Chinese Dwarf Hamster – An Overview

A Chinese dwarf hamster is one of the dwarf hamsters that is commonly kept as a pet. Its body is more elongated than the other hamsters, and his face is rather mouse-like. It also has a visible tail. Its feet are more readily able to grasp objects, and it will win over your heart when it wraps its legs around your finger, holding onto you as if it were climbing a corn stock.

Chinese dwarf hamsters are rather popular in the United Kingdom, but aren’t as common in the United States. In fact, they are not permitted as pets in some states, such as California. Hamsters of any kind are not allowed in either Australia or New Zealand.

While the common name for this adorable animal is the Chinese Hamster or the Chinese Dwarf Hamster, there is some confusion around its scientific name. Before we can discuss that further however, we need to learn a little bit about the Linnaean Taxonomic System.


Country of Origin -Southern China and Mongolia

Length of Head & Body – 4 in

Tail Length – 1 – 1 5/16inch

Weight – 1 3/8- 15/8 oz.

Lifespan -1.5 – 3.0 years

The Linnaean Taxonomic System

In the Linaean system all life forms are grouped according to how closely they are related genetically. This makes perfect sense, except for one small problem… the technology to map genetics – the DNA and RNA – of any living thing has only been around since the 20th century. Everything before that was based on observation (or morphology, which is structure).

Now, it’s pretty easy to see that a salamander and a porcupine look differently. They are different species. (different Classes, in fact) A Dalmatian and a dachshund look differently too, yet they both belong to the same species: Canis lupus. The more closely related animals are, the more difficult it can be to decide if they are the same or different species. It takes genetic mapping to know for sure… and even then, how different do the genetics have to be?

Taxonomy of the Chinese Dwarf Hamster

In the case of the Chinese dwarf hamster, as of 1995, there were 3 species defined: C. griseus, C. pseudogriseus, and C. barabensis. Since then, there has been agreement that C. barabensis exists; but there is not agreement on whether C. griseusand C. pseudogriseus are distinct from C. barabensis or are subspecies of it. Therefore, it is most correct to call the animal C. barabensis. However, since C. griseus is used just as often to describe the animal by reputable breeders, using the name C. barabensis griseus is probably the least questionable way to identify the animal that is sold as a pet? the Chinese dwarf hamster.

Color Variations

Now that we have established the name of the animal, we can discuss the two color variations. The first is called the normal or standard color. An animal with this coloring has an agouti colored body with a dark stripe running from the nape of its neck to its tail. A second color variation is called dominant spot. A Chinese hamster with this coloring is mostly white, and has some gray fur. It also has a dark line that runs from the nape of its neck to its tail. Both color variations are seen in nature.