Growing up I always wanted a tail. As a toddler I used to have a little t-rex tail that I would wear. Yes, having a tail would be the dream. Think of all the extra things you can do with your tail. Monkeys use their tails as an extra appendage, it’s like having a third hand. A dog’s tail helps stabilize there balance and exhibit their emotion. Beavers use their tails to swim faster and build dams. An animal’s tail helps them with many things in life, unfortunately humans don’t have tails. However, our furry little friend, the mighty hamster has been graced with a tail. Yet, it’s a short stubby tail. One would think it serves no real purpose; they’d be wrong. Hamsters use their tails for all sorts of things, and we’re going to break those things down.
Unlike their long tailed rodent cousins; rats, gerbils, and mice; the hamster tail is actually short and stubby on purpose. In the wild hamsters dig large burrows for themselves to live in. Their tail has evolved to be small as to not get in the way while burrowing. But just because it evolved to shrink down doesn’t mean it serves no purpose.
A hamster’s tail is actually part of its spine. A hamster can use its tail to communicate with its peers. What emotion a hamster is feeling can be expressed by the position its tail takes. Additionally, a female hamster may raise its tail to signal that it is ready to mate. A hamster can even use its tail to protect its privates.
A Grain of Rice
Most species of hamster have the tiny tail we have spoken about thus far. Syrian Hamsters, Roborovski Hamsters, Russian Dwarf Hamsters, and Campbell’s Dwarf Hamsters all have tails no larger than a grain of rice. However, there is one exception to this rule, the Chinese Dwarf Hamster.
Chinese Dwarf Hamster Tails
Unlike their Hamster brethren, the Chinese Dwarf Hamster has a tail that is usually between 5 and 6 centimeters in length. Like their rat cousins, the Chinese Dwarf Hamster’s tail helps it balance while climbing. They do this by using their tail to change their center of gravity. This makes it easier to traverse difficult objects like rope and other structures. While their tail does serve them more, the Chinese Dwarf Hamster’s anatomy also makes it look more like a mouse or rat.
The Rat Tail
A Rats’ tails serves the animal eve more. It can be used as a tool in a variety of ways. Both hamsters and rats are unable to sweat. Thus, the rat’s long hairless tail provides an effective means of dispersing heat. Their tail can also be used as a way to ward of predators, however not like you may think. Rather than being used as a weapon, the tail is used as a diversion. Rats use their tails to distract predators, allowing them to escape an otherwise deadly situation.
Next time you judge a hamster or rat for their tail, remember that they are an appendage the animal gained through years of survival and evolution. Tails exist for a reason.