With the dubious honour of being one of the most popular pets for children, the Syrian hamster is the most widely available hamster and the largest. Syrian hamsters are also known as the Golden Hamster, Black bear or Angora/Teddy bear hamster.
Syrian hamsters are said to all be descended from a mother and her litter of 12 brought back from Aleppo, Syria in the 1930s.
Adult syrian hamsters measure around 13cm, with females being slightly larger than the males. They typically weigh around 100-150g. They can live around 2-3 years although poor care and husbandry often make it much less.
Both genders of Syrian hamsters have scent glands located on either side of their hips - these are sometimes known as 'hip spots' and the hair surrounding is often shorter and darker than elsewhere. A Syrian Hamster uses its scent glands to mark its territority, and on rare occasions these spots may appear red or inflamed, in which case they need veterinary attention.
Syrian hamsters are highly territorial and must be kept alone. Although some pet shops will keep them together this is due to their young age, and is very misleading. The only time Syrian hamsters may tolerate each other is when the female is in heat, and even then she may attack after mating.
Syrians require a large, barred cage the size suggested as a minimum is 80 x 50 x 50 cm. The majority of cages sold in pet shops will not be suitable for a fully grown syrian hamster (and in fact, are often not even big enough for the dwarf species. See Syrian Hamsters - Environment for more details and cage suggestions.
Syrian hamsters can be tamed with care and patience and are easier and slower to handle than the dwarf species. They are less likely to nip, although can still do so if woken abruptly from sleep. A Syrian Hamster is nocturnal so tend to be most active at dusk and during the evening. This means it is vital that is has adequete space and enrichment for whilst you cannot interact with it.
Syrian hamsters have been bred in a wide range of colours and coat types.