Russian Dwarf Hamster
Having a pet Hamster can be a rewarding and fun experience. Hamsters come in more varieties than you can imagine and have two distinct sizes. Dwarf Hamsters stop growing at only four inches long, hence the name. They are cute, furry little creatures that live primarily in a pack.
The Russian Dwarf Hamster is known by several different species. They are Winter White Hamsters, Campbell’s Russian Hamsters and Roborovski Hamsters.
Each one is a little different from the other.
The Campbell and Winter White can be very identical in shape and size. Hence people tend to confuse the two. The size and coloring of these two are very similar. They both can reach around 7 to 10 centimeters in length.
The Roborovski is the smallest one compared to the other two. Typical size of this one will be around 4 to 6 centimeters.
Out of all of them the Winter Whites are the rarest. Most pet stores will not have them.
What You Need to Know about Winter White Dwarf Hamster
Winter White Dwarf Hamsters (Phodopus Sungorus) resemble Campbell’s Dwarf Hamsters (Phodopus Campbelli) so closely that for many years people assumed they were just two different color varieties of the same species.
But they are two different species, although their needs and behaviors are remarkable similar to the Russian dwarf. Both species can even breed together, but the offspring are sterile.
Where do Winter White Hamsters Come From
Winter White Dwarf Hamsters come from the plains of Southern Siberia and Northern and Eastern Kazakhstan. Some references say they are also found in China and Mongolia.
They live in areas with stiff grasses and sand dunes, with snow cover in the winter. They are popularly known as Siberian Hamsters, but sometimes they are called Djungarian Hamsters which is a name that is shared with their close cousins, Campbell’s Dwarf Hamsters (Phodopus campbelli).
The name ‘phodopus’ comes from two Greek words: ‘phodos’ (burn, blister) and ‘pous’ (foot) and was chosen because the soles of these Hamsters’ feet look like they have blisters.
The name ‘sungorus’ comes from ‘Djungaria’ which is a valley between the Altai Mountains in Mongolia and Tienshan Mountains in China.
Characteristics of Winter White Hamster
The Winter White Hamsters are very small in size; ranging between 3-4 inches. An adult can weight about 1 ounce; the weight of a slice a bread. This type of Hamster have very poor eye sight and are sociable among other Hamsters and people.
Winter White Dwarf Hamsters, also called Siberian Hamsters, average a mere four inches (10 centimeters) in length from nose to tail tip. They weigh a barely perceptible 1 to 2 ounces (up to 56.7 grams) and can live up to 2 years, although some people have claimed their Hamsters made it to a staggering 3 years of age.
When compared to a Russian Dwarf Hamster, the Winter White is shorter and has a back that is far more rounded. However, if you happen to have a Russian Dwarf Hamster for comparison, determining what species of Dwarf Hamster you have can be difficult until the winter sets in.
Breeding Winter Whites Hamsters
The first, and most important thing we will say about this is: breeding Winter White Hamsters isn’t something we would recommend for casual pet owners. A ‘lonely’ Hamster needs more toys, a bigger play area, more play time with its owner, and not necessarily a partner Hamster.
If one would like to keep more than one Hamster, then the first choice should be to have two females or two males together, especially if they come from the same litter.
Breeding Hamsters is an important responsibility because the female needs extra care, and new homes have to be found for the babies.
The breeding of Winter Whites is a particularly sensitive issue because of the possibility of producing more hybrids from animals with unknown family trees. From a conservation standpoint, mating Winter Whites shouldn’t be taken lightly.
PLEASE mate only Winter Whites that come from clean lines, preferably with a documented family tree.
If a Hamster owner really wants to be around to experience an entire Hamster life cycle, it’s better to try it with the other species: Chinese Dwarfs, Roborowskis or Gold Hamsters.
The hybrid problem exists only with Winter White and Campbell offspring. The other Hamsters will choose to mate only with their own kind.
Winter White Hamster Pregnancy
When a Hamster becomes pregnant the mother will show signs of weight and aggressiveness. If you have other Hamsters in the same cage, you should separate the mother; she needs time to nest. The pregnancy can last fro 18-21 days. After birth do not touch anything, including the babies.
By handling the babies your scent will be left and the mother will kill them. Wait between 3-4 weeks before holding the babies. At this time you can return mother and babies back to their original cage.
Maximum Litter Size of Winter White Hamster
The average number of offspring usually 4 to 8. The maximum number of litters produced by one pair in their lifetime was 13.
Winter White Hamster Life Span
The average life span is between 2-3 years.
Winter White Hamster Color
Unlike other species of Hamsters, they come in only three colors, dark grey-brown (agouti or normal), light grey (sapphire), or white (pearl variants of agouti and sapphire). All three types have a dark grey-black stripe running down the back.
