This website requires JavaScript.


History & Heritage


The Syrian origins of the golden hamster

The Syrian hamster, also known as the golden hamster or teddy hamster, is the world’s most popular hamster breed. Its origins date back to Aleppo in Syria. Despite their popularity, these little rodents have a rather special history.

In the wild, 26 species of hamster live in certain regions of Europe, Asia and the Middle East, including the Mesocricetus auratus, commonly known as the Syrian hamster. The first documented encounter with the Syrian hamster dates back to 1797, when physician Alexander Russell observed them in the wild. However, he did not give them official name at the time.

It was not until some forty years later that George Robert Waterhouse, curator of the Zoological Society of London, officially named them “golden hamsters”. Waterhouse described these creatures as having silky soft fur with white legs and a body adorned with yellow tints.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by カオ (@kao_ham)

A long journey

The Syrian hamster’s journey from its native Aleppo to Western Europe and America is just as fascinating. This transcontinental introduction can be attributed to Israel Aharoni, a zoologist who led an expedition in 1930 in search of golden hamsters in Aleppo.

During this expedition, Aharoni enlisted the help of a local sheikh to dig up a wheat field, where they discovered a golden hamster and its 11 young, buried at a remarkable depth of 2.4 metres below the surface of the ground. By placing them in a box, Aharoni thought that the mother would look after her young. However, the mother’s reaction was unexpected, as she tragically attacked one of her babies, resulting in its death.

Aharoni then took the difficult decision to euthanise the mother, leaving him with ten orphaned baby hamsters to raise by hand. These wily creatures managed to escape from their wooden enclosure, and nine of them were captured. Thus began the Syrian hamster’s journey to the West. With a remarkably short gestation period of just 16 days, these rodents have reproduced rapidly. This resurgence of the species, thought to have been extinct since the 1800s, marked the beginning of its journey to become a domestic animal appreciated the world over.


View this post on Instagram

A post shared by 2016melon (@narupopomogukurumi)


Since those fateful events in 1930, the popularity of Syrian hamsters has continued to grow, making them one of the most popular pet species today. The wide range of colours in their coats, combined with the appearance of new variations over time, has cemented their place in the hearts and homes of countless pet owners around the world.


À lire aussi

Saudi Arabia: two Arabian leopard cubs were born in the kingdom

Publié le 13 November 2023