Turkish hamster

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Turkish hamster
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Rodentia
Superfamily: Muroidea
Family: Cricetidae
Subfamily: Cricetinae
Genus: Mesocricetus
Species: M. brandti
Binomial name
Mesocricetus brandti
(Nehring, 1898)

The Turkish hamster (Mesocricetus brandti), also referred to as Brandt’s hamster,[2][3] Azerbaijani hamster,[3] or avurtlak,[4] is a species of hamster native to Turkey,[3] Armenia and other surrounding nations.[2] The Turkish hamster, first catalogued in 1878,[2] is a fairly close relative of the Syrian or golden hamster,[3] though far less is known about it, and it is rarely kept as a pet (some sources state the hamster is not kept widely as a pet[3][4] while others simply say it cannot be kept as a pet due to its aggressive nature.[3]) The population of the Turkish hamster is said to be declining in the wild,[2] yet this hamster is often used in laboratory testing.[3] Turkish hamsters have lifespans of about two years[3] and are solitary,[3][5] nocturnal animals, which practice hibernation.[2][3] They are reported to be more aggressive[3] than other members of the family Cricetidae.[3] They are tan and dark, sandy brown in color.[4] Like all hamsters, the Turkish hamster has cheek pouches that allow it to carry large amounts of food at one time.[4]

Habitat and behavior[edit]

Hamsters are found in the wild throughout Europe and Asia[2][3] and are considered to be extremely adaptable,[2] living in scrublands, sand dunes, desert steppes and farmlands.[2][6] The land where the Turkish hamster lives is extremely dry and open, with fairly little vegetation aside from grasses.[2] Turkish hamsters usually live between 1,000 and 2,200 meters above sea level.[2] This hamster burrows in the ground for shelter,[2] and its burrows can be 20 inches to 6 feet below the ground surface.[2] These burrows are complex, consisting of several tunnels leading to separate cells for nesting, food, and waste.[2] Turkish hamster burrows are well-enough equipped for the hamsters to hibernate for four to 10 months (though sources do differ on this point),[2][3] sometimes sleeping for 30 days at a time,[5] though usually waking weekly for a day or two of activity.[2][3][5]


Turkish hamsters have fairly varied diets,[2] subsisting primarily on grains and herbs.[2] They do eat insects on occasion and store roots and leaves in their burrows for hibernation.[2] As Turkish hamsters often live near and among farmlands, they often eat human crops and are considered a pest.[2]

Population and endangerment[edit]

The Turkish hamster is a rare species,[2][4] but is the most widespread of the family Cricetidae. Its ability to live in a variety of environments means the Turkish hamster often lives on farmlands,[2] and is seen as a pest. Because the Turkish hamster is looked on as a nuisance by farmers in its area of habitation, their population is in rapid decline.[2] In 1996, the Turkish hamster was categorized as an animal with the lowest risk of extinction,[2] but due to cases of direct poisoning by farmers, it is now near threatened.[2] More data are needed to understand the population decline.[2]


Turkish hamsters are weaned from their mothers after three weeks of nursing.[5] After eight weeks of age, females are sexually mature,[5] but males do not mature until six months of age.[5] According to iucnredlist.org, Turkish hamsters have two to four litters of young per year, with four to 20 young per litter, averaging 10.[2] Petwebsite.com differs on this point, arguing the litter size is between one and 13 young, with an average of 6.[5] The gestation lasts from 14 to 15 days,[3][5] or 16–17 days.[2] The two main breeding seasons are spring and fall,[5] when daylength is about 15–17 hours per day.[5]

Relationship to other hamsters[edit]

All wild hamsters are solitary creatures and are generally aggressive. Turkish hamsters are most closely related to the Syrian or golden hamster.[3] The Turkish hamster is considered to be the most aggressive of the two, but this could be because the other species has been domesticated.[4][6]

Domestic pets[edit]

Turkish hamsters are not generally kept as pets because of their aggression,[3] but the Syrian (golden) hamsters[6] are extremely common in pet stores all across the world.[6] The domestication of the hamster was a fairly recent development;[6] in 1930, a family of Syrian hamsters was domesticated,[6] and this was the first instance of hamster domestication in history.[6] Since then, only five of the 18 species of hamster[6]—the Campbell's dwarf hamster, the Djungarian hamster, the Roborovski hamster, the golden hamster, and the Chinese hamster—have been domesticated and are sold in pet shops.[6] Turkish hamsters are often used in laboratory experiments.[3]


  1. ^ Kryštufek, B.; Yigit, N. & Amori, G. (2008). "Mesocricetus brandti". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2008. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 14 Jule 2009.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help) Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is of near threatened
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa "Mesocricetus brandti". IUCN RedList. Retrieved April 19, 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s "Turkish Hamster". Hamster-Care. Retrieved April 19, 2011. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Mesocricetus brandti - Turkish Hamster". TrekNature. Retrieved April 19, 2011. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Turkish Hamster". Pet Web Site. Retrieved April 19, 2011. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Types of Hamsters". About Breeding Knowledge. Retrieved April 19, 2011.