16+ Types of Guinea Pig Breeds
The American Cavy Breeders Association (ACBA) recognizes 13 guinea pig breeds; 5 of which are not recognized in Cavy Breeder organizations in other countries.
But did you know that excluding the 5, there are about 18 different breeds of guinea pigs globally as of the moment, and some of them are even bald?
Guinea pigs belong to the species Cavia porcellus. Unlike hamsters, mice, and other rodents which have breeds that vary according to species, all cavies have the same DNA and thus can be bred with one another.
Cavy breeds are generally classified according to their hair type – short-haired, long-haired, rough coat, hairless, and satin. Satin are variations of other breeds but here, we shall put them under one classification for particular reasons.
Here are different types of guinea pigs throughout the world:
Short Hair Breeds
Short-haired breeds have characteristically short fur with lengths and style depending on the specific breed. Because of this, they are easy to take care of and require little grooming and will also make good pets for first-time cavy parents.
Short-haired guinea pigs can be American, Himalayan, or Ridgeback.
The most common but highly popular breed among all cavies, the American guinea pig or the English cavy, is one of the three original domesticated guinea pig breeds. It traces its origins from the Peruvian Andes Mountains of South America. It grows to about 8-9 inches and may live 4-7 years.
American cavies have a smooth and short coat that lies flat to the body which does not require regular grooming. They also have a pronounced round “Roman” nose and distinctively droopy ears. They are active and friendly; making them good household pets.
This type of guinea pig has two variants – the satin, which will be discussed in the later portion of this article, as well as the crested variant.
Crested or White Crested American Guinea Pigs have a single rosette on top of their heads. The rosette or cowlick has to be of a different color from the rest of the cavy for it to be recognized as a crested variant.
The American guinea pig is even-tempered as most of those with the same breed. It also requires less grooming compared to other guinea pig types which is why this breed is popular.
Ridgeback Guinea Pig
Ridges, like American guinea pigs, have similar origins. They grow to about 5-12 inches with life spans ranging between 4 and 7 years. Like their cousins, they have smooth and short coats but have a distinctive continuous ridge of slanting hair on their dorsal slide from neck to rump.
Additionally, their hind feet have hair that seems to grow in tufts upwards rather than downwards.
Ridges in this breed’s puppies may not appear right away until a few weeks later. In addition to ridges and leg tufts, ridgeback piggy may also have a rosette on its coat.
Himalayan Guinea Pig
Not to be confused with other breeds of Himalayan color, Himalayan guinea pigs have first been bred in Southeast Asia. These “Siamese cats” among guinea pigs grow about 8-12 inches and can live for about 5-7 years.
Himalayan Guinea Pigs have a white coat with brown or black highlights on the ears, nose, and feet. In addition, they have dark toenails, feet, and footpads.
Unlike Himalayan-colored varieties of other cavy breeds, however, the Himalayan Guinea Pig’s dark color may seem to fade if exposed on bright sunlight or hot weather, as well as when the piggy is frightened, shocked, or sick.
As a baby, this cavy breed is born white — it does not show any hints of brown or black until only after a few weeks later. Among short-haired breeds, however, this cavy is more suited to more experienced breeders and pet parents because of its sensitive skin and necessity to be kept indoors.
Long Hair Breeds
Different breeds of guinea pigs under this type have distinctively long hair that requires additional attention.
Unlike shorter hair breeds, guinea pigs under this classification cannot groom themselves because of their hair lengths. They are high maintenance and may even need more frequent baths if left to soil themselves compared with other guinea pigs.
Many owners, especially those of the Peruvian and Silkie breeds, keep the hair of their guinea pigs rolled up in between shows to prevent matting. Matted coats tend to cause irritations which not only cause the cavy discomfort but may also give its skin sores, ulcers, infection, and worse, fly strike. Hair mats around the chin and legs can also cause the poor cavies eating and movement problems, respectively.
Mites are also another thing to look out for in long-haired breeds. Not all cavies are prone to itching caused by mites, but they are still worth removing because they feed on your pet. At worst case, however, mites can push your piggy to extreme stress or seizure, which can lead to death.
Anti-mite collars for dogs and cats are not advisable so you have to consult with your vet as there are no guinea pig-specific drugs, shampoo or powder to combat mites.
Grooming routines for long-haired breeds should start at a young age so that they get used to them. These routines involve frequent brushing using soft bristled pin brush or a wide-toothed comb; moving your hand in the same direction of the strand to keep your piggy from becoming irritated.
Additionally, you may need to have a bristle brush to distribute your piggy’s natural oils for a soft and shiny coat. You may also cut its hair if you have no plans of letting the cavy enter any show. But if you do, you can wrap the hair up with tissue and tie it with a rubber band.
