Phodopus campbelliCampbell's hamster

Geographic Range

Originally identified by O. Thomas in 1905, Phodopus campbelli, commonly known as Campbell’s hamsters or Djungarian hamsters, is a native inhabitant of the steppes and deserts of inner Mongolia and northeastern China.

Heavily inhabited areas of Mongolia include, but are not limited to; the Altai Mountains, Transbaikalia, Nei Mongol, and Tuvinskaya (Tuva) Autonomous Region. Bordering territories in northern China, the Heilungkiang and Hebei provinces more specifically, also maintain dense populations of Phodopus campbelli. (Thomas, 1905)


Phodopus campbelli, like fellow members of the subfamily Cricetinae, creates and dwells within a system of subterranean tunnels. The burrow of a Campbell’s hamster is usually composed of four to six main tunnels, with both horizontal and vertical orientation. A nest is often constructed at the end of a tunnel and comprised of dry and insulating materials including but not limited to; grasses, feathers and wool. Seeds and nuts are, more often than none, cached in extremely close proximity to the nesting area.

Additionally, several region-dependant variations in Phodopus campbelli habitat preference have been documented. In the Barga and Great Kingan Regions of Manchuria, Campbell’s hamsters are known to share tunnels and burrows with several species of pikas, Ochotona dauria and Ochotona mantchuria. Moreover, Phodopus campbelli residing on the Mongolian Plateau do not dig their own burrows, but instead share the burrows of several species of Meriones, more commonly known as jirds or gerbils. (Allen, 1938)

  • Range depth
    1 (high) m
    3.28 (high) ft
  • Average depth
    .0025-.0030 m

Physical Description

Phodopus campbelli is very small in size and the pelage is short and silky. The underside of the animal is covered in soft, buff, light grey fur and the dorsal portions, including the head, are woody brown in color. The underfur is quite short and is a dark slate grey. A defined charcoal stripe runs from between the ears to the tail. The pads of all digits, and the small tail, are covered in silky white fur. Additionally, Campbell’s hamsters, like other members of the subfamily Cricetinae, possess large internal cheek pouches that terminate above the scapula. Males are larger than females. (Thomas, 1905)

Phodopus campbelli is often confused with Phodopus sungorus, Siberian hamsters. However, there are several physical characteristics that distinguish the two species. The ears of Phodopus campbelli are generally smaller than those of Phodopus sungorus. The mid-dorsal stripe of the Campbell’s hamster is both thin and defined and the area where the dorsal fur meets the ventral fur is a creamy light yellow. Moreover, the underfur of Phodopus campbelli is dark grey, whereas that of Phodopus sungorus is white. (Allen, 1938; Hollister, 1912)

Documentations of region-dependant color variations have been collected from several populations of Phodopus campbelli native to the Chuisaya Steppes. Campbell’s hamsters from this area are slightly greyer in color and possess a shorter mid-dorsal stripe. (Hollister, 1912)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male larger
  • Average mass
    23.4 g
    0.82 oz
  • Range length
    80 to 103 mm
    3.15 to 4.06 in
  • Average length
    102 mm
    4.02 in
  • Range basal metabolic rate
    1.63 +/- 0.38 to 1.88 +/- 0.57 cm3.O2/g/hr


These hamsters are promiscuous.

Wild Phodopus campbelli breed 3-5 times per year, whereas captive Phodopus campbelli breed year-round. The breeding of the Campbell’s hamster varies by geographic location. Breeding begins in April and May, in the Tuva and Transbaikalia regions of Mongolia, respectively, and ends in late September or early October. (Ross, 1995)

  • Breeding interval
    Wild Phodopus campbelli breed 3-5 times per year, whereas captive Phodopus campbelli breed year-round.
  • Breeding season
    The breeding of the Campbell’s hamster varies by geographic location. Breeding begins in April and May, in the Tuva and Transbaikalia regions of Mongolia, respectively, and ends in late September or early October.
  • Range number of offspring
    1 to 12
  • Average number of offspring
  • Range gestation period
    13.5 to 22 days
  • Average gestation period
    17.5 days
  • Average weaning age
    17 days
  • Average time to independence
    23 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    48 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    23 days

At birth, Phodopus campbelli are completely helpless and hairless. Incisors and small claws are present, but the ears and eyes are both sealed. The young depend on parental investment, until weaned approximately 17 days after birth. Prior to a study published in 2000 (Jones, 2000), it was widely held that female hamsters were primarily responsible for care of the young. However, recent evidence suggests that male hamsters may assist in the delivery process by consuming both amniotic fluid, placenta and fetal membranes. (Jones, 2000; McMillan, 1999)

  • Parental Investment
  • altricial
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • pre-independence
    • protecting
      • male
      • female


Minimal documentation exists regarding the lifespan of wild Phodopus campbelli. However, captive Phodopus campbelli have been extensively studied in various laboratory settings and their average lifespan ranges anywhere from 1.5 - 3 years.

