Giant Hamster Pets
November 13, 2012
I first became interested in the Giant Hamster, aka European Hamster, when I saw a clip of them on youtube. I haven't seen such a strange and large looking hamster before (they aren't native in the US).
This clip I saw was created by Zita Fulop and one of very few captures of European hamsters in captivity. I proceeded to interview her on her experiences here.
First of all, thanks for posting these videos, Zita. Where I live, I have never seen a real live Giant Hamster. Even online I have trouble finding more information about them, especially as pets. Can you introduce your hamster to us? What is his or her name, age, size, etc.?
My first European Hamster was a male, named R2D2 after the robot of Star Wars. When I got him, he was about three months old. In the beginning, I could take him out of his terrarium and could held him in my hands, though he was scared and mistrustful. See my Giant hamster gallery here.
But a short time after, once he jumped out of my hands and ran beneath a piece of furniture. He became scared because of this accident, as he was trapped and it got worse, when I tried to catch him. That was the first time he bit me. :)
I could not get him into my hands anymore. He did not become aggressive nor mad, but always wanted to bite me. He only let me to pet him a bit, nothing else. (And yes, this made things difficult when I wanted to clean his place.)
He was 15-20 centimeters long, bigger than a syrian hamster. I can say his length was similar to a female guinea pig, but with thinner body structure.
I got the second hamster a few months later. She was R2D2's sister, and was more aggressive, because she was an adult already when I got her. Although I heard about someone (maybe from Britain) that they are breeding these hamsters, and there was photos about hamsters in their owner's lap.
Where did you get your hamster? Pet shop? Adoption? Where you're living, are Giant hamsters common pets?
I got him from a friend of mine who works at a kind of wildlife park or animal park (not a zoo). Someone had caught his mother pregnant, so we can say, he was born in captivity but not tamed or socialized.
In Hungary you can meet these hamsters only in the nature: field, agricultural lands. So they are not available in pet shops, they are rather believed to be pests, and they are considered to be a harmful to crops. But I always wanted to get one, because I think they're special and more beautiful than syrians.
There is the impression that Giant Hamsters are pests to the agricultural industry but there are also reports they they are endangered mammals, do you have any thoughts on this?
In my country they are not endangered mammals, so they are "free to kill". Unfortunately I found pictures about fur coats made of European hamsters. That was disgusting, I really hate the look of them in that way.
In many European country they are endangered, and I got so many comments on my YouTube videos, that I should not keep them in captivity, it is not allowed, I should rather go to a pet shop and buy a syrian (this was from Poland actually:) ), and so... But they are not aware of Hungarian rules.
My plan originally was to breed them, but I was afraid to let them together. You know, hamsters are solitary, and I did not want to risk the outcome of the meeting. I was afraid, if they got bitten of each other and I could not cure them because of their behaviour.
We know that each hamster has their own personality. But how do Giant Hamsters behave as pets? Are they aggressive? Do they like to be held and pet? Are they territorial with other pets? I'm sure readers want to know. What is it like having one?
So, according to my previous answers, I realised, there's no way to tame these hamsters or teach them tricks. And I think they're more clever than a syrian, but very stubborn as well, so as wild animals, they would only came to me, if they wanted to.
Otherwise I believe, if I had baby hamsters, they could be more friendly. I think they could be tamed, if they know you from their 'childhood'. But it needs time.
Hamsters have pretty distinctive habits. Does your hamster also run on the wheel a lot? Enjoy staying under bedding and hideouts?
My hamsters did not had wheels, but they liked to make a nest and stay under beddings and hideouts. R2D2 even had some strange ideas about sleeping. (See how my hamster sleeps here)
Some people say that Giant Hamsters belong in the wilds. How do you feel about that statement?
Yes, I agree in a way with that statement. On the other hand, in the 'Hungarian wild' they might get killed of human or some carnivore. In captivity they have a peaceful life, which is boring, but safe, and have limits. If I could breed them, I would let some of the litter go back to the nature.
Who would you recommend would be a good candidate to keep this hamster as a pet as opposed to other smaller hamsters? And what should people be aware of if they are thinking about getting one?
I would not recommend them to keep as pets, because they can be really aggressive, they can jump high and become angry, and their bites can be very painful and strong. (Fortunately, I did not get strong ones.) But they're good for fanatics, who are happy and satisfied with only the sight of the hamsters. For example I really enjoyed watching them.
So they are very different from syrians or dwarf hamsters. As we are still talking about wild animals, it is about a higher level of keeping pets. Not for children, not for those who want a pet only because it's cute and call it "shine of my eye" or something. :) So they should not come into fashion like bunnies, rats, guinea pigs or other cuties. :)
Lastly, is there anything you want to add that will show us the true nature of a pet Giant Hamster?
One thing I know for sure: I have not finished with these hamsters. :) I am still planning to breed them, only I need time to go to a place, where they are known to live and catch them.
Their previous owner said, I should go to a highway in the countryside, where these hamsters frequently cross the road, get close to them and make them go into a box. Because they are so brave (or stupid?) that they will not run away, but take up the fight with anyone or anything. :)
Thank you for sharing with us and giving us a better idea of what Giant hamsters are like!