Guinea Pig Species Guide
Own or thinking about owning a guinea pig? You may not have known that there are 13 species of guinea pigs, and they all have their share of unique characteristics. Learn more about each of them below, and make sure you know which one you're going for before adopting a guinea pig.
This breed is also known as the English Cavy. The coat is smooth and short and lies flat to the body. This is the most popular and common breed.
The Satin American is also recognized by the American Cavy Breeders Association (ACBA). Satin refers to the sheen of the coat; the satin breeds have very shiny, sleek coats.
The Abyssinian has a very distinctive appearance. The coat is made up of multiple swirls of hair referred to as rosettes. Their hair is quite dense and coarse and it radiates in circles from multiple points on the body comprising a series of whirls and ridges. For show purposes, Abyssinian must have a minimum of eight rosettes, in a symmetrical pattern. These guinea pigs always look somewhat disheveled.
The Satin Abyssinian, with its shiny coat, is also recognized by the ACBA.
(The Abyssinian photo above is courtesy of Odd Fellows Caviary.)
The Peruvian coat is smooth and straight and grows to several inches in length. The hair naturally parts down the center of the back and also grows forward over the head.
The dense, soft coat of the Peruvian requires a great deal of grooming, and many owners of Peruvian guinea pigs end up trimming the hair to keep it manageable. If the guinea pig is to be shown, wraps can be used to keep the hair from getting tangled or soiled.
The ACBA also recognizes the Peruvian Satin.
The Silkie is also known as the Sheltie, and it has a very silky, long coat. In contrast to the Peruvian, the Silkie's soft coat does not naturally part along the back, and it grows backwards from the head.
A Silkie Satin is also recognized by the ACBA.
(This Silkie photo is courtesy of Sunflower Cavies.)
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This is a short haired guinea pig with a single rosette (swirl) on the forehead. There are two types -- one is the White Crested Guinea Pig (also called American Crested), where the crest is white in contrast with the rest of the coat (there's no white on the body). The other is a "self" crested guinea pig (sometimes called English crested), and the crest color is the same as the rest of the coat.
This Crested guinea pig photo is courtesy of Odd Fellows Caviary.
This short haired guinea pig is characterized by a short dense coat with bent or kinked hair shafts that makes the coat stand on end, giving a fuzzy appearance.
There is also a Satin Teddy whose coat has a deep sheen.
This uncommon guinea pig has a very distinctive long, curly coat. The Texel guinea pig is a very high-maintenance pet.
The Coronet Guinea Pig is also long-haired, but has a single rosette (coronet) in the center of the forehead. Like other long-haired guinea pigs, Coronets need lots of grooming.
(This Coronet photo is courtesy of Sunflower Cavies.)
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There are some other less common varieties of guinea pigs with different types of hair such as the Merino (long curly hair with a crest on the head) and the Alpaca (long curly hair that grows forward over the head). In addition, there are many color variations which are also used to describe guinea pigs along with the breed.
There are also two kinds of hairless guinea pigs. The Baldwin Guinea Pig is totally hairless, although it can be born with some hair which is then lost as the guinea pig matures. "Skinny Pigs" are hairless as well, but often not completely as there may be patches of hair on the face and paws along with fine hair on other parts of the body. For more information, see "Hairless Guinea Pigs."