European hamster

The European hamster (Cricetus cricetus), also known as the Eurasian hamster,[3] black-bellied hamster[4] or common hamster,[5][6][7] is the only species of the genus Cricetus.[2] It is native to a large range in Eurasia, extending from Belgium to the Altai mountains and Yenisey River in Russia.[8] Where abundant the animal is widely considered a farmland pest, and it has also been trapped for its fur. Across its global range, it is considered of least concern, but in many individual Western European countries it is considered critically endangered. Cricetus is also a monotypic genus.

European hamster
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Rodentia
Family: Cricetidae
Subfamily: Cricetinae
Genus: Cricetus
Leske, 1779
C. cricetus
Binomial name
Cricetus cricetus
Répartition hamster d'europe.png
European Hamster range


Skull of a European hamster

The European hamster has brown dorsal fur with white patches. The chest and belly are black. The tail is short and furred. It is much larger than the Syrian or dwarf hamsters, which are commonly kept as pets. It weighs 220–460 g (7.8–16.2 oz) and can grow to 20–35 cm (8–14 in) long with a tail of 40–60 mm (1.6–2.4 in). Its dental formula is


The common hamster is a nocturnal or crepuscular species. It lives in a complex burrow system. It eats seeds, legumes, root vegetables, grasses and insects. It transports its food in its elastic cheek pouches to the food storage chambers. These may be quite large and may consist of a total of 65 kg of food.[9][additional citation(s) needed] It hibernates between October and March. During this time, it wakes every five to seven days to feed from the storage chambers. The adults reach sexual maturity when they are about 43 days old and breed from early April to August. The gestation period is 18–20 days and the size of the litter ranges from three to 15 young, which are weaned when aged three weeks. They are usually solitary animals.[9]


It is typically found in low-lying farmland with soft loam or loess soils, although it may also inhabit meadows, gardens or hedges. It is found from Belgium and Alsace in the west, to Russia in the east, and Bulgaria in the south.

In captivity, the European hamster has an unusually long lifespan, living up to eight years.

The Court of Justice in Luxembourg, the European Union's highest court, ruled in 2011 that France had failed to protect the European hamster.[10] The court said that if France did not adjust its agricultural and urbanisation policies sufficiently to protect it, the government would be subject to fines of up to $24.6 million.[11][needs update]


  1. ^ Kryštufek, B.; Vohralík, V.; Meinig, H. & Zagorodnyuk, I. (2008). "Cricetus cricetus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN. 2008. Retrieved 21 July 2012.
  2. ^ a b Musser, G.G.; Carleton, M.D. (2005). "Superfamily Muroidea". In Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M (eds.). Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 1043. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
  3. ^ "Eurasian hamster". The Free Dictionary. Retrieved 26 April 2013.
  4. ^ "Cricetus Cricetus – Common or Black-Bellied Hamster". AgroAtlas. Retrieved 26 April 2013.
  5. ^ "Common Hamster: Cricetus Cricetus" (PDF). Habitats Directive. European Commission. Retrieved 26 April 2013.
  6. ^ "hamster". Oxford Dictionaries. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 26 April 2013.
  7. ^ "Cricetus Cricetus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN. Retrieved 26 April 2013.
  8. ^ "Cricetus cricetus". Animal Diversity Web. University of Michigan. Retrieved 26 April 2013.
  9. ^ a b MacDonald, David; Priscilla Barret (1993). Mammals of Britain & Europe. 1. London: HarperCollins. pp. 236–237. ISBN 0-00-219779-0.
  10. ^ "C-383/09 - Commission v France". InfoCuria. 9 June 2011.
  11. ^ Erlanger, Steven (9 June 2011). "France Is Scolded Over Care of Great Hamster of Alsace". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 10 June 2011.

See alsoEdit