are considering, especially if you’re looking for specific behavioral traits like friendliness.

What hamster breeds are the friendliest? There are five different hamster species kept as pets – these are the five friendliest hamsters, as well as the only ones kept in domesticated environments. These consist of the Syrian, the Winter White, the Campbell’s dwarf, the Roborovskii (or Robo), and the Chinese hamster. 

While all five of these hamsters are kept as pets, some of them are typically friendlier and more receptive to handling than others. In this post, we will list the five species of hamsters with the friendliest at the top. 

Some people considering a hamster would like a low-maintenance pet that can entertain them with their silly cage antics and can also be content left alone. Others considering a hamster would like a pet with which they can interact and play, develop a bond, and possibly even train. Those falling into the latter category will want to know which hamsters are most likely to be friendliest. 

#1 Friendliest Hamster: Syrian Hamster

Almost all agree that the friendliest and most receptive hamster to human handling is the Syrian, or Golden hamster (M. auratus). These hamsters may also be called “Teddy Bear hamsters” in pet stores if they are of the long-haired variety.

Syrian hamsters originated in northern Syria and southern Turkey. They were originally recognized as a distinct species in the 1830s and were first captured for scientific purposes in 1930. The descendants of these hamsters were shipped to private breeders a year later, and they have been bred as pets since this time. While wild Syrian hamster numbers are dwindling in recent years due to habitat loss, they are well-established in the pet world among breeders.

Syrian hamsters are the largest of pet hamsters, reaching 6-7 inches in length and 5-7.5 ounces in weight. The name used to describe them in their local Arabic can literally be translated as “mister saddlebags” due to the expandable cheek pouches they use to store food when outside of their burrow.

Pet Syrian hamsters come in a range of colors – including cream, white, blonde, cinnamon, tortoiseshell, black, different shades of gray, and multiple distinct markings and patterns. They come in both short-haired and long-haired varieties, with the males of the latter variety having the longest hair. They have a very short tail, typical of most hamsters. 

Syrian hamsters, like most rodents, are nocturnal and sleep much of the day. Some may acclimate to their human’s schedule, but only to some degree. They are not as active as most dwarf hamsters are gentler and calmer.

While some will argue that hamsters overall are not the best pets for children, the larger size and relatively docile temperament of the Syrian make it an ideal first hamster for children. 

#2 Friendliest Hamster: Winter White Hamster

The next four hamsters are considered dwarf hamsters, with the Winter White (P. sungorus) considered to be the friendliest among these smallest of pets. Winter White hamsters originated in Siberia. 

The Winter White will reach 3-4 inches in length and only 1-2 ounces in weight at maturity. It comes in a gray-brown color, usually with a dorsal stripe from its neck to its (short) tail.

It is so-named because, in the wild, the fur will fade to a white in the Winter so as to stay camouflaged in the snow. In captivity, with our indoor climate control and artificial lighting, the Winter White is more likely to keep its gray-brown coloring year-round.

Winter White hamsters are friendly and receptive to handling. They are typically docile and quiet animals and may be social – the three hamster species in the Phodopus genus can all (sometimes) be kept in same-sex pairs or groupings successfully if introduced very young.

Almost all hamsters are solitary and territorial, both in the wild and in captivity, so Winter Whites are unique in that they can be tolerant of one another when compared to other species. 

#3 Friendliest Hamster: Campbell’s Dwarf Hamster

The Campbell’s Dwarf (P. campbelli) is another dwarf species native to Central and East Asia. They are 2-4 inches long and 1-2 ounces in weight at maturity. Like the Winter White, the fur is gray-brown in color with a dorsal stripe. Unlike the Winter White, they keep this coloring throughout the year, both in the wild and in captivity. They are particularly round-bodied and have characteristic small ears. 

The Campbell’s Dwarf, again like the Winter White, may be tolerant of same-sex groupings and pairs if introduced very young. As with all “social” hamsters, this is a gamble, and they must be watched closely for signs of aggression.

To be safe, it is a good idea to keep them solitary if you are not sure. These hamsters are generally receptive to handling so long as they are handled regularly and from the beginning.

They are, however, one of the quickest pet hamsters and can easily escape your hands and become lost. It is important that extra care be taken when holding a Campbell’s Dwarf outside of the cage to ensure the safety of the hamster.

#4 Friendliest Hamster: Roborovskii Hamster

Small Hamster Breeds

Roborovskii hamsters (P. roborovskii) may be more commonly known as Robo hamsters and are the smallest of the three pet hamster species in the Phodopus genus. They reach about two inches in length and one ounce in weight at maturity and come in a sandy color with white faces and eyebrows. These hamsters originated in the deserts of Central Asia, hence the coloring.

While there are certainly exceptions to the rule, Robo hamsters are typically the most skittish of the three hamsters in the Phodopus genus and are a great option for someone who would like a hamster to observe (as opposed to interacting with).

They can sometimes learn to be comfortable with handling if introduced slowly and from a young age but are timider in general. Robo hamsters can sometimes be tolerant of same-sex pairings and groupings, but again, care should be taken to watch for any aggressive behavior that may arise. 

#5 Friendliest Hamster: Chinese Hamster

Chinese Hamsters (C. griseus) are rarely kept as pets in the United States and are, in fact, considered “exotic animals” in some states like California and New Jersey, requiring special permits to be kept.

They reach 3-5 inches in length and 1-2 ounces in weight at maturity and are most commonly found in a brown and tan coloring with a black dorsal stripe. Unique to the other hamsters in this list, the Chinese hamster will be easily distinguished by its longer, skinnier tail. 

Chinese hamsters can be quite skittish and nippy as youngsters, but with consistent and patient handling will become tame and easy to manage. Once tamed, they are gentle and calm and are known for their very sweet habit of clinging to their handler’s fingers with all four paws. Though they are harder to find in the United States, they are more commonly kept as pets in other countries. 

How Many Hamster Breeds Exist?

Technically, there are no hamster breeds in existence. This is because all of the hamsters that we keep as pets are actually of different species from one another. A “breed” is a type of domestic animal bred over time to maintain specific traits.

Considering dogs, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, and Poodles are all different breeds of dogs. What these breeds have in common, however, is that they are all classified as the same species.

Hamsters are different in that there are no separate breeds within each species. Each of the five hamsters listed in this article is of their own species, originating from their wild ancestors and not designed by man (though selective breeding can and has resulted in new color variations not seen in the wild).

There are over 20 species of hamsters in the wild, all with different traits in regards to both appearance and behavior. All hamsters are of the order rodentia, and of the family cricetidae. Of our five pet hamster species, three are in the same genus (Phodopus), while the other two are in separate genuses (Mesocricetus and Cricetulus).

Any Pet Hamster Can Be A Friendly Hamster

Many hamsters are adopted or purchased from large chain pet stores. These pet stores have limited availability of hamster species they are selling, and you often will only have a couple of choices at any given store.

Almost all stores will sell Syrian hamsters, and this is an ideal first hamster for someone who would like to handle and interact with their pet. Almost all stores will also have a selection of dwarf hamsters, though you may not be able to choose whether it is a Winter White, a Campbell’s dwarf, or a Robo.

Whichever hamster you end up adopting, know that with patience and consistent, gentle handling, you are likely to end up with a tame hamster that you can at least hold and pet.

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