There are many types of hamsters, all with different temperaments and needs. When picking a hamster, there is a lot to consider. You need to think about what kind of cage you have, how many hamsters you want to own and how often you want to clean out their cage. Also, there is gender to think about. Many people say that female hamsters are vicious and will bite you. However, I know from experience that this is wrong. My female Syrian, Garnet, has only ever bitten me once because my hands smelled of food and I forgot to wash my hands - so that was my fault! As long as you tame your hamster properly, they can be brilliant pets, and my hammy hasn't bitten me for ages! Also, I prefer the rounder body shape of a female hamster, but that's for you to decide! PLEASE NOTE: all dwarf hamsters need a specialised diet, so when buying food for them, make sure it's suitable for dwarf hamsters.
Syrian hamsters are the best choice of hamster for first-time hammy owners. Syrians have a docile nature and are generally easy to tame. They come in a whole range of colours, from blonde to white and grey to chocolate brown. They must never be kept in groups, as if a Syrian hamster meets another hamster, they will fight to the death. They are the largest breed of hamster, otherwise known as the 'Golden Hamster' (pictured left) as their natural colour is golden with white around the pouches and stomach, sometimes with dark brown patches surrounding the white. But after years of breeding, you can get Syrian hamsters in almost every colour you can think of. Although, it was only in the 1950s that hamsters were first sold as pets, after scientists found that they were easy to look after in their lab conditions. I love my Syrian and I would recommend them to anyone who is looking to buy a hamster.
Russian Dwarf Hamsters
Russian dwarf hamsters are about half the size of the average Syrian hamster. They are a hybrid hamster - a cross between the Campbell's dwarf hamster and the Winter White dwarf hamster. Many first-time hamster owners make the mistake of buying this cute little breed of hamster, as they are small and totally adorable! Russian dwarfs are generally more likely to bite you as they are skittish and were first tamed only about 30 years ago. It is much much harder to tame these little critters than the docile Syrian. Although, if you are an experienced hamster owner, and you know exactly how to tame this breed, then go ahead! Russian Dwarfs are best kept in pairs, as they live in small groups of two or three in the wild. Although, if you see any signs of fighting, you must separate them immediately. Russians usually come in grey, and are very sweet.
Winter White Dwarf Hamster
The Winter White Dwarf hamster is a very friendly breed and is known for not being nippy and a great companion. It is called a 'Winter White' because, in the wild, the hamster's coat will turn white to camouflage itself in the snow. However, it is quite rare for this to happen fully to hamsters in captivity. Nowadays they are very rare and hamsters advertised as this breed in pet shops are often hybrids and almost certainly not pure. The only place you can now get a true Winter White is in specialised breeders. They can be quite fast so are recommended for older children. They are happiest kept in pairs of the same sex but can live on their own.
Campbell's Russian Dwarf
The Campbell's Russian Dwarf hamster is very similar to the Winter White in terms of size, personality and needs. They are also very hard to find and are often confused with the Winter White and Russian Dwarf as they all look extremely similar. Although, the Campbell's hamster comes in many different colours. In fact, it is the breed with the largest range of colours in the world.
The Chinese Hamster, otherwise known as the 'Rat-tailed Hamster' is around the same size as a Russian Dwarf, but has a mouse-like tail. This breed of hamster is fairly new, and is skittish and generally hard to tame. But, when tamed, they are loving pets just like any other hamster can be. Not many people own Chinese Hamsters at the moment, and are a rare sight to show off to your friends. Although, I do not recommend this breed for first-time hamster owners for the same reasons as the Russian. They only come in either a light grey or a light brown, both with a black dorsal stripe. They can be kept in groups of 2 or 3 but don't mind being kept alone either. This breed needs a cage for Dwarf Hamsters only.
The smallest of the hamster world, the Roborovski Hamster, affectionately know as the 'Robo' is a tiny one quarter of the size of a Syrian hamster. They are the most frisky breed of hamster and need very special taming. I love Robos but would not recommend them for first time hamster owners, again. They are not a particularly nippy breed, but run extremely fast, so you have to be careful when they have their play time during the evening out of the cage! This breed needs a cage for Dwarf Hamsters only.