The time has finally come to adopt a guinea pig. Usually, when people want to get a new pet, the first thing they decide on is the color and after that, they start to think about specific breeds. The less choice you have the easier it is to make a decision.
Well, making this decision with guinea pigs is not easy because they have many different breeds and color types. Also, do you want your pet to have a long silky coat and be its personal hairstylist, or a short and practical one (low maintenance)? Do you fancy multi-color guinea pigs or one solid color? Maybe you are more adventurous and edgy and prefer them hairless? Nevertheless. we are going to help you with guinea pig breeds.
How many different breeds of guinea pigs are there? There are many different guinea pig breeds that can be divided into three main groups: short-haired, long-haired and bald (hairless) guinea pigs. Some of the most popular guinea pigs breeds are American, Abyssinian, White Crested, Teddy, Peruvian, Texel, Sheltie, Coronet and others. Also, various guinea pig breeds have different colorations and patterns but generally, every guinea pig breed has some defined standards of recognition, such as specific head shape, body shape, size, eyes, and ears.
Short haired guinea pig breeds are more popular among owners because they are easier to care for. Long haired guinea pig breeds are harder to take care of, but they look beautiful because of their long and interesting hair. Satin versions are special because of their glossy and shiny coat. Unusual versions of guinea pigs are hairless ones that require some special and warmer accommodations because they don’t have their own coat.
You can already notice that this is a complex decision. One thing is for sure: there is a guinea pig fit for everyone’s personality and style!
This article will guide you through the differences in guinea pigs breeds and hopefully help you pick the right one for you! Also, after we go through every guinea pig breed we will give you some important information that will help you with the decision. Let’s start!
Short Haired Guinea Pig Breeds
We will start with one of the most popular choices: the short haired guinea pigs. This type of guinea pig is not only the most commonly found among owners but it is also very low maintenance. This means that you won’t need to brush or adjust the length of its fur. Not only that, but this type of guinea pig comes in a wide range of bright multiple colors and patterns.
What is the most popular short haired guinea pig breed? Probably the American guinea pig breed, but there are also other short haired guinea pig breeds which are also highly popular.
• American Guinea Pig
This is the ideal guinea pig breed for children because it has a good temperament, it is low maintenance and generally, possess good health. Because of the good-natured spirit, they can live with other guinea pigs and they like being handled.
Often they create strong affectionate bonds with their owners and thus they are excellent companions for people!
• Abyssinian Guinea Pig
Abyssinian guinea pig possesses the trademark tufted fur and is also a common choice amongst families. This breed of a guinea pig is bright, very curious and active. It is packed with personality and can be easily trained and handled as they love attention and affection.
Maintenance wise, their coats need to be brushed three to four times a week. This is done in order to keep them clean and to check on their health status. Abyssinian guinea pig is really a great company!
• Teddy Guinea Pig
This guinea pig breed looks like a stuffed toy and it was named in such a way because it looks just like a little teddy bear.
Teddy guinea pigs are smaller in comparison with other guinea pig breeds and their hair is short and rough. They have a small nose which is a little bit wider, curved and turned upward.
These Teddy guinea pig breeds are very active, they are extremely social and like to spend time with their owners. You can develop a very good relationship with this pet. Teddy guinea pigs also love to have other guinea pig as a companion and their average lifespan is around 4-6 years.
• White Crested Guinea Pig
Energetic, curious and attentive, an excellent choice for all ages as the white crested guinea pig breed likes company and attention.
It distinguishes itself from the English variant by having a white-like crown while the rest of its body is in a different color. This breed is low maintenance.
Long Haired Guinea Pig Breeds
In this section, we will explore guinea pigs with long hair. This type requires considerably more maintenance than its short haired guinea pigs such as combing and styling.
If the hair is left unsupervised for too long it will not only look aesthetically unpleasing but will also create vision and movement issues for the guinea pig. Please keep this mind!
• Sheltie Guinea Pig | Silkie Guinea Pig
Their hair, overall, is soft yet resistant earning the nickname “silky” and it grows from the head down to the chest area. Maintenance wise, they require combing daily and they need an occasional trim.
