The Syrian, or Golden
There are 26 species of hamster in the world, but the most well-known by far is the Syrian hamster. They were discovered in 1839 by British zoologist George Robert Waterhouse, who named the animal Mesocricetus auratus, meaning Golden Hair. This is why the Syrian Hamster is commonly known as the Golden Hamster.
All the Syrian hamsters in the pet trade today are said to be descended from a female wild hamster and her litter captured in Aleppo, Syria, in 1930. The animals were taken to a laboratory in Jerusalem for a behavioral study. The lab workers found them friendly and full of character, and very and easy to look after, so some were taken home. Those were probably the first hamsters ever kept as pets.
The Hamster has a fairly short history as a pet
The Jerusalem lab workers sent hamsters to laboratories around the world, and with their short lifespan and large litters, the domesticated hamster was gradually developed. The Syrian hamster was first brought to the United States in 1938, and by 1946 they were very popular pets here. Today only dogs, cats, fish and rabbits can claim to be more popular than hamsters.
And every one of these domesticated Syrian hamsters traces its lineage back to that Syrian 'Eve' of all hamsters, back in Aleppo circa 1930.
In 1949 the National Hamster Council was formed in the UK - the oldest Hamster institution in the world. The US lacks a nationwide organization equivalent to this, but there are a few regional bodies, such as California Hamster Association (CHA).