Campbell’s Russian Dwarf Hamster

Campbell’s Russian Dwarf Hamster (Phodopus campbelli), is a species of dwarf hamster discovered by W.C. Campbell in 1902 in Tuva. This hamster is also native to the steppes and semi-arid regions of Central Asia, the Altay Mountains, and the provinces of Heilungkiang and Hebei in China. This hamster is also sometimes called Djungarian or Dzungarian, or simply Russian, and is sometimes mistaken for the closely related Winter White Russian Dwarf Hamster.

Campbell’s hamsters are born with one of four coat types: normal, satin, wavy and rex. The normal coat is short and flat. The satin coat is shiny and gives the appearance of being wet or greasy and the gene enhances the fur’s color and gives it lift. The wavy coat is slightly long and wavy; the whiskers are curly when young and, although the coat molts out to a normal coat, the curly whiskers remain through adulthood. The rex coat is a soft, short coat which is curled so as to be “lifted” from the body and the whiskers are curly. The rex coat is often sparse and remains curled even in adult hamsters.

In the steppes of eastern and central Asia, the Campbell’s dwarf enjoys digging burrows which may extend up to three feet underground. These burrows are commonly lined with scavenged sheep’s wool and grasses. These burrows maintain an average temperature of 62 degrees Fahrenheit. These hamsters are most active at dawn or dusk hours. Campbell’s dwarf becomes sexually mature at 5 weeks and after mating and a gestation period of 18 to 21 days, a litter of 4-6 pups are born, as many as 14 in some cases. Campbell’s hamsters are capable of mating immediately after birth.

Unlike other hamster species, especially the Syrian hamsters, the male may play an active role in birth and rearing. He may assist the female in pulling pups from the birth canal, cleaning them, and ensuring the new mother has enough to eat. He may also guard them while the female is away from the nest. Since the pair is likely to mate again quickly, the male should be separated from the female before birth unless more pups are desired and the female is fit enough for a repeat pregnancy.

Campbell’s hamsters have poor eyesight and even worse depth perception. To compensate for this disability, the hamster has many scent glands located on the face, behind the ears, on the cheek pouches, and on the belly near the rectum and genitals. These hamsters groom themselves in unfamiliar locations to leave scent trails to find their way back to the burrow or to abundant food sources. These hamsters consume a variety of grains, seeds, and vegetables.

Campbell’s dwarf hamsters make good pets in captivity with the proper care. They will live in groups with other dwarf hamsters with little concern. They have a life span of up to 36 months. It should be known that Campbell’s dwarf hamsters are prone to diabetes and sugary food should be avoided when feeding. Some foods to avoid when feeding are almonds, garlic, potatoes, rhubarb, tomato leaves, raisins, and anything sweet. In addition to diabetes, hamsters can develop glaucoma. Tumors are another big problem in hamsters.

Natural predators include various owls, foxes, falcons, and weasels.