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Just like the question indicates — why didn't more students own snowy owls? Eeylops Owl Emporium clearly states that they sell snowy owls among the other types of owls they sell, although I don't have the exact quotes. And it states clearly in GoF that there weren't many snowy owls at Hogwarts:

Instinctively, Harry looked up, but there was no sign of white among the mass of brown and gray. -Goblet of Fire, Chapter 13 "Mad-Eye Moody", pg. 194

This sentence strongly indicates there are very little snowy owls at Hogwarts. And we know that students — for example, Lavender Brown — think Hedwig, a snowy owl, is beautiful. So, why didn't more students own snowy owls?

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  • To be fair: that sentence doesn't mean few students owned snowy owls; it only means Harry couldn't see any at that moment. There's loads of nooks & crannies & roosting spaces in the owlery. I think the best reading of that sentence is that from that vantage point, he couldn't see any white owls.
    – elemtilas
    Jun 16 '20 at 20:03
  • In-Universe Guess: most likely cost. Snowy Owls are some of the rarer types and therefore likely to be more expensive. Out of Universe Guess: JKR just wanted to make a point of Hedwigs absence, and also to make Harry more unique.
    – ava
    Oct 8 at 17:34
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Snowy owls are probably expensive.

It seems likely that snowy owls are more expensive than most other types of owl. Hagrid had gotten money out of the Potters’ vault to buy Harry’s school supplies, and he bought Harry’s pet for him as a birthday present.

“Just yer wand left – oh yeah, an’ I still haven’t got yeh a birthday present.’

Harry felt himself go red.

‘You don’t have to –’

‘I know I don’t have to. Tell yeh what, I’ll get yer animal. Not a toad, toads went outta fashion years ago, yeh’d be laughed at – an’ I don’ like cats, they make me sneeze. I’ll get yer an owl. All the kids want owls, they’re dead useful, carry yer post an’ everythin’.”
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 5 (Diagon Alley)

The Potters were rich, so their vault had a lot of money, and Hagrid would have wanted Harry to have a particularly special birthday present since he knew Harry had not been treated well and this was likely to be the first present he ever received.

“Twenty minutes later, they left Eeylops Owl Emporium, which had been dark and full of rustling and flickering, jewel-bright eyes. Harry now carried a large cage which held a beautiful snowy owl, fast asleep with her head under her wing. He couldn’t stop stammering his thanks, sounding just like Professor Quirrell.

‘Don’ mention it,’ said Hagrid gruffly. ‘Don’ expect you’ve had a lotta presents from them Dursleys.”
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 5 Diagon Alley)

Hagrid would have had the money (from the Potters’ vault) and the desire to get Harry a particularly special birthday present. It seems likely that the reason snowy owls are rare at Hogwarts is because they are expensive, and most parents do not choose such expensive pets for their children attending Hogwarts.

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    beat me to it! Was citing the exact same quote. My only niggle is that I don't believe Hagrid was spending Harry's own money in buying the owl, otherwise it's not really a present :)
    – NKCampbell
    Jun 16 '20 at 19:32
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    @NKCampbell Oops sorry, wasn’t trying to beat you! I fully agree that usually you can’t buy someone a present with their own money. The reason I suggest Hagrid may have done that is because I’m not sure how much money of his own Hagrid would have.
    – Obsidia
    Jun 16 '20 at 19:41
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    You may also want to note that snowy owls are not native to Britain, or at least aren't anymore. They might be harder for even a wizard to obtain or own outside of their native range. Jun 16 '20 at 19:41
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    no worries and no harm done!
    – NKCampbell
    Jun 16 '20 at 19:43
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    @SpaceWolf1701 That's mentioned in Goblet of Fire too: “Hedwig’ll attract too much attention,” said Hermione at once. “She stands out. A snowy owl that keeps returning to wherever he’s hiding . . . I mean, they’re not native birds, are they? Jun 16 '20 at 20:30

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