The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has precipitated an unprecedented and yet-unresolved health crisis worldwide. Different mammals are susceptible to SARS-CoV-2; however, few species examined so far develop robust clinical disease that mirrors severe human cases or allows testing of vaccines and drugs under conditions of severe disease. Here, we compare the susceptibilities of three dwarf hamster species (Phodopus spp.) to SARS-CoV-2 and introduce the Roborovski dwarf hamster (P. roborovskii) as a highly susceptible COVID-19 model with consistent and fulminant clinical signs. Particularly, only this species shows SARS-CoV-2-induced severe acute diffuse alveolar damage and hyaline microthrombi in the lungs, changes described in patients who succumbed to the infection but not reproduced in any experimentally infected animal. Based on our findings, we propose the Roborovski dwarf hamster as a valuable model to examine the efficacy and safety of vaccine candidates and therapeutics, particularly for use in highly susceptible individuals.