  • Typical lifespan
    Status: captivity
    2 to 2.5 years


Phodopus campbelli is generally classified as a solitary species. However, in captivity, Phodopus campbelli exhibits a high tolerance for other species members when sharing territory. Campbell’s hamsters, like other members of the subfamily Cricetinae, are nocturnal. But captive specimens exhibit sporadic adherence to the cyclical sleep and wake patterns of wild specimens.

Phodopus campbelli scuttles when moving quickly. In order to avoid predators the Campbell’s hamster often moves both abruptly and quickly. The maximum documented running speed of Phodopus campbelli is 6.5 km/hr. (Wynne-Edwards, et al., 1992)

  • Average territory size
    3.5 km^2

Home Range

Aside from burrow dimensions, very few documented accounts investigate the overall territory size of Phodopus campbelli. However, in 1992 a survey of the home ranges of several female Campbell's hamsters was conducted in the Lake Tere Xol region of Mongolia. (Wynne-Edwards, et al., 1992)

Communication and Perception

Of all the senses, Phodopus campbelli relies primarily on smell. Wild Campbell’s hamsters, both male and female, utilize urine and feces to identify territory. Additionally, secretions originating from both the ventral sebaceous glands and the Harderian glands, located behind the animal’s ears, are utilized not only for territory identification, but also for communication. The oral sebaceous glands of Phodopus campbelli also serve to mark all of the contents that enter or leave the animal’s cheek pouches. (Tikhonova, et al., 1999; Wynne-Edwards, et al., 1992)

Food Habits

The diet of wild Phodopus campbelli is primarily composed of a wide variety of seeds, nuts and vegetation, including Stipa capillata, Iris ruthenia and Iris flavisima. Additionally, the diet may be supplemented with small invertebrates and insects. (Ross, 1995)

Captive Phodopus campbelli will welcome almost any commercially prepared hamster food, traditionally composed of an extensive assortment of corn, oats, sunflower, peanuts, dried fruits and dehydrated vegetables. The latter diet is often supplemented with alfalfa and minerals or salts.

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods
  • mollusks
  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • wood, bark, or stems
  • seeds, grains, and nuts
  • fruit
  • flowers


Known predators of tsaker falcon this species are corsac foxes (Vulpes corsac), eagle owls (Bubo bubo), steppe eagles (Aquila nipalensis), kestrels (Falco tinnunculus) and saker falcons (Falco cherrug).

Ecosystem Roles

Phodopus campbelli disperses the seeds of numerous plant species. Their burrows are not particularly destructive to the environment. They serve as a primary food source for corsac foxes (Vulpes corsac).

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • disperses seeds
Mutualist Species
  • Ochotona dauria
  • Ochotona mantchuria

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Phodopus campbelli, Phodopus roborovskii (desert hamsters) and Phodopus sungorus (Dzhungarian or Siberian hamsters) were collectively introduced to the American pet industry as “dwarf hamsters” in the mid-1990s. The small size, mild temperament and inexpensive maintenance of Phodopus campbelli make it both a novel pet for first-time pet owners and a particularly ideal pet for young children. Moreover, unlike larger species of the subfamily Cricetinae, Phodopus campbelli will contentedly cohabitate with one another.

The same characteristics that make the Campbell’s hamster an attractive pet also make it an ideal animal model for scientific study. Phodopus campbelli has been utilized in numerous cytogenetic and cancer investigations. (Pogosianz, 1975)

  • Positive Impacts
  • pet trade
  • research and education

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Because the natural habitat of Phodopus campbelli is large, undeveloped expanses of desert, steppe and mountain terrain, the Campbell’s hamster is not responsible for any documented significant negative economic impact.

