Long Haired Syrians
by Linda Price

Long haired Syrians were first documented in 1973, but the gene is believed to have appeared in 1972. The mutation was found in the United States in pet store animals.  It was described in an article titled “Long-hair: A new mutation in the Syrian hamster” which appeared in the Journal of Heredity Volume 64, pages 236-237, 1973 by Schimke, Nixon and Connelly.

Long haired Syrians have been very common in the United States for decades.  Pet stores often refer to them by the nickname “teddy bear,” and initially higher prices were charged for long haired hamsters.  Over time, this has progressively changed although many pet stores still house them separately from the short haired Syrians.  They are identical to short haired Syrians, though, except for the hair length and can be found in any color, pattern, or other coat type available in the species.


The long hair gene affects males and females differently.  Ideally males have a long coat over the entire top portion of their body although the hair on their head will be somewhat shorter.  A perfect long haired male will have a lot of length over his entire back and sides.  In reality, many are lacking that length over various parts of their body or in some cases are entirely lacking length in their coat.

Long haired females have a much shorter coat although it is still significantly longer than that of an ideal short haired female.  Some females have tufts in various places even as youngsters, and many develop tufts or wispy areas of long hair along their rear end as they age.
Yellow Black DS Female
Het Silver Pearl Black Male
The two males on the left and the two females on the right are reasonably good examples of the proper coat length given their sex.  Females never achieve the coat length that males do, and the gender difference is taken into account when judging long haired Syrians.
Het ED RD Black Male
Cream Female
Older Cream Female
Older Black Tort Female
These two females show the wispy longer hair that often appears in older long haired females.
In a litter with both long and short haired pups, the coat length won’t become apparent until they are about three weeks of age.  After that time, the coat on the males will continue to grow with some having long, flowing coats and others having coats which look a lot like those of the females.  When you have a male with a long coat, it’s best to buy a large wheel because the fur can get caught on the spindle either ripping it out or trapping the hamster in the wheel.

The BHA standard states:

Colour and Markings:  The colour and markings shall conform to the recognised colour standard allowing for a dilution of ticking on Agouti varieties.

Fur:  The fur shall be soft and very dense and evenly long over the top surface of the body, excluding the face where it shall be shorter. In general males shall have longer fur than females and allowance should be made for this.
Silver Chocolate Sable Male Chocolate Sable Male
Yellow Black Male
Although these males have wisps or tufts of longer hair, none of them comes close to having the ideal coat for a long haired male..
Homozygous ED Black Male
Silver Gray Male
The male on the left has some length on his sides but is lacking length over the entire top portion of his back.  The male on the right has length to his coat, but it's concentrated in specific areas and not even over the entire top portion of his body.
These two males appear to have decent fur density and evenness, but the length is not as long as it should be.
Silver Gray Male
Silver Gray Male
These two pictures are of the same male at different times.  Hamsters do moult.  There can also be seasonal changes which affect the coat.  Thus, the same hamster can have different lengths of coat at different times in its life..
Black DS Male Black DS Male
Silver Chocolate Sable Male
Silver Chocolate Sable Male
These six photos all show males with reasonably good coat length.  If you look at the male in the bottom left, you can see that the coat along the top of the back is shorter than that in other areas of the back.  Getting it long all over is a challenge that can take years of selective breeding.
Het Silver Pearl Black Male
Het ED RD Black Male
Long hair is attractive with all color and pattern genes although it can make it more difficult to assess the pattern on some hamsters.  It can also be combined with all other coat varieties.  Long hair dilutes the color of the hamster as well as the ticking on agouti colors.  The hair can be trimmed if it becomes entangled.  Grooming is not necessary, and brushing can break the hairs or reduce the density of the coat.
Recessive Dappled Male Sable Roan Male
It is not easy to see the pattern in either of these males.  The male on the left is a Golden Recessive Dappled while the male on the right is a Sable Roan.
Breeding Long Haired Syrians

Long hair is a simple recessive gene (l). In order for a hamster to be long haired, it must inherit the gene from both parents. Two long haired hamsters, when bred together, will produce a litter of all long haired pups. A long hair bred to a short hair (who does not carry long hair) will produce a litter of short haired pups, however they will all carry the long hair gene. If those pups are in turn bred to each other, to other long hair carriers, or to a long hair, they will produce long haired offspring. Thus it is very easy to combine long hair with any other color, marking, or coat type.
Showing Long Haired Syrians

It is difficult to achieve the length and evenness of hair length in male long haireds.  In the rare cases that we do see good length, density is often lacking.  Getting the density in that length is a challenge and can take many generations.  Breeding good long haired females is much easier.

Long haired hamsters are not a good coat type choice for the novice exhibitor, or the person looking for an “easy” coat type. A truly good example of a male long haired hamster is hard to achieve, and achieving that length on a male in combination with excellent type, proper color, correct coat density throughout the length of the coat, etc. is a hard feat.

Long Hair in Combination With Other Coat Type Genes

Keeping a Long Haired male rex's coat in show condition can be quite a challenge.  Choosing a good bedding for this combination is one of the more important issues.  Please refer to the rex article for additional information on bedding choices for rexes.  Satin can also be combined with long hair. When achieving density throughout the entire length of a male coat is already a challenge, the satin gene should be added to the equation with caution because it tends to cause the appearance of a thinner coat.
It would be far easier to maintain the rex coat on the female to the left.  With the rex male to the right, getting and maintaining a good long haired coat would be difficult.
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