Syrian hamster variations

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A female golden hamster

The golden hamster or Syrian hamster kept as a pet or research animal typically has a golden colored coat, but occasional variations due to normal genetic diversity or mutation have been recognised and selected by breeders, so that there are now a wide variety of coat colors and types available.


Colours can be described in three ways: as "self", "agouti" or "combinations". Self colours will be a consistent coat colour with the same colour topcoat and undercoat. Agouti hamsters have a different, lighter undercoat and will have markings around the eyes. Combinations are produced when two (or more) self or agouti colours are present.


Beige is a rare colour, because it is produced by breeding together a hamster with the rust and dark grey gene, which are, themselves, rare.[1] The beige variety is often smaller than the rest of the litter and may have a kinked tail.

Variation Genotype
Beige bbdgdg


A male black hamster

The black colour was imported to the UK in 1991.[2] Before then, Sables were referred to as black, but are lighter than the actual black bear hamsters. Black bear hamsters have a consistent jet black coat, with some white on the paws and belly. The black gene is recessive, which is why the variation was not discovered until recently. The discovery of the black hamster has allowed scientists and breeders to produce many new variations, including Dove, when bred with cinnamon hamsters, and chocolate, when combined with rust.

Variation Genotype
Black aa


A female cream hamster

The cream variety ranges from sandy to orange-cream. This variation (a naturally occurring mutation)[3] was first discovered in the United Kingdom in 1951[4] and is a "self" colour. There are further sub-types of this variation, determined by the colour of their eyes, which can be black, red or ruby. Black eyed creams typically have dark grey ears, although this is not necessarily the case, whereas red eyed creams have flesh coloured ears.

Variation Genotype
Black eyed cream ee
Red eyed cream eepp
Ruby eyed cream eeruru


A male sable hamster

When it was discovered in 1975, this variation was originally named black. Since the discovery of the melanistic black variety, it has been renamed to sable. The topcoat is black and the undercoat is ivory cream, with a black belly, black eyes and dark-grey ears. The fur around the eyes is also ivory cream.

Variation Genotype
Sable UUee


A female dark eared white hamster

There are three different types of white hamster: dark and flesh eared and black eyed. All three are completely white. The dark eared variety first appeared in 1952 and has red eyes which darken as the animal ages. Black eyed whites have flesh coloured ears. Flesh eared whites, often described as albinos, were first mentioned in the National Hamster Council Journal in 1956. As the name suggests, albinos have flesh ears and pink eyes.[5]

Variation Genotype
Black eyed white eeDsds or eeWhwh
Dark eared white cdcd
Flesh eared white (Albino) cdcdpp

The albino hamster is often born with no eyes, but can survive well in spite of this. Hamsters don't rely on their eyesight, and since they live below ground during the day and are up and around at twilight and near dawn, they may be starting to evolve away from eyesight in the way that some cave dwelling creatures have. The hamster relies heavily on scent and the detection of vibrations, as well as sound to some extent. The empty eyesockets are unappealing to potential pet owners, but they make excellent pets all the same. They will recognize the voice and scent of their owner if they're handled regularly and gently, and are just as easily tamed as their sighted counterparts. I have only seen an albino with eyes a few times out of the hundreds I've dealt with (As part of my work, I rescued unwanted hamsters from the pet industry). This mutation usually appears as a result of inbreeding.[6]

Eyes and ears[edit]

The colour of a hamsters eyes and ears is usually determined by the coat colour. Some coat colours have several different eye and ear colour combinations, however, such as the cream variety which can have black, red or ruby eyes.



A female banded cream hamster

First reported in 1957,[7] a banded hamster will have a band of white around the middle. The width of the band will differ, from a small strip to most of the body. Most colours can exist banded.


The first Piebald was reported in 1945.[8] A Piebald is a coloured hamster which has white spots on its body. The spots can be few and small or can cover the hamster. Piebalds can also have coloured bellies. This pattern is hard to breed and is believed to be extinct by some.[9]

Dominant Spot[edit]

The dominant spot variety was first discovered in America, in 1964[10] and quickly became more popular than the Piebald variety due to it being easy to breed. The variety is described by UK and US standards as "a white animal with coloured spots".

Coat types[edit]


The first hamsters discovered were shorthairs. Shorthair hamsters simply have short hair.


A male teddy bear hamster

The longhair coat type is a hamster with hair which is up to 4 inches (10 cm).[11] They are often referred to as "teddy bears" due to their bear-like appearance.

Male 'teddy bears' usually have much longer hair than female 'teddy bears'. Hair is typically longer from the hips down, forming a 'skirt'.


  1. ^ Beige
  2. ^ Black
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ Hamsters: Black Eyed Cream Syrian Hamster
  5. ^ Hamsterlopedia by Chris and Peter Logsdail, ISBN 1-86054-246-8, page 137
  6. ^ Stacey OBrien, field notes.
  7. ^ Hamsterlopedia by Chris and Peter Logsdail, ISBN 1-86054-246-8, page 138
  8. ^ Hamsterlopedia by Chris and Peter Logsdail, ISBN 1-86054-246-8, page 138
  9. ^ Hamsters: Syrian Hamster Patterns
  10. ^ Hamsters: Dominant Spot Syrian Hamster
  11. ^ Hamsterlopedia by Chris and Peter Logsdail, ISBN 1-86054-246-8, page 139

To avoid confusion, all genomes listed are those stated in Hamsterlopedia by Chris and Peter Logsdail, ISBN 1-86054-246-8, unless referenced otherwise. Some sources may use different sources.