Roborovskis Show Details, Schedules & Results* - Show Standard
Binomial name: Phodopus Roborovskii
Sub - Family: Cricetinae
Species: P. Roborovskii
Size: 4-5 cm
Toes front: 4
Toes rear: 5
Female Mammae: 8
Chromosomes : 34
Gestation period: 20 - 22 days
Lifespan: 2 - 3 years is normal although over 4 years has been known
The Roborovski Hamster (Phodopus Roborovski), also known as the Desert hamster is found in Russia, China, Manchuria and Mongolia. Their natural habitats are deserts and semi-deserts with little vegetation. In the wild they live in a straight burrow within the sand dunes which can extend from between 50cm to 150cm in length and the entrance is usually covered in soft sand.
Roborovskis are the most efficient of the entire Phodopus genus to concentrate urine and are least sensitive to cold temperatures (they are however very sensitive to the heat). They appear to need less water than other dwarf hamsters and so have adapted the best to desert life.
They are a very social species of hamster and live together in groups but, as their sight is poor, they rely heavily on their very acute sense of smell and hearing to recognise each other and their environment. They are crepuscular which means they mainly sleep in the day and will stay underground during periods of bright sunlight, but they will come out during the day in periods of very low light, such as just before the sun rises, at dusk and also during periods of heavy cloud cover. They are active at night but prefer times with low light, so the more moonlight the better!
The Roborovski hamster is a relatively new species to be kept as a pet as it has only been domesticated since the 1970’s.
The Roborovski Hamster was first discovered in July 1894 by Lt. Roborovski but they were not studied scientifically until 1903. London Zoo imported them into the U.K. in the 1960s, but the first studied in Britain were imported in the 1970s from Moscow Zoo. (None of these hamsters, however, bore offspring)
Continental European countries had more success in breeding Roborovskis, however, and the Roborovskis currently in the U.K. are descendants of a batch imported from the Netherlands in 1990.
Roborovski Hamsters are Dwarf Hamsters, and are one of the smallest breeds of hamster commonly kept as pets.
They are very social hamsters and do very well when kept in pairs or small groups of the same sex. It is even thought that Roborovskis living alone can have shorter lifespans. I have found though, that some Roborovskis prefer to live alone and when fights break out, the only thing to do is to split them up. I have also found that Roborovskis who live alone are easier to tame, this could be because they have not bonded to a cage mate, or it could just be that they have no other Robo to copy from. When you have a group or pair of Robos together, they seem to copy each other and end up running around the cage super fast every time you go near the cage!
Roborovskis are extremely fast and energetic little creatures who are naturally very inquisitive. Once they have calmed down and got used to being handled, they are very gentle creatures who rarely, if ever, bite. In my experience a Roborovski Hamster would rather turn and run the other way than bite! Even when cornered, a Roborovski Hamster will very rarely bite, they will instead squirm and struggle to get free – and make a lot of noise! If they do get loose, it can be a very difficult task to retrieve them – live mouse traps are definitely a very good item to keep around the house!!
Contrary to common belief, Roborovski Hamsters can become hand tame, and some will become very tame, but of course, they all have their own individual personalities, and some just prefer to be left alone! As with all pets, a lot of patience and time is needed for them to become tame. It is best to start handling them as soon as they are 2.5 to 3 weeks old – which is when it is usually safe to start handling them – obviously depending on the mother and her temperament! If you do not breed them yourself then it is obviously not possible to start handing at that early age – but it would definitely be a good idea to obtain your new Roborovskis from a breeder who does handle them at an early age.
It is usually necessary to corner the hamster and scoop it up with two hands for the first few days or weeks after you bring it home. Once it used to this being done once or twice a day it will usually become used to being handled – and eventually will calm down enough to sit in the hand and be stroked. They must be handled daily to get used to the idea of being handled, and it is a good idea to do this at a time when your home is as quiet as possible, and as stress free as possible, with no loud noises or sudden movements. It is also a good idea to handle them over a play box, or not to hold them very far from the floor – just incase they do decide to jump!! A fall could not only injure your hamster, but could also prevent your hamster from enjoying being handled, as they could start to associate being held / caught with being dropped, and pain!! So it is very important to keep everything calm at the time of handling – give yourself plenty of time and try to reassure your hamster that being handled is a positive experience.
Once your hamster is hand tame, and content to be handled, you can then try to introduce his or her favourite food into your hand too – you may be rewarded with your Roborovski Hamster happily sitting n your hand munching away! Another wonderful experience is when your Roborovski Hamster sits and grooms itself in your hand – you then know that he or she feels completely safe in your company.
Unlike a lot of other hamster species, the Roborovski Hamster does not need to be handled daily – it is not essential for them to have human company, as long as they have other Roborovskis for company.
Of course, it is lovely when a Roborovski Hamster is tame enough to be handled, but this is not always possible – your Roborovski may not have been handled at all before he or she came to you, or you may have a Roborovski who is just too timid to be handled. You may not have enough time to handle your Roborovski Hamsters once or twice every day. Whatever the reason, you may prefer to let your Roborovski Hamsters live a more natural life with little human contact.
I believe that Roborovski Hamsters are absolutely fine when they are not handled daily, apart from being very hard to handle!! Of course, this is only if they live happily with another, or more, Roborovskis. In this case, it is best for them to live in the largest cage or tank possible, with plenty of toys and obstacles to provide them with plenty of stimulation and exercise. Of course, they need to be observed daily to make sure there are no squabbles or arguments going on. Each hamster should also be checked every few days to ensure they have no wounds from fighting – this is easily done by ‘scruffing’ the hamster firmly by the skin on the back of its neck, making sure not to accidentally trap the ears! If you hold them properly in this position they will not struggle, and it will be quite easy to give them a thorough overall check – this will not hurt your Roborovski in any way!
You always need to be alert for any signs of fighting or bullying, and always be prepared to split up pairs or groups if there is any serious fighting or if blood has been drawn. It is always best to have a spare cage set up with all of the essentials, just incase you do need to split up any hamsters.
A bonded pair, or colony, of Roborovski Hamsters, who contently live together, are very entertaining to watch as they go about their day to day existence interacting with each other. A great addition to any loving home!!
photos and text (c) Tammy Buckland 2009