hamster

/ham"steuhr/, n.
any of several short-tailed, stout-bodied, burrowing rodents, as Cricetus cricetus, of Europe and Asia, having large cheek pouches.
[1600-10; < G; cf. OHG hamastro, OS hamstra weevil]

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Any of various stout Old World rodents (in the family Muridae) with a short tail, soft fur, and long cheek pouches for carrying food.

Hamsters are nocturnal and generally live in burrows; they feed on fruits, grain, and vegetables, though some species also eat insects and other small animals. The common hamster of Europe and western Asia is 8–12 in. (20–30 cm) long, without the 1–2.5-in. (3–6-cm) tail; its coat is brown above and black below, with white patches along each side. The golden hamster of Syria is a popular pet and is widely used as a laboratory animal; it is golden brown with white underparts and 6–8 in. (15–20 cm) long, including the tail.

Golden hamster (Mesocricetus auratus).

John Markham

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rodent
 any of 18 Eurasian species of rodents possessing internal cheek pouches. The golden hamster (Mesocricetus auratus) of Syria is commonly kept as a pet. Hamsters are stout-bodied, with tails much shorter than body length and have small, furry ears, short, stocky legs, and wide feet. Their thick, long fur ranges from grayish to reddish brown, depending upon the species; underparts are white to shades of gray and black. The Dzhungarian hamster (Phodopus sungorus) and the striped dwarf hamster (Cricetulus barabensis) have a dark stripe down the middle of the back. Dwarf desert hamsters (genus Phodopus) are smallest, with bodies 5 to 10 cm (about 2 to 4 inches) long; the largest is the common hamster (Cricetus cricetus), measuring up to 34 cm long, not including a short tail of up to 6 cm.

      Hamsters are generally solitary and primarily nocturnal, although they are sometimes active in the early morning or late evening. They do not climb but are excellent diggers, constructing burrows (burrowing) with one or more entrances and with galleries that are connected to chambers for nesting, food storage, and other activities. They also appropriate tunnels made by other mammals; the striped hairy-footed hamster (P. sungorus), for instance, uses paths and burrows of the pika. Their diet consists mostly of grains but also includes fruit, roots, green parts of plants, invertebrates, and other small animals. Hamsters carry food in their spacious cheek pouches to cache in the burrow. None hibernates during winter, but some experience periods of torpor lasting from a few days to several weeks. Breeding season is from April to October, with two to five litters of 1 to 13 young being born after a gestation period of 13 to 22 days.

      Hamsters' northern range extends from central Europe through Siberia, Mongolia, and northern China to Korea. The southern portion of their range stretches from Syria to Pakistan. Throughout dry, open country they inhabit desert borders, vegetated sand dunes, shrubby and rocky foothills and plateaus, river valleys, and mountain steppes; some live among cultivated crops. Geographic distribution varies greatly between species. The common hamster, for example, is found from central Europe to western Siberia and northwestern China, but the golden hamster has been found only near a small town in northwestern Syria.

Classification and evolution
      The 7 genera and 18 species of hamsters form the subfamily Cricetinae of the “true” mouse and rat family Muridae within the order Rodentia (rodent). Their evolutionary history is recorded by 15 extinct fossil genera and extends back 11.2 million to 16.4 million years to the Middle Miocene Epoch in Europe and North Africa; in Asia it extends 6 million to 11 million years. Four of the 7 living genera include extinct species. One extinct hamster of Cricetus, for example, lived in North Africa during the Middle Miocene, but the only extant member of that genus is the common hamster of Eurasia.

Subfamily Cricetinae (hamsters)
 18 species in 7 genera.
      Genus Cricetulus (dwarf, or ratlike, hamsters)
 6 Eurasian species.

      Genus Mesocricetus (golden hamsters)
 4 European and Middle Eastern species.

      Genus Phodopus (dwarf desert hamsters)
 3 Asian species.

      Genus Allocricetulus (Mongolian hamsters)
 2 Asian species.

      Genus Cansumys (Gansu hamster)
 1 species from northeastern China (Kansu province), known only from 3 specimens collected during the 20th century.

      Genus Cricetus (black-bellied hamster)
 1 Eurasian species.

      Genus Tscherskia (greater long-tailed hamster)
 1 eastern Asian species.

Guy Musser

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Hamster — Temporal range: Middle Miocene–Recent Golden Hamster Scientific classification Kingdom …   Wikipedia

  • Hamster — Roborowski Zwerghamster (Phodopus roborovskii) Systematik Überordnung: Euarchontoglires …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • hamster — [ amstɛr ] n. m. • 1765; mot all. ♦ Petit mammifère fouisseur (rongeurs), à pattes et queue courtes, au pelage roux et à ventre blanc, qui creuse des terriers compliqués où il amasse des provisions. Hamster d Amérique. Un couple de hamsters.… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • hamster — HÁMSTER, hamsteri, s.m. Mamifer din familia rozătoarelor, de talia unui şobolan, cu blana de diferite culori; hârciog (Cricetus ericetus). – Din germ. Hamster, engl. hamster. Trimis de gall, 13.09.2007. Sursa: DEX 98  HÁMSTER s. v. hârciog.… …   Dicționar Român

  • Hamster — Sm std. (11. Jh.), mhd. hamster, ahd. hamustro, as. hamustra f., hamustro Entlehnung. Entlehnt aus sloven. chomestor oder einer anderen westslavischen Sprache, (vgl. russ. kslav. choměstorŭ Hamster , die Teile in russ. chomják Hamster und lit.… …   Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen sprache

  • hamster — c.1600, from Ger. Hamster, from M.H.G. hamastra hamster, probably from O.C.S. chomestoru hamster (the animal is native to S.E. Europe), perhaps a blend of Rus. chomiak and Lith. staras, both meaning hamster. The older English name for it was… …   Etymology dictionary

  • *hamster — ● hamster nom masculin (allemand Hamster) Rongeur (cricétidé) des régions tempérées d Eurasie, au corps trapu, aux pattes et à la queue courtes, entreposant dans ses abajoues des aliments qu il stocke ensuite dans de profonds terriers. (Le… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Hamster — Hamster: Der Name des Nagetieres ist in ahd. Zeit aus dem Slawischen entlehnt worden. Ahd. hamustro, das in den Glossen mlat. curculio »Kornwurm; Feldmaus« wiedergibt, geht auf aslaw. choměstorb »Hamster« zurück, beachte russ. chomjak »Hamster« …   Das Herkunftswörterbuch

  • Hamster — Ham ster ( st[ e]r), n. [G. hamster.] (Zo[ o]l.) A small European rodent ({Cricetus frumentarius}). It is remarkable for having a pouch on each side of the jaw, under the skin, and for its migrations. Hamsters are commonly kept as a pets. [1913… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • hamster — s. m. [Zoologia] Espécie de arganaz, criceto.   ‣ Etimologia: palavra alemã Hamster …   Dicionário da Língua Portuguesa

  • hámster — (Del al. Hamster). m. Roedor de pequeño tamaño, semejante al ratón, que se emplea como animal de laboratorio y de compañía …   Diccionario de la lengua española

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