Cricetus cricetusblack-bellied hamster

Geographic Range

Cricetus cricetus is found in Eurasia from Belgium to the Altai region of Siberia.


The habitat of the common hamster includes steppe, agricultural land and riverbanks. Burrows are usually in loam of loess soils in the western part of the range.

Physical Description

The fur is light brown on the back, white on the sides and black on the belly (hence the name black-bellied hamster). There is a wide range of variation, however, including both albino and melanistic animals. The small tail is mostly hairless. Cricetus has cheek pouches.

  • Average mass
    506.7 g
    17.86 oz
  • Average basal metabolic rate
    1.251 W


The breeding season in Cricetus lasts from April to August. It is not clear if males are driven away by females after mating or if the pair remains together to raise the offspring. Females normally have two litters of 4-12 young per year, though captive animals are capable of reproducing every month. Gestation is 18-20 days long and birth weight is usually about 7 grams. Young are weaned at 3 weeks and attain adult size at 8 weeks. Female are sexually mature at 43 days.

  • Key Reproductive Features
  • gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
  • sexual
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average gestation period
    20 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    Sex: female
    43 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    Sex: male
    56 days



Cricetus is a solitary, burrowing rodent. Burrow size is age and season dependent. Summer and fall burrows have tunnels constructed in a single plane, usually about 50 cm below the surface. In winter burrows can be as deep as 2 meters and have extra space for the large (90 kg) winter store of cereals and agricultural crops. Cricetus hibernates in the winter, although it wakes every 5-7 days to eat stored food. Activity is crepuscular during the spring, summer and fall. When it must swim, the common hamster inflates its cheek pouches with air for increased buoyancy. During large population movements indiuced by food shortages, common hamsters can cross large rivers.

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

The diet is diverse and includes grains, beans, lentils, roots, green parts of plants, insect larvae and frogs.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

The common hamster is trapped in some parts of its range for skins.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

In the past Cricetus was considered a serious agricultural pest because of its impact on corn and other crops. Modern agricultural techniques have diminished its impact.

Conservation Status


David L. Fox (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

World Map

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


uses touch to communicate

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.


A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.


Nowak, R. N., 1991. Walker's Mammals of the World. The Johns Hopkins University Press: Baltimore, MD,1629 pp.