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  • Nicole Su

Guinea Pig Breeds

Updated: Jan 25

American or Smooth

The American guinea pig is what most of us picture in our minds when we think of a guinea pig, and they are a hardy, friendly, and docile breed of guinea pig. Americans make excellent choices for a first-time guinea pig owner, and they come in lots of different colors and patterns, including solid colors like red, patterned colors like tortoiseshell, and even brindle!

Americans have short, lustrous coats that are easy to maintain, and they are not prone to any particular health conditions.

American guinea pigs also have a “crested” variant, where they have one white rosette in the middle of their foreheads.



Two tortoiseshell American guinea pigs


Agouti

The Agouti guinea pig has a similar body shape and structure to the American, but is characterized by their ticked coats, which means that each hairshaft has bands of different colors running through it. While they are not a common breed, the agouti coloring is common in several other guinea pig breeds, including the American and Abyssinian




An Agouti guinea pig showing off their ticked coat pattern


Abyssinian

Although these guinea pigs did not originate from Abyssinia, they are a charismatic and unique breed, sporting several rosettes, or cowlicks, throughout their coats. They are a popular breed for breeding and showing due to the complexity of their coats, and are also common as pets. While they tend to be a hardy breed not prone to health problems, they tend to be slighter in frame and more skittish in nature than the American.

Abyssinians also come in several colors and patterns, including tortoiseshell, solid colors, and roan.




Two Abyssinian guinea pigs sporting their characteristic rosettes


Alpaca

This adorable breed is easily identified by their plush, long, crimped coats, similar to the crimping found in wool from alpacas, a type of camelid. They should also have two equal rosettes over their rump. Alpacas are primarily a show breed, and are uncommon as pets. Although they have been bred for tolerant, docile personalities, as show Alpacas require a lot of grooming, they can be high maintenance as pets.

Alpaca guinea pigs can be more prone to issues like dental disease, and their coats require daily grooming or regular trimming. They can suffer from matting and soiling of the coat, which can lead to further problems if not dealt with appropriately. Their heavy coats also make them more vulnerable to suffering heatstroke in hot weather.



An Alpaca pig with his heavy coat


Coronet

Coronet guinea pigs are similar to Sheltie guinea pigs, but with a rosette in the center of their foreheads, causing them to have a “center-part.” The hair should grow downwards from the rosette




Coronet guinea pig demonstrating the white rosette


Dalmatian

This uncommon breed of guinea pig is bred for their beautiful spotted coats, similar to a Dalmatian dog or Appaloosa horse! These striking guinea pigs are uncommon as pets, but are a hardy, stout breed with a compact body shape. These guinea pigs carry genes that can cause genetic defects in pups, and so should only be bred by an experienced breeder. They tend to have level, calm personalities as well, but may not be as friendly as more common pet breeds.


Dutch

Dutch guinea pigs have a characteristic pattern where they sport a white stripe down their heads, with a band of white encircling their chests and front feet. Apart from the white portions, they come in several colors including chocolate, black, and brindle.

They are an old breed of guinea pig, and make excellent pets. Breeders prioritize even, straight markings, with deep expression of color, and so Dutch guinea pigs that do not display correct markings are commonly available for pets.

They have a calm, friendly personality, and do not commonly suffer from inherited diseases.




A sweet Dutch patterned pig


Himalayan

These boldly marked guinea pigs are instantly recognisable due to their similarities to Siamese cats. They have a white body with dark points - muzzle, ears, and feet. This trait is acromelanic, which means that the dark points develop because the temperature of those areas is cooler than the rest of the body. The Himalyan coloring may occur in other breeds as well. These compact guinea pigs are easy to find as pets, but can be more skittish than Americans or Dutch guinea pigs.

They also tend to be quite a large breed and can have bold personalities.


Lunkarya

This rare breed of guinea pig is fairly new, and was developed in Sweden in the 1980s. Originating from the Peruvian guinea pig, this breed has a wild tangle of curls and waves, with locks of hair falling in characteristic “corkscrews” down the body. They should also have two rump rosettes, similar to the Alpaca, but they can be difficult to see under all the hair.

