The Dwarf Russian Hamster

by Chis Henwood

The animals we tend to know as Dwarf Russian Hamster has many different names, some recognised by the scientific community, others not Among both of these are names such as; The small Desert Hamster, Dwarf Stripped Hamster, Furry Footed Hamster, Zungarian Hamster, Djungarian Hamster and Moi-sang-Or. The most commonly recognised names are however as follows:-

Campbell's or Original Dwarf Russian Hamster - Phodopus sungorus campbelli

Winter White Dwarf Russian Hamster - Phodopus sungorous sungoris

Of these two the Campbell’s is the sub species also referred to as the Eastern form, while the Winter White is the Western form. The third species is the Roborovski's Dwarf Russian Hamster - Phodopus roborovskii

These three have a combined range that extends from Siberia through Manchuria and Northern China. In this wide range they are mainly found on dry open steppes, often with sand dunes and on occasions forest steppes. This area lies approximately 55 degrees North to 45 degrees North, from sea level to 2,000 metres. Almost nothing is known about the habitat and behaviour of these animals in the wild. It is thought that they do not dig their burrows but they share the burrows of other rodents such as Pikas and gerbils. Little else is known as even in 1987 this area of Central Asia is rarely visited and sparsely inhabited, what is clear however is that they are in no danger from inroads into their habitat

The Campbell's Dwarf Russian Hamster first arrived in this country in 1964 when approximately four pairs were obtained by the Royal Holloway College from Professor Pogosianz of the Gamaleya Institute for Epidemiology and Microbiology in Moscow. I believe that the Zoological Society of London also obtained stock at this time but whether this was imported stock or from the stock at Holloway I am not sure, I do know that this stock failed to breed and new stock was obtained in 1969 I believe from East Berlin Zoo. It appears that these are the only importation of the species. But if you know different I would be please to hear from you.

The winter white variety arrived later; it appears that the original importation of this species was made in the early 1970's by Queen Mary College, London from the Leningrad Institute, but again I would be grateful to hear of any information on this.

The history of both on the pet market are vague but as far as I can tell the Campbell's was introduced from ZSL stock by Mr Percy Parslow, while the Winter whites arrived in 1978 introduced by myself with stock direct from the Queen Mary College Colony.

The Roborovski was kept in this country during 1963-1965 at the Zoological Society of London but they failed to breed successfully and died out quite quickly. Last year I attempted to import some of these animals from Holland but failed to find stock not showing signs of inbreeding problems.

NOTE:-Since this sheet was produced this species is now available. More details can be found about Dwarf Russian Hamsters in a book published by TFH entitled “A Step by Step Book about Dwarf Hamsters” by Chris Henwood - Peter Logsdail.