HAMSTER, Cricetus, a genus of rodent quadrupeds of the family muridw, resembling the true mice and rats in their dentition, but having cheek-pouches, and a short hairy tail. The COMMON H. (erieetus vulgaris) is a native of the n. of Europe and of Asia, abundant in many parts of Germany and Poland, but not found in Britain, and rare to the w. of the Rhine. It is of variable color; although generally reddish gray above, the belly black, the feet white, and large white spots on the sides, throat, and breast. It is. larger and of stouter form than the common rat, the tail only about 3 in. long. It bur rows in dry soils, each individual making a burrow for itself, to which there are more entrances than one, and which also contains several holes or compartments, one of them hued with straw or hay, in which it sleeps, and some of them capacious enough for the storing of large quantities of grain or other provisions—to the amount of 60 lbs. of corn or a hundredweight of beans—which the animal carries thither in its cheek-pouches, and on which it feeds during the milder parts of winter, spending the most severe part of` that season in a state of torpid hibernation. It is a great pest to the farmers of the countr!es.
in which it abounds, and the object of their unceasing hostility; but it is very prolific, producing 2 or 3 broods in the year, and 16 or 18 at a birth. It feeds generally on vege table food, as leaves, seeds, etc., although it is said also sometimes to devour small quadrupeds, birds, lizardc-frogs, etc: The banister carries away yeas and other legumes in pod, but shells them, and deposits only the edible portion in its store. Its labors and depredations are all carried on by night. It is an extremely fierce and pugna cious animal, and exhibits more than the pertinacity of the bull-dog. The skins of hamsters are of some value.—There are several other smaller species of the genus, mostly Asiatic.
HAN, the name of the most celebrated of the 26 dynasties of China (206 B.C. to 220 .e.n.), founded by Kau-tsu, whose accession to the empire is regarded as the commence ment of Chinese modern history. The number and character of its heroes and literati are superior to most other periods, and to this day the term sons of Han is the favorite appellation of the Chinese to themselves—the most common term for Chinamen.