Of the 5 species kept as pets only two species can interbreed and produce live offspring and these are the Campbells and Winter White Russian Hamsters. The offspring produced from the mating of two separate species are known as hybrids.
Distinguishing Between The Campbells And Winter White Russian Hamsters
As can be seen from the pictures above the normal Campbells Russian is paler in colour and is more brown-grey in colour than the normal Winter White Russian. The Campbells also has a distinct cream tint along the side arches that separate the brown-grey top colour from the whiter belly colour whereas the Winter White has a black tint along the side arches with no cream tint. The Winter White, also often has a few black hairs ticked in the white areas under the side arches whereas the Campbells has no coloured hairs ticked in the white areas under the side arches.
The Campbells and Winter White are in different poses above so it is not easily seen but they are a slightly different shape with the Winter White being more bullet shaped and the Campbells being "flatter" in the body.
The dorsal stripe on the Winter White is thick and jet black (often wider between the shoulders) whereas the dorsal stripe on the Campbells is grey-black, thinner and does not widen between the shoulders.
The head shape is also different between the two species with the Winter White having longer head and a "roman nose". The eyes are usually larger and bolder on the Winter White than on the Campbells and they are placed closer to the ears than the nose whereas on the Campbells the eyes are roughly equal distance from nose and ears. Another difference between the two species is the nose shape. The Campbells has a "puffy" nose where the profile on the side of the face puffs out around the nose. The profile of the Winter White is smooth with no "puffy" nose.
Other colours and patterns in both species make them easy to distinguish apart. Albino (white with red eyes), Argente (ginger with red eyes), Opal (blue-grey with black eyes), Black (black with black eyes), Black Eyed Argente (dull ginger with black eyes), Mottled (coloured with white patches or spots or white with coloured patches and spots), Dilute Platinum (white with black eyes), Platinum (coloured with white hairs through the coat), Satin (wet look shiny coat) are all Campbells mutations. Sapphire (purple-grey with black eyes) and Pearl (white with black or purple-grey hairs ticked through the coat and concentrated along the dorsal area) are Winter Whites mutations.
However, it is possible to produce hybrids in any of these colours and of course, new colour mutations could occur in either species or in a hybrid at any time.
Identifying A Hybrid Hamster
Hybrids are a combination of both of the species and as such they have characteristics of both species. No amount of breeding back to one of the species will remove all the characteristics of the other species from a hybrid but it can make them less obvious.
A hybrid with strong Campbells characteristics may have the flat profile and puffy nose of the Campbells but most often has a thicker dorsal stripe (wider between the shoulders) from the Winter White and the eyes may be closer to the ears than the nose.
A hybrid with strong Winter White characteristics may have the bullet shaped body but most often it has a thinner dorsal stripe than on the pure Winter White, lacks the darker colour that defines the arches and lacks coloured hairs ticked in the whiter areas under the side arches. Most often they have a slightly "puffy" nose from the Campbells and the eyes are less prominent and equal distance from the ears and nose.
Although hybrids make equally as good a pet as the Campbells or Winter White Russian hamster the deliberate breeding of hybrids should be avoided for many reasons as outlined on the page relating to the interbreeding hamster species.