Syrian Hamster

Syrian Hamster

Golden Hamster, Fancy Hamster, Teddy bear Hamster and Standard Hamster, Golden hamster, Syrian hamster

4 languages
Mesocricetus auratus
Population size
Life Span
2-4 yrs
Top speed
6 km/h
100-125 g
13-18 cm

The golden hamster or Syrian hamster (Mesocricetus auratus ) is a rodent belonging to the hamster subfamily, Cricetinae. Their natural geographical range is limited to a small arid region of northern Syria and southern Turkey. Their numbers have been declining in the wild due to a loss of habitat from agriculture and deliberate elimination by humans. Thus, wild golden hamsters are now considered Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Show More

However, captive breeding programs are well-established, and captive-bred golden hamsters are often kept as small house pets. Syrian hamsters are larger than many of the dwarf hamsters kept as pocket pets (up to five times larger), and weigh about the same as a sugar glider, though the wild European hamster exceeds Syrian hamsters in size. They are also used as scientific research animals throughout the world.

Show Less


























Dominance hierarchy


Not a migrant


starts with


In 1930, Professor Aharoni captured a female Syrian hamster (otherwise called Golden or Teddy bear hamster) with her twelve pups in Aleppo (Syria). Since then, this species has become a highly popular household pet throughout western states. In fact, all Syrian hamsters that are now kept as pets, originate from this single captured female. Syrian hamster is a small rodent of the Cricetinae family. According to the Louisiana Veterinary Medical Association, this animal was introduced to North America in 1936 and became one of the first domesticated pet hamsters. The rodent is so called since individuals in the wild are usually colored in golden brown. Syrian hamster has cheek pouches that are used as food stores.



Biogeographical realms

The natural range of Syrian hamster is a quite small area in the Middle East, restricted to northern Syria and southern Turkey. Populations in the wild are most commonly found in fertile, agricultural and densely populated areas on Aleppinian plateau (Syria). Preferred habitats of this species are steppes, sand dunes, edges of deserts and other warm, dry areas.

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

These solitary animals normally don't tolerate individuals of their kind, although they socialize during the mating season. Syrian hamsters are highly territorial, scent marking their home ranges with glands, found on their flanks. When scent marking, they simply rub their flanks against a substrate, thus leaving the scent, which can convey various types of information, even allowing to identify individuals. This species is nocturnal, the daytime hours are usually spent in burrows and the activity period begins at dusk. During the nighttime hours, these rodents forage, taking multiple trips between food sources and their burrow to carry and store the food in their dwellings. Each hamster travels as much as 8 miles per one evening to find and cache food. During the winter months, Syrian hamsters hibernate or enter a state of torpor. Captive individuals usually hibernate when the temperature drops under 8 degrees Celsius.

Group name
Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

As an omnivore, Syrian hamster consumes a wide variety of food, including seeds, nuts as well as insects such as ants, flies, cockroaches and wasps.

Mating Habits

during long photoperiods
16 days
8-12 pups
19-21 days

Syrian hamsters are polygynous animals, which mean that one male mates with multiple females. Breeding in this species depends on photoperiods or day length: Syrian hamsters breed when photoperiods are long. During each breeding season, females are able to produce young approximately every month. Gestation period is 16 days, yielding 8 - 12 altricial young that are born with closed eyes. The babies are cared by their mother, whereas the father usually doesn't participate in rearing the young. After producing large litters, some females may reduce the litter size by cannibalism. Females in the wild usually do it during food shortages, while those in captivity display cannibalism as a response to anthropogenic disturbance. Young hamsters open their eyes at 12 - 14 days old and are weaned at 19 - 21 days of age. The age of sexual maturity is one month old.


Population threats

Population of this species in Syria is threatened by loss of its natural habitat due to development of human settlements. In February, when their burrow entrances begin to emerge, these animals are heavily trapped and poisoned throughout their range as serious pest species. During May-June, when fields are harvested, burnt and ploughed, sheep clean out remaining vegetation, leaving Syrian hamsters without cover, nutrition and winter food supply.

Population number

The IUCN Red List doesn’t provide the exact number of Syrian hamsters’ population. However, the total population may consist of fewer than 2,500 mature individuals. Currently, this species is classified as Vulnerable (VU) and its numbers are decreasing.

Ecological niche

These animals are key prey species for many local predators. Moreover, Syrian hamsters act as seed dispersers due to feeding upon various seeds and grains that are occasionally lost while storing. And finally, burrows of these rodents are used by other species, including toads.


Golden hamsters are popular as house pets due to their docile, inquisitive nature, cuteness, and small size. However, these animals have some special requirements that must be met for them to be healthy. Although some people think of them as a pet for young children, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals recommends hamsters as pets only for people over age 6 and the child should be supervised by an adult. Cages should be a suitable size, safe, comfortable, and interesting. If a hamster is constantly chewing and/or climbing on the bars of its cage then it needs more stimulation or a larger cage. The minimum recommended size for a hamster cage is 450 square inches (2,900 cm2), of continuous floor space (although the source of this recommendation is unknown). These can be made from a plastic storage bin or a large glass tank. The majority of hamster cages sold in pet stores do not meet these size requirements. Hamster Society Singapore (HHS) recommends a minimum of 4,000 square centimetres (620 sq in) for Syrian hamsters, while Tierärztliche Vereinigung für Tierschutz (TVT) recommends giving them as much space as you can and at minimum 100 cm × 50 cm × 50 cm (L × W × H) which is 5,000 cm2 (780 sq in).

Show More

A hamster wheel is a common type of environmental enrichment, and it is important that hamsters have a wheel in their cage. TVT recommends wheels should be at least 30 cm for Syrian hamsters, since smaller diameters lead to permanent spinal curvatures, especially in young animals. They also recommend a solid running surface because rungs or mesh can cause injury. A hamster should be able to run on its wheel without arching its back. A hamster that has to run with an arched back can have back pain and spine problems. A variety of toys, either shop-bought or home-made, can help to keep them entertained. Cardboard tubes and boxes are stimulating. Golden hamsters are energetic and need space to exercise.

Most hamsters in American and British pet stores are golden hamsters. Originally, golden hamsters occurred in just one color – the mixture of brown, black, and gold, but they have since developed a variety of color and pattern mutations, including cream, white, blonde, cinnamon, tortoiseshell, black, three different shades of gray, dominant spot, banded, and dilute.

Show Less

Fun Facts for Kids

  • Syrian hamsters are known to communicate aggression through teeth chattering.
  • The burrows of this animal are quite long, sometimes reaching 9 meters in length in agricultural lands.
  • These rodents can be accustomed and will respond to human voice.
  • Female hamsters are known as attentive and careful mothers. When the offspring are threatened, the female takes the babies in her cheek pouches, carrying them to a safe place.
  • Due to the poorly-developed vision, these rodents rely on their scent glands, which are located on their backs. These glands produce a characteristic odor. Syrian hamsters navigate their environment through leaving a trail of scent, which they do by rubbing their backs against various objects. This scent trail often helps them find their way when lost.
  • In order to survive throughout winter months, Syrian hamsters cache sufficient amount of food in advance. However, in course of time, a part of their cache undergoes fermentation and produces alcohol, so that it's not edible anymore. Nevertheless, these rodents are able to consume and metabolize it due to their considerably large livers. In fact, this unique ability of Syrian hamsters makes them suitable species for alcohol studies.


1. Syrian Hamster Wikipedia article -
2. Syrian Hamster on The IUCN Red List site -

More Fascinating Animals to Learn About