What is a Siberian hamster

The Siberian hamster can refer to either the Winter White Russian dwarf hamster (Phodopus sungorus) or the Campbell's dwarf hamster (Phodopus campbelli). Both hamsters are around 3 to 4 inches long although the Campbell's is slightly larger than the Winter White. Both Siberian hamsters belong to the same genus and are highly similar in appearance. In fact, they have been mistakenly classified as the same hamster for many years. Even today, there are some scientists who think that the Campbell's dwarf hamster is a subspecies of the Winter White. Interestingly, they are also the only two species of hamsters that can be interbred to produce hybrids.

Siberian Dwarf Hamster - Winter WhiteCredit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Primek_bed.JPG

Now that we're clear that the Siberian hamster refers to two different types of hamsters, let's move on to their similarities and differences.

Similarities between the Siberian hamsters

  • They are both dwarf hamsters
  • Both the Winter White and Campbell's dwarf hamsters originate in Asia, namely in Russia and China
  • In their normal or plain colors, both are brown-grey with a black or dark grey stripe down their backs.
  • Both are commonly kept as pets in various countries around the world. In pet shops, they are often incorrectly kept together, resulting in hybrids. They are also often confused for each other.
  • According to many pet owners and breeders, both hamsters and their hybrids are prone to diabetes. Hence, it is a good idea not to feed them a hamster mix that contains too many sweet fruits or give them anything sweet.
  • Both Siberian hamsters can be fed the same types of food (either hamster mix, or certain fruits and vegetables)
  • Their lifespans are both around 1 to 3 years

Differences between the Siberian hamsters

  • The Campbell's dwarf hamster has large ears while that of the Winter White dwarf hamster are smaller
  • The Campbell's dwarf hamster has a pointy nose but the Winter White has a rounder nose.
  • The Campbell's dwarf hamster has a creamy line between its top and white belly but the Winter White has a darker coloring between the top and the under belly.
  • The Campbell's dwarf hamster is slightly larger than the Winter White dwarf hamster although both are still pretty small compared to a regular Syrian hamster.
  • Winter Whites change colors in winter from brown-grey to white (hence their names) but not Campbell's dwarf hamsters
  • Campbell's come in many more colors and patterns than the Winter white dwarf hamster.
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Need more information on the Siberian hamster? This book is a comprehensive guide to the dwarf hamsters including the two Siberian hamsters and other dwarf hamsters. Great for pet owners or just people who want to learn more about these animals.

Siberian dwarf hamster colors

The Campbell's dwarf hamster has many more patterns and colors than the Winter White dwarf hamster although their hybrids may produce a combination. Here is a table of the different colors or patterns you can find.

Siberian Hamster Colors

What can a Siberian dwarf hamster eat?

Siberian hamsters are omnivorous and in the wild, they feed on fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and sometimes small insects. As pets, a Siberian hamster, whether Winter White or Campbell's should be given a steady diet of hamster food and the occassional fresh food.

A good hamster food mix for Siberian hamsters

Oxbow Animal Health Healthy Handfuls Hamster and Gerbil Fortified Small Animal Feeds, 1-Pound
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(price as of Oct 7, 2015)
Siberian hamsters that are kept as pets should be given a good hamster food that contains all the nutrients they require to thrive. However, many food mixes on the market contain too many ingredients that may not be healthy for a Siberian hamster. Examples of such ingredients are fruits that are high in sugar and food that contain artificial coloring to look attractive (to the buyer).

Oxbow's hamster food is healthy and does not contain any high-sugar fruit or artificial flavor and coloring. The exclusion of high-sugar food is especially important for Siberian hamsters as they are prone to diabetes.

Additionally, Oxbow's hamster food is actually a food pellet rather than a food mix. This solves the problem of the hamster picking out their favorite food from a food mix and ignoring the rest, thereby not getting all the necessary nutrients for them to thrive.

Other food for Siberian hamsters

Fresh fruit and vegetables should only be given to Siberian hamsters in small amounts as most of these contain too much water. In the wild, Siberian hamsters live in or around deserts and do not regularly get food with a high water content. Hence, giving a Siberian hamster too much fresh fruit and vegetables may cause it to develop diarrhoea.

Given that Siberian hamsters are prone to diabetes, they should not be fed fruit or vegetables that are high in sugar.

Siberian hamsters should also not be given human snack foods such as chocolates, cookies or potato chips as they are high in sugar or salt and sometimes even toxic to the hamsters.

Sticky food should be avoided because Siberian hamsters store store food in their cheek pouches. Anything sticky may get stuck in the hamster's cheek pouch and create problems.

Insects such as mealworms and crickets from pet shops are also a good source of protein for a Siberian hamster. However, these should be given in small amounts at a time seeing that hamsters have a tendency store food in cheek pouches and hoard them. You don't want to find half-eaten mealworms strewn all over the cage, do you?

Other similar hamsters

Roborovski dwarf hamster - The robo dwarf hamster is the third of the three types of dwarf hamsters. Robo dwarf hamsters do not have a stripe down their backs like the siberian hamsters and are slightly smaller.

Chinese hamster - Although not technically a dwarf hamster, they are often mistaken as one and referred to as the Chinese dwarf hamster. The chinese hamster looks more mouse-like and has a long tail.