In the present study, we examined the effect of the following factors on a hamster model of cholesterol cholelithiasis: (i) the source of the golden Syrian hamsters (Sasco, Omaha, NE or Charles River, Wilmington, MA), (ii) the sex of the experimental animals and (iii) their age (4 wk vs. 8 wk of age). All hamsters were fed a semipurified diet which contained cholesterol (0.3%) and palmitic acid (1.2%). No cholesterol gallstones formed in any of the female hamsters regardless of age or source. The 4-week-old male hamsters from Sasco had the greatest incidence of gallstones (93%). The 8-week-old male hamsters tended to have a lower incidence of cholesterol gallstones than the younger ones, regardless of the commercial supplier (67 vs. 93% for Sasco and 27 vs. 40% for Charles River). Female hamsters has higher liver and serum cholesterol levels than the male hamsters; Charles River hamsters had lower serum cholesterol concentrations than the Sasco animals. Total biliary lipid concentrations were highest in Sasco male hamsters, but biliary cholesterol (mol%) was lower in the males than in the females (4.2-4.5%vs. 6.1-7.1%) regardless of age. The cholesterol saturation indices were higher in the Sasco females than the corresponding males; these values were lower in the Sasco hamsters than the Charles River animals, regardless of age or sex. The male Sasco hamsters had a higher total biliary bile acid concentration (98.9 mg/mL) than the Sasco females (58.9 mg/mL) and the Charles River animals (24.6% mg/mL for males and 38.2 mg/mL for females). The percentage of chenodeoxycholic acid in bile was significantly lower, and the percentage of cholic acid was higher in all females as compared to males. We conclude that there is a sex, age and "strain" difference in cholesterol cholelithiasis in hamsters; it is important to consider these factors when working with the hamster model of gallstone disease. All female hamsters were markedly resistant to the induction of cholesterol gallstone disease.