hamster peering out of cage

Different types of hamsters: the ultimate guide reading-time-icon 2 min read

Hamsters are popular pets, and with good reason.

There are 5 main types of hamster, 3 of which are classed as ‘dwarf’ hamsters.

If you’ve decided that a hamster is the best small pet for you, it’s useful to know the difference between hamsters before making your purchase. Let’s take a look.

Why is it important to distinguish the different types of hamsters?

Just like dogs, the characteristics of different hamsters make them more or less suited to certain owners. Some hamsters like the company of other hamsters while others prefer solitude; some hamsters are bigger and easier to handle than others; some live longer than others.

Before welcoming a hamster to your home, it’s important to make sure they’re suitable to your home circumstances and living situation.

Read more: Hamster care guide: how to look after a hamster.

Syrian hamsters

syrian hamster

Size: 15-17cm
Lifespan: 2-3 years
Colour: Golden Brown, Gray, Black, Yellow, Red or a mixture

Syrian hamsters are the most popular type of pet hamster. They’re also the largest and easiest to handle.

Syrian hamsters like to live alone. If you have a hamster already, you’ll need to get a separate cage for your Syrian hamster – otherwise you’ll have a fight on your hands!

Chinese hamsters

chinese hamster

Size: 10cm
Lifespan: 2-3 years
Colour: Gray, Black, White

Chinese hamsters are quick and agile, with a longer tail than the others.

They may get along well with fellow Chinese hamsters – especially if they’re the same age, gender and are introduced to their cage at the same time – but they’ll happily live alone.

Read more: Hamster diet guide: which foods can hamsters eat?

Dwarf hamsters

The remaining 3 hamsters are all classed as Dwarf hamsters.


campbell's dwarf hamster

Size: 10cm
Lifespan: 1.5-2 years
Colour: Gray, Gray-Brown

Campbell’s Dwarf hamsters are small and quick, so not the easiest to handle. They’re sociable creatures, and should do fine with other Dwarf hamsters, especially if they’re the same age and gender.

Note: Keeping two hamsters of different genders in the same cage is not recommended.

Winter White

winter white dwarf hamster

Size: 8-10cm
Lifespan: 1.5-2 years
Colour: White (in winter), Gray (in summer), often with dark stripe along their back

As the second-smallest type of hamster, the Winter White Dwarf hamster is even more difficult to handle than their counterparts. Some may tolerate other hamsters, others may not. If you’re introducing one Winter White Dwarf hamster to another, make sure they’re supervised at all times. For more help and guidance on keeping hamsters, have a chat with your local vet.


roborovski dwarf hamster

Size: 5cm
Lifespan: 3-3.5 years
Colour: Brown

And finally, it’s the iddy biddy Roborovski Dwarf hamster – the smallest of them all, reaching little more than 5cm in length when fully grown. These creatures are not only adorable but fast, curious and sociable. They should get along with fellow Roborovskis, provided once again that they’re the same age and gender.

Due to their tiny size, a Roborovski Dwarf hamster may not be the best choice for younger children.

Need more info?

For more help and advice on the different hamsters and which one would be best suited to you and your lifestyle, have a chat with your local vet.