How did hamsters become domesticated

How did hamsters become domesticated

How did hamsters become domesticated. When I first got Spider-ham, I always found myself wanting to learn a little about hamster history. I mean, where do they come from? I couldn’t resist finding out! It all started in Aleppo…

How did hamsters become domesticated

From Wild Hamster To Lab Specimen

The very first hamster documented on paper was the Syrian hamster. It was found in Aleppo, Syria in the mid-1700s. People of the time didn’t take much notice of the wild hamster.

About 200 years later though, a scientist named Saul Alder commissioned several hamsters to be captured for his lab research. Upon capture, Alder quickly began to learn of the amazing characteristics of the species.

  • These wild hamsters were tamed within just 3 days.
  • And within a year of captivity, the three captive hamsters had spawned a colony of 150!

Alder was so delighted that he sent pups to other lab facilities as gifts. Suddenly, Syrian hamsters were finding homes around the world.

Fun Fact

  • Believe It Or Not – It is said that the lineage of our modern day Syrians can still be traced back to the original three captured from Aleppo!
How did hamsters become domesticated

The Pet Market

Around the 1950s, a businessman named Albert Marsh got a hold some of the Syrian hamsters. He quickly recognized this little docile and fertile rodent’s potential as a pet!

In a short matter of time, hamsters were the new pet craze. They were popping up in every pet shop and all the kids wanted their own.

And soon enough, fanciers were breeding their own pups, too. All kinds of coats and breedings were being discovered.

How did hamsters become domesticated

Dwarf Hamsters

Syrian hamsters aren’t the only pet hamsters. What about the rest? There are 24 types of hamsters total. Four dwarf hamster species: the Chinese, Roborovskii, Winter White, and Campbell in particular proved to be great pets, too.

They, too, are found around the world and used as lab animals, but gained popularity in the 60s – 70s as pets after the success of the Syrian hamster.

Locations Hamsters Are Found

  • Chinese dwarf: China
  • Roborovskii dwarf: China, Mongolia, Russia
  • Winter White dwarf: Siberia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia
  • Campbell dwarf: China, Siberia, Mongolia,

Britain, Germany, and the Netherlands were the first to receive them in their pet stores. And today, all five species are readily avaliable all over the world.

Hamsters rised from rodent pests to household pets due to their gentle and fertile nature. They are still one of children’s favorite pets and no doubt have more charming characteristics to offer their owners!

How Do Wild Hamsters Live?

At home, our darling, pet hamsters let us pamper them. But in nature, wild hamsters thrive in the roughest terrains, temperatures, and food shortages. Their innate adaptability and habits allow them to survive in nature!

Where do wild syrian hamsters live

Many of the pet hamsters are native to countries like Russia, China, and Syria. These locations vary widely in terrain, from grassy steppes, to clay soil, sandy desserts, and rocky grounds. The natural resources play a paramount role in what a hamster needs to do to survive in the wilds.


Temperatures in these locations can range from 60° F/16° C to extreme lows -5° F/ -25° C. To survive, hamsters build excellent burrows with their strong forefeet. Their burrows may be 3 ft./1 m deep on rocky terrains and up to 6 ft./183 cm for softer ground.

If you ever wondered why your hamster loves to dig and stay under a hideout, it’s their survival instinct at work.

Some Hamsters Survive in Desert Lands

wild hamsters in desert land


There are many predators such as weasels, owls, and foxes who can easily overpower a poor hamster. Hamsters have poor eye sight. They use their sense of smell and whiskers to quickly navigate miles away from their burrows. They are far sighted to watch for predators.

When chased down their burrows, hamsters would often have an escape route built in! And if snatched from behind, hamsters can still turn their body back and bite the predator. Their loose, pouches allow for this maneuver.


In winter times when the temperature drop is freezing, some hamsters will hibernate. Others may just sleep more than usual. If you find your hamster sleeping in more than usual in winter, don’t be too alarmed.

Nocturnal. Running. Hoarding.

Ever wonder why your hamster loves running on the wheel? Wild hamsters wake up at night to look for food. They will routinely run miles away from their burrows. When they do find food, they carry it with their cheek pouches to store at their burrows. Hamsters love hoarding food afterall.

Their diet consists of seeds, vegetation, and insects. Because food and water may be scarce, hamsters will eat their own feces to absorb more nutrients. Their urine is also condense because their bodies try to retain as much moisture as they can.

This may sound pretty gross. But if you do see your hamster reingesting their feces, know it’s a survival mechanism.


These facts about hamsters shows how amazing they can be in tough conditions. It also explains why hamsters love waking up at night, hoarding food, burrowing in bedding, eating feces, and other hamster habits Next time you hamster acts silly, you’ll get a better idea why!

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