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Golden hamster (Mesocricetus auratus).—John Markham
Any of various stout Old World rodents (in the family Muridae) with a short tail, soft fur, and long cheek pouches for carrying food. Hamsters are nocturnal and generally live in burrows; they feed on fruits, grain, and vegetables, though some species also eat insects and other small animals. The common hamster of Europe and western Asia is 8–12 in. (20–30 cm) long, without the 1–2.5-in. (3–6-cm) tail; its coat is brown above and black below, with white patches along each side. The golden hamster of Syria is a popular pet and is widely used as a laboratory animal; it is golden brown with white underparts and 6–8 in. (15–20 cm) long, including the tail.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on hamster, visit Britannica.com.