This Sheltie guinea pig breed has been recognized as a distinct breed in the early 1970s. Their fur can come in different colors and patterns.
Personality wise, they are among one of the shyest breeds and are very calm and one of the gentlest amongst other breeds. They might require frequent handling sessions in order to establish a bond with its owner.
• Peruvian Guinea Pig
With its long and soft coat, the Peruvian guinea pig is the most popular long haired breed. Their hair can grow up to 30 centimeters (or 12 inches) and they have three swirls or cowlicks that give them a cute and quirky appearance.
Their popularity dates back to the 1400s where their furs were grown long and placed on display for their beauty and health by European merchants. Because of this, they are most ideal for someone that has time to spend on their beauty and care, if you don’t have much time don’t risk it.
Also, if you are a first-time adopter, the Peruvian guinea pigs may not be your best choice as it needs more care than an average guinea pig breed because of its high maintenance. This breed of guinea pigs requires regular bathing, frequent grooming and a hygiene routine to avoid complications. The Peruvian’s coat is so long that they cannot groom themselves and if left unmonitored for a long time, it can get tangled in knots.
Bathing is also very important because the collected dirt can cause skin diseases or infections or their fur can get matted. The Peruvian guinea pig breed has a long hair because they have an autosomal recessive gene. Health-wise, this breed is quite delicate as it is prone to getting mites.
Personality wise, the Peruvian guinea pig is very social and needs a lot of attention and space for movement. They thrive in a warm and dry environment, while a cold and damp one may give them health issues. Lastly, Peruvians can be found in many different colors and the most popular choice is a tricolor Peruvian guinea pig.
• Texel Guinea Pig
Originally from the United Kingdom, the Texel is a cross between a Silky and a Rex guinea pig breed. This type of guinea pig is known for its long and wavy hair and big round head. Like the Peruvian, they need constant grooming in order to preserve their health and prevent any damage.
With regards to grooming, their hair needs to be trimmed, ears cleaned often to avoid infections, nails must be clipped on a monthly basis. It is also important to regularly bathe your Texel guinea pig as good hygiene is important to avoid complications. Because of this, they are not the most ideal for the first-time guinea pig owners and are not suitable for children as they are delicate.
Nonetheless, the Texel guinea pig breed has a bright personality as they are curious, energetic and not shy. Plus, they are gorgeous with their unique curly hair!
• Coronet Guinea Pig
Although very similar to the Silky, this Coronet guinea pig breed has a longer hair throughout its body and has a distinct feature: a hair rosette that is centered on the guinea pigs’ forehead. This last feature is the result of crossbreeding a crested breed with a silky one.
Personality wise, they are joyful, affectionate, active pets and they like being handled. Coronet guinea pig also needs a lot of grooming to prevent knots and tangling and brushing must be done daily.
Pro Tip: You can trim their hair to make the maintenance easier. The Coronet may require a lot of attention but it is suitable for older children and adults that are willing to invest their time.
• Merino Guinea Pig | English Merino
The Merino guinea pig is similar than a Coronet guinea pig but it has long and curly hair with swirls of frizzy hair on its forehead.
This guinea pig breed is very social and likes the attention of their owners. Marino guinea pigs are playful pets and you can train them many tricks because they are also smart animals. Because of their activity and exploring behavior, it is good to get them a large cage.
• Lunkarya Guinea Pig
Lunkarya is a Peruvian guinea pig variation that gets its distinctive looks because of the genetic mutations. This breed originates from Sweden and if you observe their coat, it is long, thick and curly and needs regular grooming to avoid knots and debris.
Because they also have an undercoat, they cannot tolerate excessive heat. Please do not place your Lunkarya guinea pig directly under the sunlight, especially in summer, and always leave them in a shaded area of the cage.
Personality wise, this breed is very inquisitive and it is not shy, plus they like being handled and can enjoy the presence of younger children with parental monitoring. The Lunkarya guinea pig comes in a big variety of colors and patterns!
Lastly, there are three variations of this particular breed: the Lunkarya Peruvian (a type with an abundant forelock), the Lunkarya Sheltie (known to have curls on its back) and the Lunkarya Coronet whose forehead possesses a crest.
