Hamster , a rodent of the rat family, or muridoe, and the genus cricetus (Cuv.). The incisors are 2/2, and the cheek teeth 3/3-3/3, or 16 in all, as in the rats; there are internal cheek pouches, in which they carry grain and seeds to their subterranean abodes; the head is thick, the ears oval and round, the body ratlike, the legs short, and the tail about 1 1/2 in. long, covered with hair. There are several species in Europe and northern Asia, of which the best known is the common hamster (C. vulgaris, Cuv.); it is a little larger than a rat, reddish gray above, black underneath, with three yellowish white spots on each side, a white spot on the throat, and another under the chest; legs whitish. It is sometimes almost entirely black. The grooves and tubercles of the motors are more regular than in the rat; the fore feet are four-toed with the rudiment of a thumb, and the hind feet five-toed, free, and furnished with long claws adapted to digging; the eyes are small but prominent; the fur fine and long.

The hamster commits great havoc among the grain, by the large quantities which it carries to its burrows; these are dug 3 or 4 ft. deep in light sandy soil, having two or more entrances and apartments, and each animal occupies its own; it thus lays up a store for winter, a part of which it passes in a state of lethargy; though its food is principally vegetable, it will devour flesh. It is ferocious and untamable, fighting with its mates, and biting the hand that feeds it. The burrows are often very complicated, and so capacious and well filled that it is an object with the farmer to collect their contents. Gestation lasts about four weeks, and occurs three or four times a year, each litter varying from six to twelve. It is very cleanly in its habits, and is an excellent climber, but a poor walker and runner. Other species are found in Siberia. - The Canada hamster, and others so called, with external cheek pouches, have been described under Gopher; the genus cricetus is not found in America. An American mouse of the genus hesperomys (II. myoides, Gapper), resembling the white-footed species, is sometimes called hamster mouse from its having internal cheek pouches; in no other character does it approach cricetus; it is found in Canada, Vermont, and New York.

Hamster (Cricetus vulgaris).

Hamster (Cricetus vulgaris).