Hybrid Hamsters Overview
Although Campbells and Winter Whites are different genetically they can interbreed; resulting offspring are predominately infertile.
Hybrids are often produced due to the mislabelling of hamsters - predominately due to pet shops. This leads to a rise in the main health problems the species have, such as diabetes in the Winter White Hamsters and glaucoma in the Campbells Russian Dwarf Hamster. It can also cause problems for the mother due to the size of the hybrid pups.
The two separate species have very different behaviours and physical appearance, so mixing the two risks losing the traits that make these species unique. Hybrid hamsters sadly have a reduced life span, they are prone to health problems such as neurological issues. They may develop head-tilts, or behaviours such as spinning round in circles, or backflipping. These behaviours are not playful or fun, but a result of a neurological disorder that causes an unhealthy compulsion.
Hybrid hamsters are very hard to identify as they can come in a wide range of appearances. Some signs include a more triangular head-shape, smaller eyes, pointed ears and a shorter distance between the eyes. Some hybrids are easy to identify due to having the body shape of one species, but the colouration of another. For example, a mandarin White White has the body of a Winter White but the orange colouration of an argente Campbells hamster.
Once a line has a hybrid in, it cannot revert to pure again so if this became widespread, it could lead to the end of these species in the pet trade since the remaining hybrids would have too low a fertility rate. In some European countries, a dwarf is considered pure if it has 6 generations or more that are proven true. However in the UK, a hybrid is classified as such if any genes from a different species have ever occurred.
What type is my hamster?
Unless you have obtained your pet from an ethical breeder, the chances are extremely high your hamster is a hybrid. As a general rule:
- Campbells dorsal stripe is thinner and lighter.
- Winter Whites have a rounder body than Campbells.
- Winter Whites will change colour and lighten as winter approaches. It is possible for hybrids to also do this if they have inherited a specific set of genes.
- Campbells have a cream colour on their sides, between the dark upper body and their white belly. The colour difference is more pronounced in Winter Whites.