Phodopus campbelli are inquisitive by nature, and individuals kept as pets have been known to nip humans when startled. However, the bite is primarily a reaction mechanism and nips rarely extend beyond the outermost, dermal, layer of tissue.

  • Negative Impacts
  • injures humans
    • bites or stings

Conservation Status

The natural habitat of Phodopus campbelli is an extremely dry, harsh and undeveloped environment. The Campbell’s hamster is not considered an endangered species and probably does not face extinction anytime in the near future.


Matthew Wund (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Nora Cothran (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Phil Myers (editor, instructor), Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



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

World Map


uses sound to communicate


young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.

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

desert or dunes

in deserts low (less than 30 cm per year) and unpredictable rainfall results in landscapes dominated by plants and animals adapted to aridity. Vegetation is typically sparse, though spectacular blooms may occur following rain. Deserts can be cold or warm and daily temperates typically fluctuate. In dune areas vegetation is also sparse and conditions are dry. This is because sand does not hold water well so little is available to plants. In dunes near seas and oceans this is compounded by the influence of salt in the air and soil. Salt limits the ability of plants to take up water through their roots.


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.


an animal that mainly eats leaves.


Referring to a burrowing life-style or behavior, specialized for digging or burrowing.


an animal that mainly eats seeds


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.

native range

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


active during the night

pet trade

the business of buying and selling animals for people to keep in their homes as pets.


the kind of polygamy in which a female pairs with several males, each of which also pairs with several different females.

scent marks

communicates by producing scents from special gland(s) and placing them on a surface whether others can smell or taste them

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


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


lives alone


mature spermatozoa are stored by females following copulation. Male sperm storage also occurs, as sperm are retained in the male epididymes (in mammals) for a period that can, in some cases, extend over several weeks or more, but here we use the term to refer only to sperm storage by females.

stores or caches food

places a food item in a special place to be eaten later. Also called "hoarding"


uses touch to communicate


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


Living on the ground.


defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement

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.


uses sight to communicate


reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.


Allen, G. 1938. The Mammals of China and Mongolia. New York, New York: The American Museum of Natural History.

Hollister, N. 1912. New mammals from the highlands of Siberia. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, 60/14: 1-6.

Jones, J. 2000. Paternal hamsters mechanically assist the delivery, consume amniotic fluid and placenta, remove fetal membranes, and provide parental care during the birth process. Hormones & Behavior, 37/2: 116-125.

Lai, S. 1994. Individual odors in Djungarian hamsters (Phodopus campbelli). Ethology, 96/2: 117-126.

McMillan, H. 1999. Divergent reproductive endocrinology of the estrous cycle and pregnancy in dwarf hamsters (Phodopus). Comparative Biochemistry & Physiology, 124/1: 53-67.

Pogosianz, H. 1975. Djungarian hamster, a suitable tool for cancer research and cytogenetic studies. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 54: 659-664.

Robinson, T. 1993. Cross-species discrimination of individual odors by hamsters (Muridae: Mesocricetus auratus, Phodopus campbelli). Ethology, 94/4: 317-325.

Ross, P. 1995. Phodopus campbelli. Mammalian Species, 0/503: 1-7. Accessed November 01, 2004 at

Sokolov, V., N. Vasil'ev. 1993. Behavior of Phodopus campbelli Thomas, 1905 in nature: Confirmation of the social biological field theory. Doklady Akademii Nauk, 332/5: 667-670.

Sokolov, V., N. Vasil'ev. 1993. Hybridological analysis confirms species independence of Phodopus sungorus (Pallas, 1973) and Phodopus campbelli (Thomas, 1905). Doklady Akademii Nauk, 332/1: 120-123.

Thomas, O. 1905. A new Cricetulus from Mongolia. Annals and Magazine of Natural History, 6: 322-323.

Tikhonova, G., I. Tikhonov, A. Surov. 1999. Comparative analysis of sensory information in dwarf hamsters (Rodentia, Cricetidae). Zoologicheskii Zhurnal, 78/2: 253-259.

Wynne-Edwards, K., A. Surov, A. Telitzina. 1992. Field Studies of Chemical Signaling: Direct Observations of Dwarf Hamsters in Soviet Asia. New York, New York: Plenum Press.

Wynne-Edwards, K. 1987. Evidence for Obligate Monogamy in the Djungarian hamster Phodopus-Campbelli. Behavioral Ecology & Sociobiology, 20/6: 427-438.