Like other longhaired breeds, they can suffer from genetic conditions like dental disease more commonly, and they require daily care to maintain their coats. As their coats are so wild, they may also have difficulty seeing if not trimmed!

These guinea pigs are uncommon even in the show world, and are not available in all countries, so take a photo if you see one!


Peruvian

This popular longhaired breed of guinea pig has a long, sweeping coat that extends forwards down the face when not trimmed, and sports a central part down the body. They are a popular show breed, with show animals meticulously groomed and their fur encouraged to grow as long as possible by keeping it tidy in rollers! They are dramatic in the show ring, and often look like a round mop.

They have sweet, tolerant personalities, and make excellents pets. Many pet Peruvians have their coats trimmed short for easier grooming, but they still require frequent grooming and brushing.

They tend to be smaller in size than smooth-coated breeds, and can suffer from a higher incidence of disease.



A Peruvian that has had fur trimmed around the face


Rex

These interesting guinea pigs have a short, wiry coat with crimped hairs, giving them a plush, even, rounded appearance. Even their whiskers are crimped and curly! Their coats are springy and slightly coarse, with no smooth patches anywhere on the body. The pattern of crimps may cause a wavy appearance to the coat. They are a common show breed, and are becoming more common as pets due to their adorable appearance, calm nature, and good health.

These guinea pigs come in several colors, including agouti and Himalayan.




A Rex showing off the crimped coat


Ridgeback

A new, uncommon breed, Ridgeback guinea pigs have a raised ridge of fur running along their spine from their necks down to their rumps. Originally developed in the USA, the rest of their fur should be short and close to the body, similar to other smooth-coated breeds.

They can come in several different colors and patterns, and are likely to become more popular in time.


Satin

While Satin guinea pigs are beautiful, sporting pearly, luminescent coats, the gene that gives them those coats unfortunately also predisposes them to a serious bone disease, osteodystrophy, which has led to this breed being banned from showing in Sweden and Finland.

Osteodystrophy is a progressive disease, and gradually causes the guinea pig to become unable to walk, reduces blood cell production due to abnormalities in bone marrow, and leads to abnormal tooth growth and dental disease.

People adopting Satin guinea pigs should be aware that they require much more veterinary attention than other guinea pigs, and may require lifelong medication. Sadly, they also suffer from shortened lifespans.


Sheba

The Sheba, or Sheba Mini Yak, is an interesting breed that originated in Australia, and may not be recognized as a breed overseas. They have the rosette coat patterning of an Abyssinian, with the longer coat length of the Sheltie. As a result, they have a chaotic coat, with the rosettes causing fur to grow in all sorts of different directions.

They are a popular breed in Australia as pets, and they tend to be friendly guinea pigs, but not as cuddly as Shelties. They still require a lot of grooming, and it can be minimized by keeping their coats short.



Sheltie

These longhaired guinea pigs are similar to Peruvians, but do not have long hair over their faces. They are a popular breed for both show and pet, and they have sweet, cuddly personalities that make them excellent pets, as long as their coats can be maintained. Many pet Shelties have their coats trimmed short; however, show Shelties can have impressively long coats. These show guinea pigs require a lot of grooming and attention to keep their coats long and healthy.

Shelties come in several colors and patterns, but they all sport the same silky, fine coat. Shelties can vary in size a lot, and may be more prone to dental disease.




A little Sheltie showing the shorter fur on the face.


Teddy

Similar to the Rex guinea pigs, Teddies have a short, wiry, crimped coat, but with straight whiskers. Another difference they have compared to Rexes is their forward growing coat, which should end in a little “cap” on their foreheads. They are less common than Rexes, but are quite similar in terms of temperament and size, with even, calm personalities.


Texel

A curly-coated version of the Sheltie, these frizzy little guinea pigs maintain the sweet personality of the Sheltie, with a coat that increases the complexity of grooming. They should have a full, curly coat, with no short hair on the body.

Due to the curls, they require more regular grooming than Shelties, and most pet Texels benefit from having their coats kept short.


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