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A Very Different Hamster-The Roborovski

Author: Melissa Chamberlain

From Issue 32 Jan 2000

The following article is reprinted from the first BHA journal, April 1992.

"Cute", "pretty", "weird" and "fast" are just some of the adjectives used to describe the Roborovski hamster and these words describe this different hamster perfectly. I myself think that the Roborovski is one of the prettiest and most fascinating hamsters. Their style and relationship with other hamsters is unlike any other dwarf hamster.

The Roborovski, phodopus roborovskii, came into the UK in May 1990. Unlike other dwarf hamsters the Roborovski does not have the black dorsal stripe. They have slightly longer legs than other dwarf hamsters yet overall size when fully grown is 4-5cm rather than 7cm. Their top coat colour is dark chestnut/gold with a slate grey undercolour. The belly fur and side arches are white. They have white eyebrows and the ears are more noticeable than on other dwarf hamsters and they have black beady eyes. The roborovski is not a pet to pick up and stroke. Due to their slightly longer legs they can run very quickly (in fact they can shift!) and if they put their minds to it they can jump up to 2 feet in height. Believe me, trying to catch a Roborovski hamster on a beige carpet is murder!

It is best to keep Roborovski hamsters in a large glass or plastic tank covered with wire mesh. They are very active and so require lots of toys to play with - and they do play. They love to chew, jump, climb, hang upside down etc and they love to do this in groups. I must admit that watching a group of Roborovski hamsters can be more fun than watching TV! Mating can be a real headache - they are not as prolific as other dwarfs but once they start they continue for four litters with an average of six babies in each litter. The gestation period is 26-28 days and for the male to catch the female to mate with her is quite a feat because they are on the move the whole time. Once the female has been mated and produces her litter, every hamster helps out. The babies are not allowed to be left on their own, with one hamster baby-sitting while mum pops out. For the first 2 weeks development is slow but once out of the nest and eating solid food thebabies develop quickly and by now mum is pregnant again.

The Robororovski is a very sociable hamster but the odd fight does break out. Fights are often very quiet with disastrous results for the poor victim, although they have an amazing recovery rate with few after- effects.

For myself the Roborovski has to be the most fascinating and prettiest dwarf hamster in the UK. What a pity they are more choosy in their breeding habits.