Known for their tufted coats (called rosettes), the Abyssinian is a common breed choice of guinea pig and one which does well in shows. An old breed, the first recorded Abyssinian in Europe was during the 16th century.
Abyssinians are very curious and bright creatures that have a lot of personality, as well as energy. Many owners find them easy to train and exceptionally easy to handle because they like the attention.
The most common breed of guinea pig, the American cavy epitomises the reason that guinea pigs make such an excellent choice of pet for children. They have excellent temperaments, are easy to take care of and are robust in their health. They have a smooth, sleek coat and are medium in size.
Though the Baldwin occurred as a result of mutated overbreeding, it is nevertheless a robust breed of cavy that just so happens to be bald.
Babies are often born with a fine fur but this eventually drops out to leave a soft but rubbery textured skin.
Because they aren’t native to any particular climate and are not found in the wild, Baldwin’s (naturally) prefer more temperate conditions; they do not tolerate hot and cold in the same way as their furry friends.
Similar to the Silkie, the Coronet has long, straight hair across its body but with one distinctive feature; a large rosette of hair right in the middle of its forehead. It is a result of the crossbreeding of a silkie with a crested guinea pig and originated in England during the 1970’s.
They are very playful, energetic and affectionate cavies and are easy to handle. This is good as they do require quite a bit of grooming. To prevent their hair from tangling and getting clumps, it is recommended that you do this every other day, if not daily. You can trim their hair to make grooming easier.
A variation of the Peruvian cavy, the Lunkarya is the result of genetic mutations and not a crossbreed. It was originally discovered in Sweden when breeders received a litter that included a single male, Prince Adam, with odd variations in his coat. They bred him and his offspring also developed the same coat and he is the origin of the breed.
The coat of the Lunkarya is thick, long and curly and requires regular grooming to stay free of debris and to prevent tangling. It is possible to brush out the curls but they do come back. The undercoat is particularly dense and means they are they do not tolerate extreme heat; care should be taken to ensure they are not kept in direct sunlight and that they are given plenty of shade during the summer.
With its long, curly hair, the Merino is version of a Coronet guinea pig. It has swirls of short, frizzy hair on its forehead but is otherwise very similar in both temperament and nature.
The Merino also enjoys attention and is an intelligent cavy that can make training easier.
Like the Coronet, they enjoy spending a lot of time exploring so a large cage is essential in addition to some supervised ‘roaming’.
Originating from Peru, and one of the oldest breeds, this beautiful cavy is very popular as a showing animal due to its unusual coat; with a silky texture and long, flowing waves of fur the Peruvian guinea pig has some unique qualities.
Although South American, the breed was developed in Europe with breeders from France and England focusing on enhancing the quality and length of the coat as well as other characteristics such as the head; smaller in proportion to its body, the head of this cavy gives it a sleek and elegant look.
When they are born, their coats are relatively short and they have two ‘rosettes’ of fur on their rump.
Satin cavies refer to breeds of guinea pigs that have glossy coats which are very distinctive. The breeding for this kind of coat can occur with many varieties of cavy including Abyssinian, Rex and even hairless!
Satin bred guinea pigs can be prone to osteodystrophy which can require treatment including calcium supplements (if caught early) and painkillers. Sadly, OD in guinea pigs is a painful disease and a decision to euthanise may need to be taken to prevent suffering. Symptoms can occur as early as 12-18 months old with signs being a wobbly or unbalanced gait, change in eating habits and temperament.
Although not recognised as an official breed by many breed clubs, the Sheba or Sheba Mini Yak originated in Australia as a crossbreed between an Abyssinian and a ‘wombat-faced’ Peruvian guinea pig. Their coats are scruffy and mid-length that roughly touches the floor on most adults but in some can drag when they move about.
They are sometimes referred to as ‘the bad hair day’ cavy, Sheba’s look rumpled, crumpled and tousled which is, for many, part of their appeal. Their broad face is framed with ‘mutton-chops’ and they do have a habit of chewing their own coat, even if you give them plenty of hay to nibble instead!
Silkies are another hugely popular breed with long sweeping locks of hair that cover their body, extending from their head. Their coats are very soft and extremely silky, hence the name, and do require care with grooming.
Their coats make them look like Hollywood movie starlets and children enjoy ‘styling’ them during grooming. A good brush through is recommended on a daily or bi-daily basis to prevent tangling and the Silkie’s easy temperament makes this a pleasure to do.
Silkies are known for their gentle and shy natures but they do become used to attention from their owners and can be extremely affectionate and playful around them. Regular handling and coaxing the less bold Silkie will reward you with an intelligent companion.
Skinny pigs are hairless guinea pigs. They are almost entirely bald with the exception of some hair around their noses and feet. As a result, they are largely intolerant to both direct sun and cold temperatures so must be kept indoors.
Hairless breeds are popular pets for children (and adults) who suffer from allergies and because they are part of the household they can quickly become part of the family. The pigmentation of the skin on these bald guinea pigs varies a lot and you can see a range of markings from Dalmatian to albino as well as a spectrum of colours including lilac, chocolate, golden and silver.
With its dense, short coat the Teddy is a very popular breed that can have either a soft or wiry texture. They are an excellent choice is a pet for children as their grooming needs are minimal. Other than a regular weekly brush to remove debris their coats can be left to manage themselves as they do not tangle.
Teddies also have dry skin which means they do not need more than a couple of baths each year so, other than clipping their nails and keeping their ears clean, they are maintenance free.
They are a new breed also caused as a result of a crossbred mutation but they do not have any particular health issues associated with them.
Originating from England, the Texel guinea pig is a crossbreed between a Rex and a Silkie; they are also known as the ‘long-haired silkie/sheltie’.
A popular crossbreed the Texel is instantly recognisable by its long curly hair and wide round head. Their coat requires a lot of attention with daily grooming essential to maintain good health and avoid tangling. For this reason, they don’t make terribly good first time pets or for younger children. You will also need to trim their hair regularly, clean their ears (the hair covers their ears) and clip their nails monthly. As with all long-haired varieties of guinea pig a regular bath is essential for good hygiene as they can drag in urine.
As the name would suggest, a white crested guinea pig features a bold crest of hair on the front of their heads which is pure white. They are a reasonably rare breed and the majority of those sold as pets are golden but they can come in wide range of coat types including brindle, agouti and Roan.
With short hair they are easy to keep and require little grooming. A soft brush once a week will help keep them free of debris from their cage and allow you to handle them to check on other features of their health such as ears, eyes and nails.
They have a shy temperament but they are intelligent so will quickly learn the familiar sounds of feeding time and certain voices.