Robo Hamsters?

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What is a Robo Hamster?

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Roborovski hamsters are small, short tailed dwarf hamsters. They are generally recommended as “look but don’t touch pets”, and therefore might not be perfect as family pets as they aren’t the kind of hamster you can hold and stroke, instead, to watch as they run on their wheel (at lightning fast speed) and play with siblings (they are social, so can live in pairs). Their original habitat is in the Mongolian Steppes.

Roborovski hamsters are particularly hard to tame because of their character, size and speed. It is recommended to buy Roborovskis in pairs, mainly as watching two play together is much more fun than just one. The chances of the two fighting are low, and it is normally the case that severe wounds only come about when groups of more than three Robo’s are kept in the same cage. Normally the hamsters will only ‘play’ fight.

They prefer to be kept in a well lit room at a constant temperature (18 to 26°C, 64 to 80°F) and though they cannot see very far, Robo’s are generally more relaxed when positioned somewhat above the ground (at least 65 cm (2 feet)), from where they can perceive their surroundings.

In Britain, Robo’s cost somewhere in the region of £7 each (or £12 for a pair) at reputable pet stores, though prices may vary around the country and they are usually more expensive from professional breeders. US prices vary the same way, but I gather they are normally $15 to $30.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]

Roborovski’s in the Wild

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Roborovski hamsters, or ‘Desert hamster’ (Latin: Phodopus Roborovskii), originate from Mongolia and Northern China where they live in semi-arid areas with little vegetation. They live in burrows and dig steep tunnels, some 1-2 metres (2-6 feet) beneath the sand. In the wild they are most active in September to November and during the evening and at dawn.

Roborovskis seem to be the most efficient in economising their water needs. They are able to highly concentrate their urine and survive on less water than other dwarf hamsters – a perfect adaptation to the desert. They are also much less sensitive to cold temperatures. They are, however, very sensitive to heat.

Lt. Roborovski first made reports of the breed during an expedition near Nan Shan in July 1894. One of the first to study this hamster in captivity was zoölogist Satunin, around 1903. It was not until the late 1970’s that the Zoological Society of London obtained the Roborovski Hamster from the Moscow Zoo, but unfortunately these did not breed.

Some European countries were more successful in breeding the Roborovski’s acquired from Russia than others. All Roborovskis now kept in the UK were imported by a single hamster breeder from Holland in 1990.

It would be as recent as 1998 before a group of Roborovski hamsters were imported by a hamster breeder into the US. Although the Roborovski is still quite rare in the US, in the past years there have been attempts to breed from Roborovskis caught from the wild in Russia, but they would fail to reproduce or die due to stress. The domesticated Roborovski has for the most part shed this breeding impairment as it becomes more widely bred and held as a pet.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]

Appearance

Roborovskis are very easy to recognise due to their coat’s features and size. The coat colours vary, but not too much. Here is an easy to read chart of what the averageRoborovski should look like:

  • Size – 4 to 4.5cm (1.5 to 1.75 inches)
  • Weight – 22 to 26 grams
  • Feet – 4 toes on front paw and 5 on the hind (larger) paw
  • Lifespan – 2 to 3 and a half years (highest recorded is over 4 years)
  • Colours – Agouti (wild or ‘natural’), White faced
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Agouti

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Also known as ‘wild’ or ‘natural’ colouring. This is the most common form of colouring found in pet stores. The agouti coat is sandy coloured with the roots of the hairs grey. All coloured Roborovski’s don’t have dorsal stripes like other dwarf hamsters. Agouti Robo’s have adorable little white eyebrows, whilst white-faced Robo’s don’t have these, as, uh, their faces are completely white.

Their ears have a tiny bit of black to the side of them with a patch of white behind them. The belly is completely white (though male Robo’s have a tiny patch of gold where their scent gland is), and eyes are pure black with no cloudiness or red patches around them. The noses are beautifully pink surrounded by white and sandy coloured fur. The whiskers should be many and long – white with darker whiskers closer to the eyes, as shown.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]

White-Faced Roborovski’s

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Also called ‘White mask’ or ‘Husky’ Robo’s. Although there are some theories that tampering with the colouring has produced Robo’s which later in life can have health problems (more on that later). The white face coat is same as the agouti except for the usual white eyebrow feature which is not present in this variation. Instead the whole face is white. The rest of the body shows the normal agouti color, though lighter versions show up too.

The white face pattern first appeared in Sweden around 2002 before making its way into Europe. In one reported case two agouti’s mated, with the offspring being one Agouti pup and one  white-faced with a diluted colour, because of the recessive gene.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]

Platinum Gene and Fading

Some White faced Roborovski’s are born with a diluted colour – the whole body, not only the face. Not all though. There is a debate that a separate colour gene altogether produces this diluted colour or it might just be that the gene is acting differently (different fenotype), but there is no actual reason for this. No-one really knows the reason for this diluting, but it may be a hidden illness or weakness. So the debate goes on… still, no-one is sure a) what causes this dilution and b) what the long-term effects of this disturbed gene may be.

Some white faced robo owners say that their Roborovski’s colouring has faded over time. There is a lot of scepticism about this subject. This is because there is nearly no actual evidence of this effect.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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