Friday, August 15, 2008

Norwegian Hamsters

So I was watching a show on the Discovery Channel about the origin and care of certain household pets. This week’s episode; hamsters. Having owned a hamster in the past I was a little curious to know more about their background. Unwittingly in watching this show I gained a greater degree of insight on an ancient Scandinavian culture which has piqued my interest for years.

Apparently there are more than one breed of hamster. There is the Golden Hamster, which is the one that most people think of when they visualize this animal. I was surprised to find out that it comes from Africa. And that all Golden Hamsters are descended from about a dozen specimens collected from Syria. Obviously I’m no geneticist, but it seems to me that all the thousands and thousands of hamsters throughout the world being descended from just 12 hamsters would necessitate an astonishing degree of inbreeding. Perhaps all their cute behavior such as running in a wheel is the result, and indicates the apex of their intellectual capacity. In that respect I suppose hamsters are quite bright by comparison to some other species. I’ve known full grown adults who couldn’t walk and speak at the same time, let alone run in a stationary wheel.

If you’ve ever owned a hamster you would know what sort of bumbling oblivious animals they are, almost as bad as people. The idea that something as small, harmless, and crunchy as a hamster lived at one time out in the wild boggles my mind. They don’t blend in with their surroundings; they’re not fast, not smart, and not resilient. It’s like a hemophiliac sleeping on a bed of nails, if you’ll forgive the allusion, there’s no question what’s going to happen.

Anyway. There is another species of hamster which originates from Norway. The Norwegian Hamster is much smaller and difficult to care for. Apparently they are much tougher despite their size. It was considerably more difficult to domesticate this species. Based on their appearance I would have to say that it’s likely the early Norse settlers borrowed the Norwegian Hamster’s image when they became known as Vikings.

Just imagine it. You’re a Norwegian farmer, walking back through the fields after a hard day. Suddenly out of nowhere comes a high pitched ululating cry. Hundreds of hamsters come running out over the hill and make a beeline for the farmhouse. They’re chittering and frothing at the mouth in berserk fury, waving tiny battleaxes and swords as they hack a hole in the bottom of your house’s front door.

A few moments later, and after much shrieking and crashing of crockery, the hamsters emerge, their cheeks bulging with looted grain and cheese as they hightail it out of there as fast as they can.

Just as you think the horror is over and you thank the gods that your home and family has been spared, you catch a whiff of the first wisps of smoke. The little buggers set fire to the place on their way out.

Now if you were in this position and had to live with this sort of thing happening on a daily basis, wouldn’t you start to get ideas about a better way of life too?

1 comment:

Joilene said...

Thanks for the laugh, I needed that.

Of course, my (used-to-be) pet mice may have been even more talented than the hamsters you've mentioned. One was a field mouse, the other a fat grey domestic variety, and they had a clunky, homemade wheel. The domestic one ran inside, and the wild one outside, on top...then went for about three loops every time the heavier one jumped off.

Fortunately, being unconnected to your fierce Norse hamsters, they never threatened to burn the place down, stomp on the chickens, or soil the quilts.