HAMSTER, a European mammal of the order Rodentia, scientifically known as Cricetus frumentarius (or C. cicetus), and belonging to the mouse tribe, Muridae, in which it typifies the sub-family Cricetinae.
The burrow of the young hamster is only about a foot in depth, while that of the adult descends 4 or 5 ft.
On retiring for the winter the hamster closes the various entrances to its burrow, and becomes torpid during the coldest period.
The skin of the hamster is of some value, and its flesh is used as food.
All rodents, with the sole exception of the dormice, have a caecum, often of great length and sacculated,, as in hares, the water-rat and porcupines; and the long colon in some, as the hamster and water-rat, is spirally twisted upon itself near the commencement.
The group is typified by the European hamster (Cricetus vulgaris or C. cricetus), to which a separate article is devoted (see Hamster); the genus includes a number of species ranged under several sub-genera, such as Mesocricetus, Cricetulus, and Urocricetus, widely spread in Western and Central Asia, the last-mentioned, which is from Tibet, being distinguished by its relatively long tail.
Besides these there are many useful, though commonplace, fur-bearing animals like mink, musquash, skunk, raccoon, opossum, hamster, rabbit, hares and moles, that thrive by depredations upon cultivated land.
Some of the poorer sorts of furs, such as hamster, marmot, Chinese goats and lambs, Tatar ponies, weasels, kaluga, various monkeys, antelopes, foxes, otters, jackals and others from the warmer zones, which until recently were neglected on account of their inferior quality of colour, by the better class of the trade, are now being deftly dressed or dyed in Europe and America, and good effects are produced, although the lack of quality when compared with the better furs from colder climates which possess full top hair, close underwool and supple leathers, is readily manifest.
Hamster.-Size 8 X32 in.
Among the rodents the hamster and the field-mouse are a scourge to agriculture.