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Different Breeds of Hamsters

i Hamster image by anna karwowska from Fotolia.com

Because of their small size and adorable appearance, hamsters can be hard to resist. If you're looking to add one of these little munchkins to your family, you'll find there are several different breeds to choose from. While they're all hamsters, not every hamster is created equal. The five most popular breeds kept as pets all have distinct personalities and requirements.

Syrian Hamsters

Big and plump, the Syrian or golden hamster is the largest of all hamster breeds kept as pets. He can grow up to 6 or 7 inches in length. Syrians should be kept by themselves because they don't play well with others, even other Syrian hamsters. Males will be a little more relaxed than the females of the breed. When you bring him home, give him about a week to get used to your company. Always wash your hands before holding him and keep his cage sparkling, because Syrians have sensitive respiratory symptoms that could cause them to get sick. You may find the long-haired variety labeled as teddy bear hamsters, but they're just fluffy Syrians. Make sure your furry friend has a little hidey-hole in his cage, so he can feel secure.

Campbell's Hamsters

Growing to only 4 or 5 inches, Campbell's hamsters are considered a dwarf breed. They come in a wide variety of colors. Unlike a Syrian, he's a social breed and should be kept in a pair with a same-sex buddy, or in a small group with others he grew up with. He's naturally nocturnal, but he'll adjust to be awake when he gets the most attention. He's very protective of his nest, so invest in a ladle or coffee mug to get him out of his cage. This will help reinforce your bond with this affectionate little guy.

Robo Hamsters

Roborovski, or Robo, hamsters are another dwarf breed, but even smaller than Campbell's. This little guy will only be about 1.5 to 2 inches long and tan and white in color. These tiny furries are social and should be kept in same-sex pairs or with a group they grew up with. While tiny, these little guys can move. This speedy little breed may not be the best choice for young kids or first time hamster owners. He's easily startled, so keep his cage in a quiet room. Put a few wheels in his cage for exercise.

Winter White Hamsters

Winter white hamsters are only 3 to 4 inches long, making them another dwarf breed. They come in two colors: brown or gray. The winter white hamster gets his name because if he's exposed to the short days and long nights of winter time, his coat will turn white until the spring. Like other dwarf breeds, he's social and will enjoy having the company of a same-sex pal. Keep his cage in a quiet spot since he'll get startled easier than most other hamsters. Make sure he's got a wheel for exercise.

Chinese Hamsters

Chinese hamsters' thin bodies and little tails put them in a special class of hamsters because they're rat- or mouse-like. He only grows to 4 to 5 inches long and like the Syrian, should be kept by himself. Chinese hamsters are very shy and it will take some patience for yours to get used to you. Once he does, he'll be a little easier to handle than other breeds. Unlike most breeds who will fidget when held, he'll sit quietly in your hand, and may even wrap his little tail around your finger. His fur will be dark with a stripe down his back, and a little white tummy.