Guinea Pig Breeds, Personalities & Characteristics

child laying on the floor with a ginger and white abyssinian guinea pig

There are many different types breeds of guinea pig, each with their own characteristics, colouring and markings.  Some are more common than others, such as the Abyssinian which is quite a common type of cavy, and some, like the Merino are rarer. Many guinea pigs which you find in the pet shops or rescue centres are a mixture of various breeds.

If you’re thinking of getting a new guinea pig, we always recommend that you go to a rescue centre rather than a breeder as there are so many of these lovely pets who need a caring home.

Here is a list of guinea pig breeds with pictures to show you what the different hairdos look like:

Abyssinian

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. 

Abyssinian Guinea Pig Breed - a ginger guinea pig with a white face
Abyssinian Guinea Pig – a rosetted short-haired breed

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. 

Their coats require brushing three to four times each week which will help keep them free of debris but also allow you the opportunity to check on their health. Unfortunately, these cheeky cavies do suffer quite a bit from illnesses so it’s important that you keep an eye on them. They don’t require bathing but you could also use grooming time to trim their nails when necessary.

As with all breeds, the Abyssinian likes a lot of space to explore so a good size cage is essential as well as some outdoor time to roam. 

They come in a wide range of colours including solid, Roan, tortoiseshell and brindle. You should note that if you intend breeding your cavy then you should never allow two Roans to mate as they carry genes that will cause deformations in the litter.

American

The most common breed of guinea pig, the American cavy has an excellent temperament, is easy to take care of and is robust in health. They have a smooth, sleek coat and are medium in size.

American guinea pig breed - smooth haired white guinea pig with black face
American Guinea Pig – a smooth, short-haired breed

Naturally passive, they get on well with other guinea pigs and enjoy being handled even by younger children. Though it is rare to get a shy American cavy, they usually respond well to being handled regularly and quickly become very attached and affectionate to their owners. 

As they are short-haired you do not need to groom them extensively just a weekly soft brush to help keep their coats free of dust and debris will be sufficient. 

Americans come in a range of colour variations with different markings from brindle and agouti to roan and solid.

American Crested / White Crested

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.

White Crested Guinea Pig Breed - smooth haired ginger guinea pig with a white crest
American Crested Guinea Pig – a smooth, crested short-haired breed

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. 

Baldwin

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.

baldwin guinea pig - a hairless breed
Baldwin Guinea Pig – a hairless guinea pig breed

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.

Remember that the fur which keeps a guinea pig warm also acts as a barrier for strong sunlight so always provide shade and a snug spot for your Baldwin when he is outdoors. The ideal conditions for them are indoors out of direct draughts and with a good size cage.

The upside of owning a hairless guinea pig is, of course, the lack of grooming but instead you will need to be particularly selective over bedding and any material you use in their environment. Shavings and hay can all cause skin irritation so it is recommended that you use soft and/or allergen free material. You will also need to change this more frequently; again, to avoid irritation to their skin.

However, no grooming means that you will be responsible for bathing instead and Baldwin’s benefit from a light bathe with fragrance free shampoo or cleanser every few weeks. 

Baldwin’s have a slightly higher metabolic rate than other breeds of cavy so they do require more food and water.  

All that being said, these bald guinea pigs are good natured with great personalities and make great companions for children and adults.

Coronet

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. 

Coronet guinea pig  breed -  long haired  with white, ginger and black hair
Coronet Guinea Pig – a long-haired crested breed

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.

They are a popular breed due to their curious and cuddly nature and they like a lot of attention. Ideal for older children and adults who are prepared to spend time grooming them, Coronets are an excellent choice of family pet.

English Crested / Self Crested

The English Crested guinea pig is similar to the American Crested but has just one solid colour with the crest being the same colour as the rest of the coat.

English crested or self crested guinea pig with white hair and white crest
English Crested guinea pig – a crested guinea pig in a solid colour

Lunkarya

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. 

Lunkarya guinea pig breed with long thick and curly white and ginger hair
Lunkarya Guinea Pig – a long-haired 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.

Known as ‘Lunks’ for short, the Lunkarya is a very inquisitive creature and does enjoy being handled. They come in a huge variety of colours as well as three distinctive variations; the Lunkarya Peruvian, which has a dominant forelock of hair, the Lunkarya Coronet, which has a crest on its forehead and the Lunkarya Sheltie, which has waves of hair across its back.

Merino

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.

Merino guinea pig breed with curly ginger hair and  a strip of white on his face
Merino Guinea Pig – a curly long-haired breed

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’.

Peruvian

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.

Peruvian guinea pig breed - long white hair with a little black on his face
Peruvian Guinea Pig – a long-haired breed

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.

Because of the length of coat (it can grow up to two-foot-long on top and seven inches beneath) regular grooming is essential with the Peruvian as daily life can help it accumulate plenty of debris in its fur. For this reason, they don’t tend to make ideal pets for children as the amount of barbering required can take too much time.

They are very social animals and require plenty of attention as well as space to move around. Due to their coat they don’t thrive in a damp or humid atmosphere so keep them somewhere dry.

Peruvians come in a range of colours but the most popular, and more widely available choice, is the tricolour of slate, cream and white.

Satin

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 guinea pig breed
Satin Guinea Pig – a glossy coated breed

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.

Sheba Mini Yak (Bad Hair Day Guinea Pig)

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. 

Sheba Mini Yak (bad hair day) guinea pig breed  with white and grey hair
Sheba Mini Yak Guinea Pig also known as a “Bad Hair Day Guinea Pig

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!

Grooming is essential if only to trim the length to avoid any dragging but you will never achieve a ‘catwalk’ look with this breed. Grooming should therefore be to prevent too much tangling, to assist with hygiene and for bonding. 

They are good-natured cavies and make an excellent first time pet.

Silkie / Sheltie

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.

Silkie or Sheltie guinea pig breed with light brown long hair
Silkie (or Sheltie) Guinea Pig – a long haired breed

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.

Sometimes called ‘Shelties’, the Silkie benefits from a bath every month to keep its coat clean and healthy. This should be done by ‘spot-cleaning’ as opposed to fully submersing them in water. 

Skinny Pig

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.

Skinny pig guinea pig - a hairless breed with a small amount of white hair on his nose
Skinny Pig – a hairless breed

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. 

As they have no hair they do not require grooming in the traditional sense but their skin benefits from a fortnightly cleanse. They can also suffer from irritation from their environment so scratchy bedding is out, instead opt for allergen free softer style bedding. Hairless guinea pigs have higher metabolic rates than other cavies so they do need more food and water as well as more regular cage cleaning.

They are very intelligent animals and, if regularly handled, will be extremely affectionate too.

Teddy

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.

Teddy Guinea Pig breed with white and brown fuzzy hair
Teddy Guinea Pig – a fuzzy short-haired breed

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.

They are a curious and attention seeking animal and want a lot of human contact so they will enjoy being out of their cages on a regular basis.

Texel

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’.

Texel guinea pig breed with long thick curly ginger and  white  hair
Texel Guinea Pig – a curly, long-haired breed

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. 

Other than the extra care and attention to grooming, Texel’s make excellent pets and have great personalities. They are bold, curious and, with their amazing curly coats, very beautiful. As with all cavies, Texel’s need a large area to play in and should not be left unsupervised.