Additionally, particular attention is given to the bottom area because this is more exposed to wastes and dirt. To reduce its stress from grooming and cutting, a cavy is given Vitamin C-rich treats to keep it nibbling and distracted.
Longhairs can be classified into Silkie, Texel, Peruvian, Coronet, Merino, Lunkarya, and Alpaca.
The Silkie cavy, also known as the Sheltie breed, originates in the UK through crossbreeding. It can grow up to about 7-10 inches and can live up to 5-7 years. It has characteristically long, soft, smooth, and shiny coats that sweep back over its head.
A standard Silkie also does not have any crest and partition. In guinea pig shows, a good Silkie is teardrop-shaped when viewed overhead, although it also may have a longer sweep of hair at its rear.
Silkie guinea pigs are the gentlest among the cavy breeds. They are initially shy and it may take them a while to open up to their hooman. Silkies have laid back personalities, but need high maintenance because of their hair.
The Texel Guinea Pig is the corkscrew-haired version of Silkies. Also known as Curlies, Texel piggies originate from England just like their cousins. They grow to about 7-12 inches and can live to about 4-7 years.
A Texel cavy has a compact body and well-rounded head, with a long curly coat that flows back over its body except for the face, which has shorter hair. There are no stray curls beneath its lower jaws and ears, as well.
In ACBA guinea pig shows which recognized the breed since 1998, Texel guinea pigs may have a lengthwise part and can even be combed in the same way as a sheltie, provided that entries for the show have to maintain a rexoid appearance. Their curls should be tight, even those growing on the stomach.
Textel guinea pigs have curly hair that needs plenty of detangling and grooming, so the breed is not ideal for busy folk.
Peruvian guinea pigs originated in Paris, France. They grow to about 8-12 inches and have life spans of about 4-7 years. They have long smooth coats similar to a silkie, but a portion of their neck and head coat grow forward their body rather than backward and extend to the face, which creates a fringe or forelock characteristic of the breed.
A Peruvian is usually born with 2 rosettes; one extending forward, while the other facing back towards the rear. Because their topcoat is long and can grow up to a maximum of 24 inches, Peruvian cavies require a lot of grooming – about twice a day of hair brushing – and are therefore, high maintenance pets.
Peruvian guinea pigs in groups may have the tendency to barber their companions. This is usually due to diet deficiencies, boredom, excitement, and even hereditary tendencies. If left unattended, this could lead to hair loss and even baldness.
Rather than keeping these frisky balls of hair apart, they can be given proper diet, a quiet environment, as well as a good substrate that they can chew on, like dust-free shavings. You can also give them a haircut.
Coronet Guinea Pig
The Coronet breed which is also known as the English Guinea Pig, originated in England. It grows to about 7-12 inches and can live for about 6-8 years. It resembles the Silkie with its smooth flowing coat growing back over its body but has a characteristic crest or rosette on its forehead which is what it is named after.
Like Silkies, show-type Coronets must have no coat partitions. The coronet must be symmetrical and prominent, with a small center and no sticking hairs on the head.
Unlike crested American guinea pigs, however, Coronet cavies may have rosettes of any color. They also have white on other parts of their body. They have curious, playful, and affectionate temperaments, but because they need frequent grooming Coronets can be high maintenance.
Merino Guinea Pig
Also known as English Merino or Merino Peruvian, the Merino traces its origins to the English Peruvian Guinea Pig. It grows to about 4-11 inches and can live for five years or more.
The Merino breed has not yet been recognized by the ACBA but cavy fanciers and pet owners characterize it as a curly version of the Coronet.
Merino piggies have short and broad heads with a gently curved profile and no flatness. They resemble the Texel breed except for the short curly head coat as well as a head crest smack in the middle of the head between the eyes and ears.
Although Merino guinea pigs require high maintenance due to their curly coat, they have a good temperament, making them popular in Australia.
Lunkarya Guinea Pig
The Lunkarya Guinea Pig or Lunk, originates in Sweden and is usually raised as a pet in Nordic countries. Its size can reach 4-12 inches and its lifespan is about 5-8 years. Because it is a new breed, it is one of those not yet recognized by ACBA.
Lunkarya piggies have long, rough, curly coat that is full and dense which does not lie flat and is not combed out. Once described as dominant rex Peruvian, the breed has been renamed Lunkarya; thanks to the first breeder, Lundqvist.
The Lunkarya currently has 3 variations: the Lunkarya Peruvian that has a prominent fringe or forelock, the Lunkarya Sheltie which has hair flowing back over the body, and the Lunkarya Coronet which has the characteristic crest on the forehead.
