Syrian or Golden Hamster
This is by far the commonest of the species found in the pet trade.
There are many color variations of the Golden hamster, including golden, cream, white, black, cinnamon, yellow, silver grey, dark grey, honey, and sable. Some specialist breeders concentrate on rarer color varieties such as lilac, rust, smoke pearl, lilac pearl, silver black, melanistic yellow, and dove. There's lots to chose from!
Domestic Syrians come in a variety of coat colors and patterns
In any of the above types you can get additional variations of coat pattern, such as white spots or a white band around the middle. Some colors can have a tortoiseshell variation, or tortoiseshell and white, which is a tri-coloured animal. In common with cats, all tortoiseshells are female.
You can also get short haired, long haired (it is only the males that can get the very long coats, the females stay fluffy), satin coated, Rex coated (a slightly curly coat with the whiskers curling forward instead of sticking straight out), or various combinations of these.
Dwarf hamsters are now popular pets, but they only appeared in pet shops in the 1970s. They are native to the steppes and deserts of Mongolia, Siberia, parts of northern China, and northeast Kazakhstan.
There are three different species of true Dwarf hamster - the Roborovski is the smallest of the lot
The four pet species referred to as Dwarf hamsters are the Russian Campbell, the Russian Winter White, the Roborovski and the Chinese (although the latter is not a true Dwarf hamster).
The Russian Campbell acquired that name in 1905. It was the first of the Dwarf hamster species to enter the Pet market, in the mid-1970’s, (just a few years before the Russian Winter White). The species was first described way back in 1773. This hamster is only about 4 inches long and can be found in different colours, some of which are only available from specialist breeders.
Russian Winter White
This hamster is a little smaller than the Campbell, being about 3 and a half inches long. It only comes in five colors currently - Normal, sapphire, normal pearl, sapphire pearl and mottled.
The Roborovski is the smallest of the pet hamster breeds, and was only discovered and described in the wild by scientists in 1903. They were bred as pets in Sweden in the early 1990s, and soon became available in the general pet trade in Europe and the US. This is the smallest of the hamsters, at about 2 inches long, and is also the fastest. For this reason it is not recommended as a pet for young children. Roborovskis come in various colors, including normal, husky (white faced), brown locus and pied.
The Chinese hamster was also recorded for science in 1773, and specimens were brought to UK Laboratories in 1919. It only reached the world's pet shops in the early 1980s, and remains relatively uncommon. Although classed as a Dwarf, these Rat-like hamsters can grow to 5 inches long, with a slightly longer tail than the other pet hamsters. There are only 2 colors currently available - normal and the dominant spot (a coloured hamster with white spots).