People have asked me whether inbreeding is safe or not.  You can tell from my web site that I do use inbreeding as a tool in my genetics testing.  Having only brought one Moscow-colored female home from Moscow, I had little choice.

Inbreeding is both good and bad.  It amplifies the good AND the bad characteristics of the hamsters involved.  When used properly by an experienced breeder with good stock, it is a very useful tool.  When done improperly, the results can be disastrous for the hamsters involved.

Let?s take an example of a problem:  diabetes.  There are many known cases of diabetes in the Campbells.  Although England gets the most press about diabetes, diabetic hamsters have made their way to the US and other countries now too.  It is believed that the tendency toward diabetes is carried and runs in family lines.  If you breed two with this tendency, you have a much greater chance of producing diabetic babies.  Since some forms of diabetes only demonstrate symptoms at 8+ months of age, you can produce a whole colony of diabetic hamsters in a very short time and not know it.

Now if a hamster with the tendency toward diabetes is bred to an unrelated hamster without this tendency, some of these babies will probably also carry the tendency to diabetes.  If one of these babies is bred back to the parent with this tendency or two babies with this tendency are bred together, you can again produce many diabetic hamsters and not know it for months.  Many other diseases and genetic problems follow this pattern.  So you really do have to be careful.

I often do inbreeding for color and/or show qualities in addition to my inbreeding for genetic testing.  Luckily our show qualities also conform to good general health qualities (although show qualities taken to the extreme can produce unhealthy animals in my opinion).  So I will practice inbreeding to strengthen a line ? either their color or their traits.  I do this regularly but always watch for any problems which develop in the babies.

This is the most important and most difficult problem with inbreeding.  You have to be able to recognize problems which appear in your babies and be ready to split pairs immediately.  If you can recognize the problems early, you can avoid major problems.  If you can?t or won?t split your pairs, you can end up with a whole hamstery filled with poor quality, unhealthy hamsters.  I know a couple of breeders like this.

It is very difficult for beginners to identify these problems early.  I have also found that many beginners want to practice inbreeding so they don?t have to buy more hamsters (they complain that they never get paid as much for their babies as they have to pay to buy new stock ? which is true but a terribly short-sighted approach).  Beginners often have cage limitations and will not separate pairs if it means buying a new cage.  For all of these reasons, I never recommend inbreeding for beginners.  Instead, purchase the best stock you can find (and that may be scouring the pet stores in your region to find the best that they offer).  Get familiar with raising hamsters using unrelated stock.  Later, as you gain more experience and find others to guide you in the process, start slowly into inbreeding.
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