Roborovski's in the Wild

Roborovski hamsters, or 'Desert hamster' (Latin: Phodopus Roborovskii), originate from Mongolia and Northern China where they live in semi-arid areas with little vegetation. They live in burrows and dig steep tunnels, some 1-2 metres (2-6 feet) beneath the sand. In the wild they are most active in September to November and during the evening and at dawn.

Roborovskis seem to be the most efficient in economising their water needs. They are able to highly concentrate their urine and survive on less water than other dwarf hamsters - a perfect adaptation to the desert. They are also much less sensitive to cold temperatures. They are, however, very sensitive to heat.

Lt. Roborovski first made reports of the breed during an expedition near Nan Shan in July 1894. One of the first to study this hamster in captivity was zoölogist Satunin, around 1903. It was not until the late 1970’s that the Zoological Society of London obtained the Roborovski Hamster from the Moscow Zoo, but unfortunately these did not breed.

Some European countries were more successful in breeding the Roborovski's acquired from Russia than others. All Roborovskis now kept in the UK were imported by a single hamster breeder from Holland in 1990. 

It would be as recent as 1998 before a group of Roborovski hamsters were imported by a hamster breeder into the US. Although the Roborovski is still quite rare in the US, in the past years there have been attempts to breed from Roborovskis caught from the wild in Russia, but they would fail to reproduce or die due to stress. The domesticated Roborovski has for the most part shed this breeding impairment as it becomes more widely bred and held as a pet. 

Here's a BBC clip from 'Wild China', showing Robo's in their natural habitat: