European Black Bear Hamster
Pregnant Black Syrian Long Haired Black Syrian Female
Very Pregnant "Black Bear" Black Syrian
Long Haired Black Syrian Female
The terms "European Black Bear" and "Black Bear Hamster" are nicknames used mostly in the US for the Black syrian hamster.  I have heard many tales of how they grow twice the size of regular syrians, live twice as long, and are inherently more docile, but this just isn't true.  I have owned them for many years and even brought them back from Europe (as well as obtained first generation animals from those brought back from Europe).  They are the same animal as the syrian.

My Black syrians are bigger and friendlier than the typical pet store syrian.  Is it because they are black?  Absolutely not.  Then why.  The main reason is that I breed and select for these characteristics.  I aim to breed quality show animals which also makes them quality pets.  Two of the criteria for a good show animal are a large size and good temperament.  So I choose my breeding animals by looking at these characteristics (as well as others).  Of course I also have larger, tamer Cream syrians than the typical pet store.  Actually, all of my hamsters of all colors are larger and generally tamer than the average pet store hamster (although you can find some nice pet store hamsters).  So a breeder who breeds for temperament and size will have animals which on average are better on those characteristics than the average pet store hamster just since their breeders don't typically select for those criteria.

Then why do "Black Bears" have a reputation for being bigger and more friendly than the typical US hamster?  Essentially the answer is the same as I just discussed above.  The original Black syrians brought to the US were European show animals.  Thus they were bred for size and temperament among other qualities.  Thus, they were larger and tamer than the traditional pet store hamster (although I doubt that they lived any longer despite the claims of many pet stores).  Most of the Black syrians sold in pet stores now are bred by large commercial breeders.  The Black syrians are now the same as any other color hamsters bred by these breeders.  The early advantages were gone years ago.

So what do you do if you want a very good pet hamster?  You evaluate each and every hamster on its own merits regardless of price, color, or the claims people make.  Evaluate them for yourselves.  Good and bad hamsters can be found in almost every city.  You may just need to put forth some effort to find a good one in your area.  If the friendliest and most healthy hamster in your area is a "Black Bear" and costs twice the price, he may be worth it.  I would certainly pay a bit more for a better hamster (and they're rarely more than $25).
More "black bear" black syrian pictures
Link to Lorraine HIll's discussion of the European Black Bear Hamsters
Link to the California Hamster Association Web Site and an explanation of showing hamsters.
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