Welcome

Welcome to Dashing Hamsters. I created this website back in 2005, initially to have a place to share my love of hamsters. Throughout the years I have come across a lot of information that just often doesn't match up. Care standards and information are outdated, and these little creatures are misunderstood by many. So I decided to make this website as more than just a hamster lover's website, but a hamster website for modern owners who are looking for up to date advice on how to care for and understand their beloved hamsters. On DH you can learn about hamsters, see some cute pictures and read through a hamster filled blog.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

European Hamsters

     Besides the five species of hamsters that are kept as pets there are many wild species of hamsters that have yet to make it to the pet market and may never do so. The most notable has to be the European hamster (Cricetus cricetus). The European hamster is used in some labs and has been attempted to be kept as a pet with little or no success as they have been found to be quite ferocious. The European hamster, also known as the Black-bellied hamster, was once found across Europe, from Belgium to Russia. They thrive in areas with a continental climate and earth with clay or loess soil where it can burrow.  Today it is an endangered species due to large scale agricultural practices and urbanization. The European hamster has a life span of about eight years in lab conditions and so is known as the hamster with longest general life span. The European hamster is also unique because of it's size, it happens to be the largest hamster species at eight to eleven inches (20-28 cm) in length and weighing about 16-21 ounces (712-906g). The fur of this hamster is red brown on the back and shoulders, white on the sides and black on the belly and chest - where as most rodents have lighter colours on their underside.
     In the wild the European hamster lives on it's own except to mate and for the female to raise their litters much like syrians. Both genders have their own territories, though males have larger territories that often overlap with one or more territories belonging to females. A female' s territory tends to be smaller in range as they must stay close in order to raise their young. Their burrows can vary in depth from 30-60 cm in the summer and 2 metres in the winter. In the wild breeding is from April to August and females have about two litters each breeding season. In lab settings females can have a litter each month. The gestation period is is 16-20 days (20 days in the wild) and the litter size is approximately consists of 4-18 pups. The male does not stay to help raise the young, that is up the female. These hamsters prefer dry, sandy soil to build their burrows in and are often found in grassy steppes, cultivated fields and riverbanks (They are also noted at being better swimmers than most other species of hamsters). European hamsters can store about 180lbs(90kg) of food in their burrow. They come out at night -being nocturnal- and scavenge and search for food, they will eat grains, vegetables, insects and even frogs. From about mid-October to early March the burrows are sealed and the hamster hibernate.
     They were not used much in research for quite some time due to their aggression both with each other and with humans until the 1970s when a breeding colony was established. 50 wild-caught European hamsters were captured in the Hannover-Braunschweig area of Germany and served as the initial stock for the Hannover breeding colony. Hibernation behaviours stopped as early as the second generation of hamsters but any wild-caught hamsters still showed signs of readiness for hibernation despite no change in environment in the lab.

     They were difficult to breed due to the females aggression towards the male. Thus for mating, stainless steal boxes (150 x 100 x 50 cm) were developed. It had a divider with a trap gate through the centre. The dividing fence allowed the hamsters to be able to communicate with out being able to reach each other to bite. If the female shows extreme aggression then she is not ready to mate the the hamsters are removed. If interest is shown then the gate is lifted and the hamsters are allowed to mate.
     In labs with captive bred hamsters when caged in groups from weaning age the hamsters integrated well; a social order with the largest male as alpha.
     The lifespan of these hamsters in the wild is about 8 years. In lab settings the lifespan is only about five years and is believed to be shorter due to lack of hibernation.

The Berne Convention

     In 1979 a convention was held in Berne, Switzerland -later to be called the Berne Convention- in order to not only discuss but to act upon the endangered flora and fauna in Europe, which includes the European hamster. The European hamster is now endangered due to extensive agricultural practices and urbanization, in 1977 the European hamster was found in 10% of areas checked in Europe. They were seen as pests to farmers but are now protected. The Berne Convention states that the parties that agreed and signed must hand in reports every six years explaining how they are following the Berne Convention and also not doing anything that will harm any endangered species. Forty-three country's signed, thirty-two of them being European countries. This Convention gives the European hamster protection from collection, killing and harassment. However not all countries have followed along with this agreement. For example the German government has allowed intensive industrial and agricultural construction near the Dutch border, which is a very important breeding site for the European hamster. In 2001 the European Commision was asked for the second time why this was allowed. The German Representative responded by claiming that there were no European hamsters in the area.

Pictures, Videos and a Blog!

     A member on a local hamster forum that I frequent is very lucky to be neighbours with a family of European hamsters. She has seen the mother and her young, and even recently a male live around her apartment. She has a blog set up, a Youtube channel and even some very amazing pictures of these little wonders. We are even luckier that she also speaks English and has everything translated for us English-speaking people!

So here are some links to her stuff, enjoy!



TheFeldhamster (European Hamster Pictures)

4 comments:

  1. We also have European Hamsters in Poland, that's for sure. This year TVP emmited a documental serie of films about polish wild nature and one of the episodes was dedicated to those fascinating creatures. It was shown that they are not only nocturnal: at dusk, when some seeds were left in front of the burrow, one came out (it didn't look sleepy at all ;-)) and started stuffing. Than another came, out of the blue, and the first one run away :-) It is Adam Wajrak who made this programme, if you're interested.

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  2. Oh that's so neat! I'll have to try looking it up later, thank you!

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  3. :-) You're welcome. Although I did another mistake: I mean they are comming out at DOWN not at DUSK ;-)

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  4. Hi ... do you have euro hamsters available? I would love to own some ... please let me know.

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