Campbell's Dwarf Hamsters

Campbell's dwarf hamster (Phodopus campbelli) is a species of dwarf hamster. It was discovered by W.C. Campbell in 1902 in Tuva, an area that has historically been geographically linked with both China and Russia.

This hamster is sometimes called Djungarian (or Dzungarian), or simply Russian, and often it is mistakenly labeled as a Siberian or Winter white Russian dwarf hamster, a closely related species of dwarf hamster. There has been some debate over the classification of Campbell's dwarf and its closely related cousin, the Winter White, but now the two species are usually classified as Phodopus campbelli and P. sungorus, respectively. It has been claimed that the Campbell's hamster is less friendly in temperament (to humans) than the winter white and is consequently more likely to bite or nip.

The unfriendly temperament with the Black Russian Campbell's is something I have personally encountered with several of them. If you are thinking of adopting a Black Russian Campbell hamster be aware that they may not allow you to hold them or pet them. They are very active and fun to watch though.

Campbell's seem to particularly like cleansing themselves with sand, as the grains remove dirt and oil from the coat.

Cages should have at least 3 square feet of space per hamster, with one additional square foot per extra hamster. Wire, tube, and bin cages can be used. Campbell's hamsters may have difficultly climbing up big tubes due to their small size.

Many sites suggest that the Campbell's should be housed like the Robos in a bin or aquarium. They state that their size prevents from from climbing the tunnels and tubes on a typical hamster cage. I have not discovered this, in fact I have discovered that the Campbell's climb quite well and can easily manage the tubes. They do have difficulty maneuvering ones that are straight up and very tall but the smaller one's that go up to a sleeping area is just fine.

Campbell's dwarfs are sociable and may be kept in colonies. If the hamsters are introduced at a young age, generally younger than eight weeks, they will often happily coexist in same- or mixed-sex groups. (Note that mixed-sex groups should be avoided as hamsters are lively breeders.) Contrary to some claims, the hamsters do not have to be related to live together peacefully. Some Campbell's dwarfs live together for long periods of time, such as over a year, only to eventually and unexpectedly end up fighting to the point of requiring separation. Pet owners should plan for the possibility of providing additional accommodations should this occur.

Campbell's hamsters have extremely poor eyesight and even worse depth perception. Cataracts can be common in older hamsters. To compensate for this disability, the hamster has many scent glands, which are located on the face, behind the ears, on the cheek pouches, and on the belly near the rectum and genitals. Many pet owners observe that the hamster may groom itself when in an unfamiliar location. This is done to scent the feet, creating a trail which enables the hamster to find its way back to the burrow. This behavior may also be used to revisit a location with plentiful food. These scent trails may persist for up to eight days.

Campbell's dwarfs are available in six basic colors plus many variations thereof. All are marked by a dark stripe down their back, the colour of which varies depending on the shade of their fur.

Basic colors include:

  • agouti (the normal grey brown wild color with white belly and black eyes)
  • argente (cinnamon or sandy with white belly and red eyes)
  • black eyed argente (dull brownish orange with white belly and black eyes)
  • albino (white with red eyes)
  • opal (blue grey with white belly and red eyes)
  • black (black all over with black eyes)