Alpaca Guinea Pig
Also known by the names Boucle, English Peruvian, and Curly Coated Coronet, the Alpaca Guinea Pig’s origins go back to the English Peruvian cavy breed. It can grow to the size of about 6-8 inches and can live for about 5-8 years.
This breed of cavy resembles the actual alpaca from which it got its name. It is considered the most beautiful among the breeds with its long, coarse, wavy hair – all its strands have the same coloring that differs from the hue of main the body of the strands. The Alpaca piggy also has a rosette on its forehead.
Alpaca guinea pigs do not do well outdoors. Their hair length also requires regular brushing and detangling, which is why this breed requires a lot of care.
Rough Coat Breeds
Rough coated- guinea pigs are divided into Sheba, Abyssinian, Teddy, and Rex. Their coats either have more than two crests throughout their body or are springy, rough, or woolly. Maintenance varies from low to high because of the nature of their coat as well as their personality.
The Abyssinian Guinea Pig definitely does not come from Abyssinia, Ethiopia. Rather, its origins can be traced back to South America. This cavy can grow up to 8-12 inches and can live for about 5-8 years.
They are noted for having multiple cowlicks or crests – usually 8 in total, and commonly arranged by pair across the body, as well as a coat of color brindle, roan, tortoiseshell or solid and strands that are usually 4cm in length.
ACBA standards point out that a good show Abyssinian cavy must have a coarse and harsh hair with about 10 rosettes – 4 on the saddle, 2 on the shoulder, 2 on the hop, and 2 on the rump.
There should be no flat coat or crooked ridges, although a well-formed mustache and erect mane running down the head are needed to appear. Coat strands should be neither short, soft, or beyond 1.5 inches and definitely no satin sheen – although natural coat luster is accepted.
The Australian National Cavy Council (ANCC) considers shoulder crests as optional, but all rosettes have to be round pinpoint and evenly placed. Double rosettes are not counted.
There is a mixed recommendation on raising Abyssinian guinea pigs. Although extremely affectionate, inquisitive, easy to train, and can even become good “lap pigs,” the Abyssinian cavy is excitable in nature. They are more energetic compared to other breeds and thus, first-time guinea pig parents may find them not too ideal or a challenge to raise.
Additionally, these little piggies require special grooming. Although easy to maintain, they still need frequent brushing to keep their coats from getting tangled.
If you do plan to become an Abyssinian guinea pig breeder, please take note not to breed 2 roan Abyssinians together. Pairing a couple of roans off might produce offspring with bad, if not fatal, genetic problems.
Sheba Guinea Pig
It is not surprising that this good-natured and inquisitive guinea pig is also called “Bad hair day cavy” – the Sheba Mini Yak or Sheba, after all, looks like a combination of the Abyssinian and Peruvian breed with a natural bedhead appearance that requires plenty of grooming and maintenance.
The Sheba cavy hails from Australia, grows to a size of about 7-12 inches, and lives for about 4-7 years. It has not yet been recognized by the ACBA. But Australia, which has recognized the breed, has set the standards developed by Wynne Eecen of Sydney New South Wales in the 1970s in the book “Pigs Isn’t Pigs.”
Australian guinea pig shows require that the Sheba breed should have a dense and springy coat of natural texture and a squarish head surrounded with mutton-chop whiskers.
The Mini Yak will definitely remind you of a yak; only several times smaller. It is heavy-set and sturdy, with a coat of long-hair and rosettes, mutton-chop whiskers that are frontal, and presented to the side of the face.
This “soft toy” cavy has an unknown origin; its breed just appeared one day after some mysterious genetic mutations have occurred among piggies. It grows to about 8-12 inches and can live for about 4-5 years.
A Teddy cavy is characterized by its puff quality coat; its fur is short, even, rough, dense, and springy enough to stand all over at a moderate length which gives it a cuddly quality that reminds us of teddy bears. The hair grows longer along with the whiskers as the piggy grows older.
The Teddy guinea pig has two variations – a plush coat variety has a softer coat, while a harsh coat has a coarser texture. Additionally, US versions of the Teddy cavy have long hair coating the belly.
To add to their cuddliness, Teddy cavies are good-natured, sweet, inquisitive, and fun-loving, which makes them ideal piggy pets for kids.
Rex Guinea Pig
As the name suggests, this breed of guinea pig is large – it can grow up to 8-17 inches. Its origins are traced all the way to South America and it can live for about 5-6 years.
The Rex Guinea Pig has no guard hairs which gives its coat a woolly texture. Despite the shortness of its hair – the longest is only at 1 cm – the strands still form a dense coat. It has huge droopy ears and broad head, curly and dense underbelly hair, as well as coiled and crimped whiskers.