• Sheba Guinea Pig | Sheba Mini Yak
These long haired guinea pig breeds are also called the ”Bad Hair Day” guinea pigs because of their long and messy hair which you can’t even brush very well. Sheba guinea pig coat is scruffy and their hair has a medium length.
You will need to spend some time grooming them because the problems will appear when they start chewing their hair. Still, they are very cute pets and have a gentle personality, so you can use brushing time in exchange for petting time.
Sheba guinea pigs came from Australia and they are the crossbreed between the Abyssinian and ‘wombat-faced” Peruvian guinea pigs.
Satin Versions of Guinea Pigs
Satin guinea pigs have a satin sheen coat with a glossy glow. They are extremely beautiful and special versions of guinea pig breeds.
So, because of their glossy coat, it’s very important to take proper care of them. Unfortunately, these satin versions of guinea pigs have a bigger probability of osteodystrophy. It is a metabolic disease of the bones which is very painful and can develop when your pet is around 12-18 months old.
You can find some satin versions of guinea pigs, such as American, Teddy Abyssinian, Peruvian and Silkie. These satin versions of guinea pigs are similar in character, size, and behavior like their non-satin versions.
Hairless Guinea Pig Breeds
Last, but certainly not least, our list will discuss an unusual type of guinea pig: the hairless one. These guinea pigs are much-heated subjects in the world of guinea pig owners, as they divide the public on whether they look cute or not. We think that all guinea pigs are beautiful and deserve appreciation!
• Skinny Guinea Pig
This breed is almost bald, except for its nose and feet which have some hair. They are delicate and it is not advised to place them under direct sunlight or in cold temperatures. They should be kept strictly indoors. The Skinny Pig is ideal for young and old owners with allergies and they are really low maintenance.
Personality wise, it is shy with a gentle temperament and likes being handled, making it ideal for a household with young children. Although hairless, traditional grooming is not required but would benefit from gentle wash and cleanse every once in a while.
• Baldwin Guinea Pig
This breed of a guinea pig is entirely bald, though born with hair. By the time they are two months of age, they are completely hairless. Discovered by Carol Miller, the Baldwin guinea pig has since found its recognition as a distinct breed of guinea pig. In fact, the balding is a result of a recessive mutation when white crested guinea pigs were bred.
However, if this breed is crossed with another breed of guinea pig, the offspring will not be bald and they will have a coat of fur. If two Baldwin guinea pigs are bred, on the other hand, their babies will also be hairless.
Grooming wise, this breed is low maintenance though they must not be placed under direct sunlight or kept under cold temperatures. The Baldwin guinea pig can also benefit from a wash every two weeks. They are shy and active and make a great addition to a household with young children and adults with allergies.
Different Fur Colorations and Patterns of Guinea Pig Breeds
• Himalayan Guinea Pig
The special feature of the Himalayan guinea pig breed is that this guinea pig has a white fur with black patches. Sometimes their nose or ears are black. Thanks to its short and silky white fur coat at birth this guinea pig is also known as its feline counterpart, Siamese.
Curiously, their coat darkens progressively with age. Nonetheless, they are quiet, friendly in nature and ideal for first-time owners and they love affection.
• Rex Guinea Pig
Another popular choice that is very similar to Teddy guinea pig. Sometimes it’s very hard to find differences between these two guinea pigs. It has a short and sturdy coat and has a sweet and serene temperament. In fact, they love attention like handling and cuddles, optimal if there are children around.
This breed of guinea pig needs frequent attention as its nails grow quickly, but its hair does not need much grooming.
• Ridgebacks Guinea Pig
This breed of short haired guinea pig has been called ridgeback because of its characteristic “mohawk” on its back. Rosettes may also appear on the body and are considered a fault but are still characteristic of this breed of a guinea pig.
Which Guinea Pig Breed Should I Get?
Now that we have reached the end of this comprehensive guide, you have one final stage to complete. We know this will be a difficult decision so we made a short comparison between short-haired, long-haired and hairless guinea pigs.
If you want to get a short-haired guinea pig, these are the things to keep in mind:
- Time: If you don’t have much free time, then this breed may be more suitable for you as there is no grooming involved.