The name ‘Winter White’ comes from their ability to change their coat in the winter, allowing them to hide more effectively in snowy environments. Those that are born mostly white stay that way all year, although they tend to become even more white in the winter.
Unlike other species like the Gold Hamster and the Chinese Dwarf Hamster, in the wild, Winter Whites live in colonies. One reason they have evolved into social animals is because they can huddle during cold winters and conserve energy that would have otherwise been used to keep themselves warm.
When come spring, Hamsters with more body fat and muscle are more ready to mate and have offspring.
Winter White Hamster Food
Dwarf Hamsters consume as much food as their bigger cousins, maybe because of their very fast metabolism.
Hamsters feed mostly at night, but they do wake up sporadically in the daytime to get a snack. It’s a good idea to leave some food for them in the daytime too.
In the wild Winter White Dwarf Hamsters are herbivores/insectivores (plant and insect eaters). They forage for food, store them in their cheek pouches, then keep them in stockpiles close to where they sleep (and away from their toilets).
It is this behavior that earned them their name: Hamster comes from the German word Hamstern, meaning to hoard.
It’s not a good idea to give a Hamster food that is prepared for other animals, and especially not food for bigger mammals (cats and dogs). Commercially prepared food has the right balance of nutrients (carbohydrates and proteins) that is best for Hamsters.
They mostly contain corn, maize, alfalfa, dried peas, sunflower seeds and peanuts. Just as important, they do not have too much fats and contain no added sugar, artifical colors or flavor additives.
Supplement their diet with treats – fruits, vegetables, birdseed, worms or insects – but their core diet should be packaged Hamster food.
Mixed bird seed given to small caged birds can be eaten by Dwarf Hamsters. They also eat rice (raw or cooked) and puffed rice cereal (with no sugar, salt, chocolate, or other flavorings). If you have these in the house, then it’s okay to let them try these as special treats.
- Sunflower seeds are high in fat and low in calcium.
- Peanuts are high in protein, but too much may lead to coat changes and digestive problems.
The ideal protein content of a Hamster diet is about 19%. Below 16% is considered a low-protein diet. If your packaged food has low protein, supplement with worms or insects about twice to three times a week. Hamsters specially like dried mealworms.
Pregnant females and babies (from two weeks onward) really like boiled eggwhite. You can give lactating females small pieces of bread soaked in milk about twice a week.
Winter White Hamster Behavior
Winter Whites, like Russian Dwarf Hamsters, prefer to live in the company of another Winter White. They can also live in small family units, but the cage needs to be very large (such as a 50 gallon aquarium) so that the Hamsters have enough room to be comfortable. But keeping more than one male in a colony is not recommended. They will fight for access to the females.
Winter Whites are nocturnal, so do not expect a lot of action during the day. It is not good to disturb a sleeping Hamster of any species because it will get scared and may bite. Winter Whites still retain the wild instincts to run around for miles each night searching for food to store for the winter.
This means pet Winter Whites are escape artists. Pick cages with wire mesh or solid walls so that the Hamsters cannot escape.
Do Winter White Hamsters Get Along with Other Hamster?
Some resources say that a Winter White alone does very well, but does even better when kept with others. Some breeders say that a male-female pair of Winter Whites does better than a colony.
A pair of females is easier to keep than a pair of males (who can be aggressive towards each other as they grow older). Keeping a male-female pair is a big responsibility, because babies are likely to be produced.
If a decision is made to keep more than one Winter White, be sure to introduce them early, give them a big habitat, watch out for fights and be prepared to separate them if they are not compatible as they grow older.
There are no guarrantees, and there are many factors to consider:
They do have different personalities. Some are more inclined to live with others, while some are more territorial.
Age of introduction
Better chance of success if they are introduced at an earlier age, but even littermates can end up fighting.
Size of the habitat
A bigger living/playing/sleeping area provides spaces for each one to hide and take time off from the other/s.
If they are not willing to share, there will be a need for more food dishes, water bottles or exercise wheels. They will definitely need a bigger home.
Remember that a ‘bored’ Hamster is not necessarily looking for a companion. Give it toys, activities, and a lot of attention instead. Keeping two or more Hamsters together can be stressful and dangerous if the Hamsters are not compatible. In which case, it is better for the Hamsters to be alone.
Winter White Hamster and Other Pets
In the wild, Hamsters are prey. They are shy animals that are easily scared by other, bigger pets – especially natural hunters like cats, dogs, predator birds, snakes, and big lizards. The Hamster will be stressed by the presence of these other animals in the home. It is best to keep the Hamster isolated from other pets.
Although Winter Whites have been successfully housed with Russian Dwarf Hamsters of the opposite sex, never house a Winter White with any other rodent or even any other species of Hamster. They will fight – sometimes to the death.