Rex guinea pigs may be big, but they actually make good pets as they have a sweet temper and love to be handled and petted.
There are several breeds of hairless Guinea Pigs, but the most popular of them are only two – the Skinny and the Baldwin. Contrary to their appearance, these breeds are actually the newest; introduced around the late 1970s.
Though requiring high maintenance, they are good pets for people who are allergic to pet dander as they are sociable little critters.
As the name suggests, these cavies have very little to no fur on their bodies – their hairlessness a recessive trait. They have a temperature tolerance of 75-79 °F (24-26 °C), which is slightly higher than other breeds. Because of this, breeds under this category need warmer accommodation and energy-rich diet.
They also require proper precautionary measures against sunlight, drastic temperature changes, fungi and microbes since they are more susceptible to draft, dry skin, and skin infections. These include avoiding exposure to direct sunlight as well as maintaining really clean cages.
One would probably think that Skinny Cavies, also known as Hairless piggies, come from warmer regions just like how the Mau cat comes from Egypt. But this breed actually originates from the cold country of Canada.
They are a new breed – they spread to Europe and the US in the mid and late 1990s. Skinny Guinea Pigs grow up to 8-11 inches and can live for at least 4 years.
Hairless cavies are not entirely bald; just almost hairless. The first litter of them was a cross between a hairless laboratory strain and some haired guinea pigs. They still have tufts of fur on their muzzles, feet, and legs, but other parts of the body already are bare skin. A few also have a thin covering of fuzzy hair on their back.
A healthy Skinny has almost smooth skin except for a bit of wrinkling around the legs and neck. Its body is full, with no appearance of spine or ribs. Despite being almost furless, it still shows some color type – Dutch, Tortoiseshell, and Himalayan.
There is also a werewolf variant – this is a Skinny guinea pig with more hair than a usual Skinny. The hair extends over the face all the way into the neck and shoulders. There are also extreme werewolf variants that have hair that grows all the way down the rump, but hormonal changes like pregnancies will cause growth and loss of fur.
Because their skins are sensitive and their bodies are less regulated to temperature changes compared to furry cavies, Skinny pigs require high maintenance and are not ideal for novice breeders. You need to cross-breed them into hairy cavies every other generation to maintain the hairless recessive gene.
Skinny guinea pigs need to eat more to maintain body heat so you have to house them indoors with good bedding and nesting material such as blankets or cloth bags. Their skin texture and appearance are a bit similar to humans. Like other cavies, they are vulnerable to sunburn, injuries, and fungal infections if not properly taken care of.
Baldwin Guinea Pig
The Baldwin Guinea Pig, also known as Hairless Skinny Pig, hails from California and gaining popularity among cavy fanciers and pet parents because of its unique and beautiful appearance. It was developed from a suddenly mutated litter born to American crested golden agouti parents of a single breeder (Carol Miller).
Baldwins grow to about 8-11 inches and can live for about 4-6 years. They are available in Dutch, Tortoiseshell, broken hues, Himalayan, and Self (or single) colored varieties.
Unlike the Skinny piggy, this nearly hairless breed is born with a full coat that starts shedding when it reaches 2-5 days old. It has continuous hair fall as it grows older, so by the time it reaches about 2 months old the only hair remaining on this cavy are its whiskers and the little hair on its feet.
This hardy little critter has a skin similar to a human, but more rubbery in texture. Because of this, it is still vulnerable to sunburn, injuries, and skin infections, unless given proper precautionary care.
Baldwins can be bathed regularly using soft pH neutral or baby shampoos; taking care not to let the soap suds enter their ears. Occasional soft oiling after a bath is acceptable – avoid oiling it too much or too frequently.
If properly cared for, it can be allowed to stay outside on warm weather but only at short periods. Put it in the shade and make sure it does not get hit with direct sunlight.
Like the Skinny, a Baldwin guinea pig needs to be housed indoors with good bedding such as a blanket, fleece bag or small plastic or wooden house for heat conservation. On colder weather and in areas with cold climate, heating pads and other external heat sources within the room are also fine add-ons to make this little critter comfortable.
Breeding and raising Baldwins is recommended for advanced pet guinea pig breeders and experienced cavy pet parents. Aside from the various tasks in ensuring that a Baldwin maintains a healthy skin, it is also difficult to breed Baldwins because the chance of getting such breed in a litter is very low.
Satin Haired Breeds
This variation of various breeds is characterized by a satin-like and almost glassy shiny coat caused by its recessive gene. Breeds that have Satin variations are the American, Abyssinian, Peruvian, Silkie, and Teddy.
