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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Smart Stuff with Twig Walkingstick: Run, Hamster, Run (for the Week of Oct. 5, 2008)

September 29, 2008

Q. Dear Twig: My pet hamster runs in her wheel all the time. OK, not all the time, but a lot. At least at night. How far do you think she runs?


A. "Eek, eek, eek. Eek, eek, eek." I hear that noise when I visit the home of my human friend Miss McGillicuddy.

"Eek, eek, eek. Eek, eek, eek." And on and on and on and on.

What is it?

It's a hamster in an exercise wheel is what it is.

To be exact, it's Miss McGillicuddy's pet hamster Jimi Hamstrix in his squeaky metal exercise wheel. She says that he runs in it most of the night. Hamsters are nocturnal: active at night.

The answer to your question comes from a study by German scientists. A healthy young wheel-jogging hamster, they found, runs about 8 miles a night. Running from one end of a soccer field to the other end 130 times would equal about the same distance. Eek! The scientists called that "amazing." I agree.

Rock on, Jimi! Roll on. Both.

Round and round,


P.S. The hamsters in the study were Syrian hamsters, the common, bigger kind kept as pets.



How fast does a hamster run? About 1.8 miles per hour, the study reported. Compare that to the average walking speed of a person: about 3 miles per hour.

The study appeared in the Journal of Translation Medicine in 2006. Title: "Decreased Wheel-running Activity in Hamsters Post Myocardial Infarction." Find it at

The five most common pet hamster breeds, according to the Web site, are (from bigger to smaller) the Syrian, the Campbell Russian, the Chinese, the Winter White Russian (also called the Siberian) and the Roborovski.

About This:

"Smart Stuff with Twig Walkingstick," published by The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences — specifically, by the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) and Ohio State University Extension, the research and outreach arms, respectively, of the College — is a weekly feature for children about science, nature, farming and the environment. It's written at, to and for a 4th-grade reading level.

For details, to ask Twig a question, and/or to receive the column free by mail or e-mail, contact Kurt Knebusch, CommTech, OSU/OARDC,1680 Madison Ave., Wooster, OH 44691,, (330) 263-3776.

Online at


Kurt Knebusch