- Temperament: Pets and children are hit or miss situations sometimes, but the short haired guinea pig overall is patient, intelligent and loves cuddling.
- Grooming: Short haired guinea pigs are excellent for first-time owners!
- Allergies: Probably not the best since it has hair.
If you are considering long-haired guinea pigs, on the other hand, the following should be considered:
- Time: Guinea Pigs with long locks require patience, energy and time. So, if you think you can dedicate a decent amount of time to this particular guinea pig breed then you are good to go.
- Temperament: Similar to its short haired counterpart, this breed is also gentle, very active and loves attention.
- Grooming: A lot of maintenance is involved. Hair trimming and styling, nail clipping, daily brushing, and frequent baths are the standard expectation. If you are new to the guinea pig world, please do not consider this breed unless you feel like you can handle it. Also, because of its beauty regime, they are not suitable for young children.
- Allergies: Again not ideal.
Lastly, if you are opting for a hairless guinea pig please consider these following points:
- Time: A hairless breed, together with a short haired one, does not require a lot of time.
- Temperament: Active, loves cuddles and attention. They are ideal in the presence of young children.
- Grooming: Because this breed does not have hair, there is no extensive or minimal grooming to be done. The only exception is to wash them occasionally and keep them away from direct sun, heat and do not expose them to cold temperatures.
- Allergies: Suitable for children and adults with allergies! A great addition to any household.
As we have seen, there are many guinea pigs breeds that are similar in anatomy and characters, but certainly, each of them is special in some way.
Long haired guinea pigs are harder to take care of, but you can spend more time with your little pet by grooming it. Short haired guinea pigs are easier to take care of, they are more active and you can easier teach them some tricks. Hairless guinea pigs are great for humans and kids with allergies.
So, whatever guinea pig you choose, you will not make a mistake because in general guinea pigs aren’t hard to take care of in comparison to other pets and they are very good, affectionate and friendly.
List of Sources
Wright, S., On the genetics of hair direction in the guinea pig; evidence for a new dominant gene, star, and tests for linkage with 11 other loci, The Journal of experimental zoology, 1949.
Steinert, P. M., Rogers, G. E., Characterization of the proteins of guinea-pig hair and hair-follicle tissue, The Biochemical journal, 1973.
Bino Sundar, S. T., Harikrishna, T. J., Bhaskaran Ravi Latha, Gomathinayagam, S., Srinivasan, M. R., Ramesh, S., Incidence of fur mite infestation in laboratory rodents, Journal of parasitic diseases: official organ of the Indian Society for Parasitology, 2017.
Dawson, H., A study of hair growth in guinea pig (Cavia cobaya), American Journal of Anatomy, 2005.
Colin, E. C., Hair direction in mammals; embryogenesis of hair follicles in the guinea pig, Journal of Morphology, 1943.
Russell, E. S., A Quantitative Study of Genic Effects on Guinea-Pig Coat Colors, Genetics, 1939.
Richardson, V., Care of guinea pigs, Veterinary Nursing Journal, 2011.
NC State Veterinary Hospital, Caring for Your Pet Guinea Pig, Exotic Animal Medicine Department.
RSPCA, Guinea pigs: Good practice for housing and care, Research Animals Department, RSPCA, 3rd edition, 2011.
Bruce, H. M., Parkes, A. S., Feeding and breeding of laboratory animals; breeding of guinea-pigs, The Journal of hygiene, 1948.
Woodward, L. E., Bauer, A. L., People and Their Pets: A Relational Perspective on Interpersonal Complementarity and Attachment in Companion Animal Owners, Society and Animals, 2007.
Cooper, G., Schiller, L.A., Anatomy of the Guinea Pig, Harvard University Press, 1975.
Musser, G., Guinea pig, Encyclopædia Britannica, 2019.
Quesenberry, K. E., Donnelly, T. M., Description and Physical Characteristics of Guinea Pigs, Merck Manual, Veterinary Manual.
Quesenberry, K. E., Donnelly, T. M., Introduction to Guinea Pigs, Merck Manual, Veterinary Manual.
Quesenberry, K. E., Donnelly, T. M., Breeding and Reproduction of Guinea Pigs, Merck Manual, Veterinary Manual.