One of the thrills of keeping hamsters is entering them in competition with others for prizes. First class exhibition hamsters are usually superior to those bought at a pet store. Nevertheless, this fact need not deter anyone who wishes to exhibit from doing so. Some very good hamsters have been purchased from a pet shop. There is also another aspect. Many shows have special classes for junior exhibitors (under 16 years of age), novices (those who have not won a first prize) and pet classes (where the exhibit is judged more on condition and health, than on show points). The existence of these classes gives the beginner a real chance of winning a prize since the “old hands” at showing cannot compete in the same classes.
Hamster shows are of two sorts. There are those put on by agriculture exhibitions, horticulture shows and local council fetes. Many of these have livestock sections and the hamster may be included along with guinea-pigs, rabbits, etc. The advantages of these shows is that they are conveniently near for visiting and that they cater for pets rather than for exhibition animals. Anyone desiring to show must first ascertain if there are classes for hamsters and obtain a copy of the show rules. These rules are usually quite simple and are to ensure that everything is above board and that entries are properly made.
The other types of shows are organised by hamster clubs. These may be devoted entirely to hamsters or be part of a larger show, of which hamsters are an important section. A visit to one of these is much more exciting and rewarding than those previously mentioned. The quality of the exhibits would be expected to be higher and many of the varieties of hamsters can be seen under one roof. There is opportunity to meet people whose main interest is hamsters and who are interested enough to guide the footsteps of the beginner.
At the time of writing, the hamster fancy is organised into three regional clubs, all under the friendly aegis of the National Hamster Council. The three clubs are the Yorkshire Hamster Club which covers all counties north of the Midlands and Scotland, the Midland Hamster Club which covers the Midlands and Wales and the Southern Hamster Club which covers London and the southern counties. The National Hamster Council co-ordinates the activities of these Clubs but, above all, sees to it that there are agreed rules and standards for the holding of shows, show classes, prizes and special awards. It also publishes a monthly journal which gives news of impending shows, latest developments in the world of hamsters and other information.
Should you wish to show (or even if you do not), membership of one of these clubs is well worthwhile. You will then obtain news of when and where shows are to be held. Which club you should join will depend on where you live. If you are uncertain, the secretary of any one will soon advise you. Membership is inexpensive (mostly to pay for the journal and postage) and reduced fees are paid by juniors (those under 16 years). Meetings arranged by these clubs are more than just exhibitions. Members can get together to char about their hobby and ideas can be aired far better than in any amount of letter writing.
A standard show pen must be used for exhibiting at hamster club shows. This is necessary not only to aid the judge in his task but also to avoid any suggestion that it is possible to know who owns which exhibit. A non-standard pen could result in disqualification of the exhibit. The pens can be made at home according to specifications laid down by the National Hamster Council. The specifications will be passed on to you when you join one of the clubs. Alternatively, new or second-hand pens can often be bought quite cheaply.
It is rather obvious that no hamster should be considered for showing which is not in top-hole condition. It should be bright of eye, full of vim and capable of being handled by strangers. Many a good hamster has failed on the show table because of unfriendly behaviour. The animal should also be perfectly clean and free from stains, particularly if it is light coloured or white. Be sure to use fresh white sawdust in the show pen and do not include food or liquid which could stain or mess the coat in any way. Pay attention to the show pen. There must be no distinguishing features nor should it be dirty. If it arrives back from a show scratched on the outside or the white paint on the inside has become yellowish, have it repainted in good time for the next show.
Whenever possible it is best to take hamsters by hand to a show. However, it is practical to send hamsters by rail to distant shows. This is a regular service of British Rail, and, generally speaking, they handle stock expertly and quickly. Special arrangements have to be made for the sending and collection of rail livestock. These can be ascertained by inquiry at a convenient railway station. The hamsters are despatched in their show pens in specially constructed travelling boxes. These are built to hold the pens comfortably, without shaking when the lid is closed. The boxes are ventilated with air holes, with baffle plates to prevent draughts. The lid is closed with snap-fasteners, not nailed down! A stout carrying strap is fitted to the ends, buckling across the top so that no strain falls on the lid.
It is often possible to examine travelling boxes at shows and you should be able to obtain hints on how to build one of your own. As with show pens, it is often possible to buy either new or second hand travelling boxes. Most boxes are capable of holding two or four show pens and are also a convenient means of transporting hamsters by hand.