Significance to humans

Humans have long regarded hamsters as agricultural pests. Large species, particularly Cricetus cricetus, have been trapped for their fur; as recently as 2001, hamster fur made headlines as a controversial high-fashion item. Historically, farmers from China to Germany dug up hamster burrows to get at the stored grain—sometimes to feed farm animals, and sometimes—when times were hard—to feed themselves.

Since the twentieth century hamsters have been most important to humans as a biomedical research animal. Chinese hamsters were the first species to be used in laboratory research, in 1919. As of 2002, eight different species have been used in research on infectious diseases, cytogenetics, toxicology, and oncology, as well as obesity and diabetes, pho-toperiod changes, social behavior, and hibernation physiology. The species most widely used in research is the golden hamster.

Hamsters are also very popular pets; they are also bred for specialized colors and patterns, entered in shows, and exhibited at zoos.

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