By far the most common pet is the Golden hamster, sometimes called the Syrian hamster a name that seems
preferable, as nowadays Golden hamsters are no longer necessarily golden. More than 100 color varieties have been produced
by selective breeding. Single-colored hamsters are known as "selfs," and they range from varying shades of golden, through
cream, honey, silver-blue, sepia, and chocolate, to name but a few. There are also albino strains with no skin pigment at
all. They have a white coat and pink eyes. Marked varieties can be banded, piebald (with white blotches), or mosaic, with
a patchwork pattern. Choice of color is a matter of personal preference, and, in fact, most hamster owners still favor the
original golden color. There are also varieties with a long coat, which look very attractive, but they do need regular grooming
with a toothbrush to keep their coat from matting.
The Chinese hamster, which if found in the wild across much of Eastern Europe and Asia, has been kept as
a pet in some areas longer than its golden relative. It is smaller than the Golden, and has a grayish-brown coat with a dark
stripe down its back.
The Dwarf Russian is, as its name suggests, the smallest of the three species kept as pets. It is usually
a buff-brown color, with a dark brown stripe running from between its eyes, down the back, to the base of the tail. Both smaller
species will live in groups, although they are probably happiest if they are reared in pairs. They move pretty fast and are
perhaps a bit shorter-tempered than Golden hamsters, so they are not ideal pets for younger children. The Dwarf Russian is
usually more sociable than the Chinese hamster both with other members of its own species and with humans.