Invention of the Hamster Wheel

Have you ever heard the expression “like a hamster running on a wheel?” The phrase denotes a feeling of being stuck in one place. When we think of hamsters, we often picture them alongside their favorite toy/exercise equipment. The hamster wheel is an absolute must in every small pet enclosure. It provides your pet with a way to entertain themselves and burn off excess energy. While many of us know that the hamster wheel exists, we do not know how it came to be. The hamster wheels origin and invention is both surprising and interesting.


The hamster wheel was invented in the early 1900s. And believe it or not, it was not invented with the intention to help entertain and exercise hamsters. The first hamster wheel was actually invented by a British geneticist and mathematician named Reverend Lionel Penrose to help aid in his genetic studies of coat color in mice.


Penrose was trying to map the genes responsible for coat color in mice and needed to be able to observe mouse behavior in a controlled environment. Penrose was specifically interested in learning how mice would react to different environmental stimuli, like light and temperature, and he needed an effective way to observe this behavior over an extended period of time.


During his time, there was no technology readily available to help Penrose keep and maintain mice in a healthy manner. He innovated and created the first hamster wheel, a small circular device for mice to run on made of wire mesh. It had a surface that allowed mice to run continuously without stopping.


Penrose’s device worked well for his research purposes. It allowed him to study Mice while keeping them happy and healthy. However, it wasn’t until several years after he first invented the hamster wheel that it got introduced to the public as an exercise device for pet hamsters.


In the 1940s, hamsters became popular pets in the United States. They became household pets, and their cage was a staple in many homes. However, without wheels to exercise on the pets quickly became bored and lethargic. The first wheels commercially sold for pet hamsters were made out of metal and were much smaller than Penrose’s wheel. They also switched out the wire mesh to prevent hamsters from cutting their feet.


Today the hamster wheel is an essential item for any hamster owner. Moreover, it is an essential item for any small pet owner (except for rabbits and guinea pigs). An exercise wheel provides your small pet with an effective means of exercise and stimulation. While the hamster wheel may have originally been conceived for scientific purposes, it has come to be the go-to recreational item for small pets across the world.


If you like this article, check out our blog post on the invention of our Roam exercise ball.

Or, you can pick from one of are many other articles here.

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