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Hampster Dance is one of the earliest single-serving sites, featuring rows of dancing hamster GIFs set to a sped-up sample of the song “Whistle Stop” by Roger Miller. The site became popular in the late 90s through e-mail, blogs and bait & switch pranks.
The original Hampster Dance website was created by Canadian Deidre LaCarte, an art student at the time, during a competition between her best friend and sister to see who could generate the most web traffic. Using the web hosting service GeoCities, LaCarte created an homage to her pet hamster, Hampton, featuring 392 animated hamster sprites doing different dances in August 1998. She paired the GIFs with a 9-second WAV file that contained a sped-up sample from the song “Whistle Stop” by Roger Miller, written for the 1973 Disney cartoon Robin Hood. Though the original site is now gone, mirrors were put up by WebHamster in February 1999 and educator Lee Sonko in 2002.
The Hampster Dance site began spreading through e-mail and newsgroups, with little mention before 1999. That January, hamsterdance.com and hampsterdance.com were sold to NuttySites, a company unrelated to LaCarte. She proceeded to register hamsterdance2.com, notifying viewers that the other domains were unrelated to her and the original page. In August 1999, webzine GettingIt published one of the earliest articles about the site, where it was revealed Hampster Dance only saw 800 visits its in first seven months online. LaCarte told the webzine that over the course of 4 days in March 1999, the site acquired nearly 60,000 new hits. Three months later, it broke 17 million views.
In April 1999, the Hampster Dance song was sampled by the dance group The Cuban Boys for their song “Cognoscenti vs. Intelligentsia.” This brought even greater attention to the site after it was released as a single in December 1999, followed by feautures on the BBC, GettingIt and the UK Independent. The song hit #4 on the UK Radio Charts.
In 2000, the site was featured in a commercial for internet service provider EarthLink. In April of that year, the site was receiving 200,000 visits per day. Over the next decade, Hampster Dance was featured on many internet culture blogs including Stuff That Was Cool, CNet and Cracked. In 2006, the first YTMND homage to the site was created. The fad also spawned some other merchandise including clothes and toys, which are sold on the official site. In 2002, LaCarte sold all of the Hampster Dance rights to Abatis, Inc.
The song was released as a single in Canada, paired with trance music. Known as “The ‘Official’ Hampster Dance Song,” it peaked on #32 on the Canadian top 40 in 2000. The following year, another version was released in Australia, where it reached #5 on the national singles chart.
Soon, many other internet users attempted to imitate the Hampster Dance. However, many of these websites were hosted on the now-defunct web hosting services GeoCities and AngelFire. However, a few still exist, including: “The Funky Pez Dance of Love”, “The Cool Dance !!!”, “The Pig Dance”, “The Matchstick Dance”, “The Jesus Dance”. In 2000, LaCarte contacted several parody sites in effort to get them to remove parodies that put a negative spin on Hampster Dance, including the Satanic Hamster Dance (shown below) and The Girlie Dance, a collection of dancing women dressed provocatively.
Hampsterdance.com – The Official Online Home of Hampton and the Hampsters!