ACBA recognizes all satin variations of the five breeds, and guinea pigs that belong to these classes have a particular category in the US shows.
In Europe and other parts of the world, however, some Cavy organizations refuse to register satin types or the offspring of satin parents because of animal welfare concerns. Satin types tend to display Osteodystrophy (OD), a metabolic disease characterized by wobbly gait, eating problems, and difficulty in birthing as early as 12-18 months.
Early stages of OD can include Osteoporosis, so during this period, a piggy may be given calcium supplements. The disease, however, is life-long and a poor Osteodystrophic cavy can only have its life prolonged by giving it painkillers.
Not all satins, however, necessarily have the OD, and not all with OD are affected by it. It is still worth noting that Osteodystrophy has a high percentage of occurrences as well as having your satin pet as a carrier.
Because of this high occurrence of OD among satin breeds, breeding and raising a guinea pig of this kind is more suited to advance pet owners or breeders.
Color Patterns and Variations
Guinea Pigs are also classified and identified according to their color variation. This variation is not the color itself, but more of the pattern on the guinea pig coat. Fur color may be in black, beige, chocolate, cream, cinnamon, gold, lemon, lilac, red (also known as light brown), saffron, silver, and white.
There are roughly 19 variations in all, namely:
- Agouti – a color variant characterized by each hair strand having a striped pattern; each mid-strand having a color contrasting its root and tip, thus, creating a ticked appearance. Agouti-patterned guinea pigs have solid colors in their belly area as well as around the eyes. Usual colors are silver, gold, and cinnamon.
- Albino – a color variant characterized with a completely white coat and pink eyes.
- Argente – a pattern similar to Agouti; but rather than having a uniform contrasting pattern for all hair strands, argente hair is multi-colored. The ticking pattern is still present but is created by dual-colored nature of the hair. Argente patterned guinea pigs come with a distinctive pinkish eye color, as well as coats of light color combination, like white-lilac and gold-beige.
- Bicolor – a color pattern of white, with patches of either solid or agouti print. The colors must not be of red (or light brown) and black hues which will make it tortoiseshell.
- Brindle – a color combination of dark and light tan coat, but more of stripey and less organized rather than patches. There may be patched portions of its coat but not the entire coat itself.
- Dalmatian – named after the dog breed, this coat variant is characterized by a white coat with black spots, except for the central area of the face which has to be a streak of white. Care must be noted in breeding Dalmatian parents as they can produce a malformed pup in one out of four in a litter. This recessive gene that can cause malformation, however, will not appear if a Dalmatian guinea pig is cross-bred with other color patterns.
- Dutch – a color combination similar to Bicolor, but of white with self or agouti brown or tan patches. The white patch is seen on the chest and front legs, while the other colors are on the lower stomach and rear. Additionally, the face and stomach have similar colors except that the muzzle is triangular white.
- Fox – a coat pattern similar to tan and otter, but has white ticking instead, of red or yellow.
- Himalayan – not to be confused with the Himalayan breed; this coat combination is characterized by white, with black or chocolate nose, ears, and feet.
- Magpie – a color combination variant similar to brindle, but black and white instead of dark and light tan coat.
- Mixed – a color combination of all types of color variants, including those with a collared pattern.
- Otter – a coat pattern similar as tan, but has yellow instead of reddish ticking.
- Roan – a coat color variant characterized by dark hair evenly mixed with white. This is similar to Agouti; only it is black or red and white, thus, having no solid colors except on the face or feet. Like Dalmatians, care must also be given when breeding roans, as a roan-roan formation will produce a malformation in one of the pups.
- Self – a color variant of solid colors. Self shades come in twelve various colors like black, chocolate, cream, and red. Crested guinea pigs can still be described as having Self colors, provided that the crest color is described separately.
- Tan – not to be mistaken with color of the same name, this pattern is characterized by solid black with red ticking on the muzzle, around the eyes, spots above the eyes, “pea spots” next to the ears, around the chin, and under the neck and belly, as well as a bit on the lower sides.
- Ticked – ticked guinea pigs have a similar pattern as agouti, except that the strands are mainly black with red ticking in it.
- Tortoiseshell – a color pattern of patched dark and light brown (red) that shows distinctive lines on the coat.
- Tortoiseshell and white – a color pattern also known as calico; guinea pigs of this variant have white patches to the tortoiseshell coat.
- Tricolor – a color pattern of three different color patches, but not to be confused with the Tortoiseshell and white or calico. Guinea pigs with this color tend to have dark or bright pink eyes depending on the coat, as well as square patches that do not overlap with their dorsal fur color.