Gangsters and the European Hamster

2 février 2016

This is the title of a mystery story that takes place in Strasbourg, just another proof, as if we needed this, that hamsters are considered as iconic animals in our region.

So what does the European Hamster do in this murder mystery?

2015+-+2It’s not the main character even though its expertise in the field of dens could help you find out the key to this story.

The novel, which speaks about a research scientist at the CNRS who is interested in the European Hamster, sparked our team’s curiosity: how did the author, Joël Henry, describe the visit to the laboratory?

“He (the CNRS research scientist) rushed towards her (the Police inspector) to greet her and introduce her to one of these well-known hamsters.
- ‘Would you like to hold it?’
Bérengère tenderly held this little soft animal in her hands, noticing how cute the face was, with its intelligent brown eyes, a delicate little snout and charming pointed ears. Just like a cartoon animal.”

And it’s true that our hamster has a cute little face and sparkling eyes. But his ears are round though.

You must remember though that CNRS research experts or ONCFS agents, when carrying out capture operations in the fields to identify and monitor hamster population, manipulate the animals as little as possible, never handing them from one to another.

Even though they are cute, these are wild animals, and not pet hamsters. That means that they are afraid of men and that contrary to a pet who feels that being petted adds to its well-being, a wild animal will see petting as an aggression. Faced with such an aggression, it will decide between fight or flight.

7DII2715 copieThe European Hamster is not an animal that attacks spontaneously or systematically, but when it is confronted with a situation it feels is a dangerous on, it could, according to its temperament, either growl, stand on its back paws, jump or try to bit or scratch.

“-Is it a baby?”
“- No, it’s an adult.”
“- But it’s so tiny!”
“- I know, the European Hamster, or Big Hamster, from Alsace is not a very big animal. Twenty-five centimetres at the most, including its tail. I don’t know how it got its name. We used to call it the “Strasbourg groundhog.”

The European Hamster is about as big as a guinea pig. Its scientific name is Cricetus cricetus, and most people either call it a European Hamster or a Common Hamster.

So why is it known as the Big Hamster?

Because it’s the biggest of this species. It weighs between 100 and 550 grams (males are larger than females) and measures between 20 and 27 cm with a tail that’s 3 to 6 cm long. As a comparison, pet hamsters measure between 13 and 15 centimetres.

We can also say that in France, the European Hamster can only be found in Alsace, which is why it’s sometimes called the Alsatian European Hamster, but this name is not correct.

For further information about this largely unknown animal, have a look at our website:


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