Hamster shows are a lovely way to meet other people who are interested in hamsters. You can speak to breeders and exhibitors, and see all the show hamsters. Usually all 5 species of hamster are represented in many different colour, pattern and coat varieties. Many people are surprised at how different show hamsters are from pet shop hamsters, especially the Syrians!
Details of NHC-affiliated club show dates and locations can be found on the show map and the schedules are available here. Shows are held both in village halls (which are free to come in and look around) and as part of larger country shows. As well as the show hamsters and judging, there are usually hamster accessories and baby hamsters for sale, and information on hamster keeping and the hamster club.
Top left: Bath hall show. Top right: Bradford Championship show. Bottom: Romsey open show
There are two ways to show your hamster: in the main show or in the pet class.
A good place to start with showing is the pet class. Hamsters can be shown in their cage or a suitable carrier. Space at shows is limited so very large cages are best left at home. The carrier/cage should be secure so cardboard boxes should be avoided.
Pet hamsters are entered on the day of the show by going to the show secretary's table. The class is usually judged at 2pm and costs £1 to enter (this may be subject to change so each show has information about pet class on the show schedule). The show secretary gives the owner a label to place on the cage/carrier which is placed in the pet class area while awaiting judging. The judge for pet class is a member of the fancy or an exhibitor, and the hamster is judged on condition and tameness. Everyone receives a pet class certificate, and winners receive a prize card and rosette. No matter where your hamster comes in the class, you know you always take home the best hamster in the world!
Genta and her pet class rosette
A show schedule with all the details of classes and who to contact is sent out a month or so in advance in the journal to members of the hamster club. It can also be found online on the National Hamster Club website and on the Mad About Hamsters forum. Exhibitors choose which hamsters to enter and in which classes, and send their entries to the show secretary. The deadline is usually the Wednesday before the show, but this too is written on the schedule.
An example of Vectis's entry:
1, 17, 20, 21 plus 1 syrian hire pen
D5, D16, D17, D18, D19
D5, D15, D16, D17, D18, D19
D5, D17, D18, D19
D5, D15, D17, D18, D19
D6, D16, D17, D18, D19
D6, D17, D18, D19
The numbers are the different classes the hamster is to be entered in, and each line is one hamster (this is the entry for a Southern Hamster Club show - the class numbers can be different for Midland or Northern shows). The hamster's name or date of birth is not needed by the show secretary.
The show secretary is responsible for taking all the entries, preparing all the paperwork including writing out prize cards, issuing hire pens and taking entry money. It is a busy job! The show secretary is a good person to contact if you have a question about entering a show and their contact details are on the top of the show schedule. The show manager of the hamster club can also answer questions about showing and contacts can be found on the website for each hamster club.
Hamsters in the main show are entered in special show pens. These can be hired if you do not own any by asking the show secretary when you enter (see above entry). The hamster club provides a dog biscuit for each show pen, and the exhibitor needs to put in some vegetable as a moisture source plus some substrate (wood shavings for dwarves and short-haired Syrians, and wood-based cat litter for long-haired Syrians).
On the day of the show, exhibitors collect their pen labels from the show secretary plus a dog biscuit per pen. The hamsters are put in their pens and placed on the show bench. This is referred to as 'benching' your hamster. There are plenty of people around to help if you are not sure how to bench your hamster. Once the hamster has been put on the show bench, you are not allowed to touch the pen or hamster, and you should not identify which hamster is yours so that the judge can hear. This is so that the judging is fair for all.
Hamsters on the show bench
The judge takes each hamster out of its show pen and assesses it against the National Hamster Council standards, looking at colour, type, fur, size, condition, and eyes and ears. Points are awarded out of 100 and the highest scoring hamster wins the class. The highest scoring Syrian wins Syrian Best in Show, and the highest scoring dwarf hamster wins Dwarf Best in Show. Prize cards and trophies are awarded to all class winners, and Certificates of Merit can be given to the best hamsters if the judge feels it appropriate. When all the judging has finished, the show secretary or show manager will announce that the hamsters may be lifted from the show bench by their owners.