Author: Joanna Roach
From Issue 22 Jul 1997
Reproduced by permission of the Heart of England Hamster Club
editor's note: the Heart of England Hamster Club (HoEHC) is no longer active.
Most of us are familiar with the story - you've bought your hamster, you've fed it, watered it and generally pampered it until it is in fine fettle and then you decide to show it. Do I just take it to a show and place it on the judge's table? Do I have to join a hamster club? How do I find out where shows are? Do I show it in its cage? What are the rules? The questions seem never ending.....
Firstly, while it is not imperative that you join a club, it is difficult to find out where the shows are without being told by the organisations running those shows - who are usually the hamster clubs! It therefore follows that the vast majority of exhibitors join a club before their first show. Once you have joined a hamster club, (the Heart of England, naturally!), you will be informed of that club's shows as a matter of course, usually published in, or with, their newsletter.
Unfortunately, when you receive your first show schedule and entry form, the assumption tends to be that you already know what to do! When you are new to the fancy, how do you know which class your hamster should be entered into? Having worked that out, usually with the help of the Show Secretary or another member, you must then decide which of the duplicate classes are appropriate.
In the Heart of England shows the duplicate classes are Novice (exhibitor must not have achieved first place in any class of more than four animals on more than one previous occasion), Breeders (animal must have been bred by the exhibitor), Junior (exhibitor must be under 16 years old) and Grand Challenge (all hamsters entered into this class automatically). In some clubs, though not the Heart of England, the exhibitor has to pay to enter their hamster in the duplicate classes and some have additional duplicate classes. Because money is involved, exhibitors are not always given sufficient help in their decision making process - "maybe they can't afford it" is a common excuse.
You must present your animal in the appropriate show pen standard for that variety or species - Eh??! Could somebody explain please? Well, there are two types of show pen; one for Syrians and one for Dwarfs, both of which are illustrated at the end of this article. If you do not own one, then you can hire one from the organisers at a nominal fee (25p at Heart of England shows). In truly extenuating circumstances, you may be allowed to show in some other container, but only at the discretion of the Show Manager and/or Show Secretary on the day. It should be noted that persistent lack of the correct show pen by an exhibitor will not be tolerated. Occasional exhibitors may choose to hire rather than buy, because new show pens cost £8-£10 each (i.e. 32-40 times the hire charge). If you use a show pen only two or three times a year, then it will still take over 15 years to cover your investment!
When showing Syrians, short haired animals must be shown on sawdust, while long haired animals must be shown on cat litter. A small piece of vegetable must also be placed in with the animal. Only one Syrian hamster is allowed per show pen. You are liable to lose points if you show your hamster in a shabby show pen, so it is important that you regularly paint it with a non-toxic, lead-free gloss paint. Remember, any paint that you put on your show pen will be gnawed at by its occupants - if you use the wrong paint you could end up with a very sick, or even dead, hamster!
Dwarf hamsters are always shown on sawdust and, just like the Syrian, you must place a small piece of vegetable in with your animal. Unlike the Syrian, you will be allowed to show up to two hamsters in the same show pen. Again you may lose points for a shabby show pen, but the dwarf pens are not painted and tend to keep their appearance rather better than the Syrian show pen.
Some prospective exhibitors, I'm sure, are put off by the apparent lack of information for first time exhibitors and decide to leave it until the next show, then the next, then the next and so on. Others 'bite the bullet', make an educated guess and find, to their relief, that its not really that difficult once you have been pointed in the right direction.
At this juncture I would like to address Show Secretaries, Judges and seasoned exhibitors to ask them to offer help to newer members, rather than wait to be asked. If a hamster has been entered in the wrong class, don't just re-classify it without explanation, let the exhibitor know why. Remember, we were all new members once! I know I would have benefited from a few pointers to showing when I first started out all those years ago.
To anyone thinking about exhibiting I would say - don't be afraid to ask other members for help, you will be surprised how easy it all is when you know how! If you are really not sure, why not enter your hamster as a pet to start with. You are allowed to show pets in their own cages, it will allow you to meet other members and you can decide if showing your hamster is what you really want to do.
Dwarf Show Pen
Syrian Show Pen