Do guinea pigs have hair or fur

Table of Contents

Shorthaired, smooth-coated guinea pigs are usually the American breed or a mix with this breed. MAKY_OREL/.com

The more guinea pigs you see, the more you realize that guinea pigs have a lot of different looks. The reason? Well, similar to cats and dogs, guinea pigs come in more than one breed. The American Cavy Breeders Association recognizes 13 breeds of guinea pig. Add in mixed breeds and some breeds not yet recognized, and that makes for quite a range of looks. If you didn’t adopt your guinea pigs from a breeder, curiosity might make you wonder what breed or breeds figure into your guinea pigs’ history. After all, it’s more fun to say, “I have Abyssinian guinea pigs” or “I have a Peruvian and a Texel guinea pig” rather than “I have guinea pigs.”

Getting To Know Your Guinea Pigs’ Breeds

So how do you figure out your guinea pigs’ breeds? It’s going to take a little research. A great place to start is the ACBA breed page, which includes photos and descriptions of its 13 recognized breeds. The British Cavy Council recognizes more than 20 breeds, but this article focuses mainly on the ACBA breeds. Unlike rabbits, body shape, body size, and ears don’t offer any help when trying to identify a guinea pig’s breed. That’s because those three characteristics are pretty much the same for all guinea pigs. With guinea pigs, it’s all about the fur.

Analyzing Guinea Pig Fur

Guinea Pig Fur Length: The length of your guinea pigs’ coat is a major clue for guessing the breed. Longhaired, shorthaired, or almost no hair narrows your search. Breeds with short hair include the American, American Satin, Abyssinian, Abyssinian Satin, Teddy, Teddy Satin, and White-Crested. Breeds with long hair include the Coronet, Peruvian, Peruvian Satin, Silkie, Silkie Satin, and Texel. If a guinea pig only has patches of fur on the face and feet, that’s likely a Skinny breed. A guinea pig with only a bit of fur on the feet is likely a Baldwin. Neither of these “hairless” breeds is recognized by ACBA.

Guinea Pig Fur Texture: Is your guinea pig’s coat smooth, curly, plush, full of whorls/rosettes, or a mix? Smooth-coated guinea pig breeds include the American, American Satin, Silkie, and Silkie Satin. Only one guinea pig breed is recognized by ACBA as having a curly coat: the Texel. Lunkyara, Alpaca, and Merino are other curly-coated breeds, but these are not recognized by ACBA. The Teddy and the Teddy Satin are the only plush-coated guinea pigs. These breeds have fur that’s very dense and stands upright. Breeds with multiple whorls/rosettes include the Abyssinian, Abyssinian Satin, Peruvian, and Peruvian Satin. What is a whorl/rosette? A small area of fur that seems to grow in a circle and makes ridges in the fur where it meets other whorls/rosettes. It looks a bit like multiple open “flowers” of fur across the body.

A coat that mixes more than one texture of fur could either be a mixed breed, or two breeds that mix a single whorl/rosette and a long or short coat. The Coronet is a longhaired breed with a single rosette on the forehead, and the White-Crested is a shorthaired breed with a single rosette on the forehead. In addition to the previous textures, Satin is another. Five Satin breeds mirror other breeds, except that the fur has an added sheen to it. This is caused by the fur being finer and almost translucent.

Guinea Pig Fur Markings: All of the recognized guinea pig breeds come in numerous color and pattern varieties, including self colors, solids, agoutis, and marked. One breed is distinctive though. A shorthaired, smooth-coated guinea pig with a white-colored rosette on the forehead is probably the White-Crested breed. Look closely at the fur on your guinea pig. Is a single hair the same color from bottom to top? If not, it might be have tan markings. The ACBA recognizes tan markings for only the American breed. Tan markings occur when the tip of the fur around the eyes, shoulders, flanks, chest, or other areas change to a reddish or orange color, which differs from the main fur color.

Multiple rosettes across the body of a shorthaired guinea pig point to the breed being Abyssinian. Pezibear/.com

Making A Guess About Breed

Now that you know the distinctive characteristics of the breeds, you can make an educated guess about your guinea pigs’ breeds. Use the following lists to quickly narrow down your options. Check off the characteristics that apply and compare your guineas to those breeds. If you have a longhaired breed with a smooth coat and no whorls/rosettes, it’s likely a Silkie. A Silkie with shiny fur is probably a Silkie Satin. If your guinea pigs don’t match up with any breed and seem to combine characteristics of two or more breeds, you likely have mixed breed guinea pigs. A shorthaired breed with some wispy, long fur in spots is one example of a mixed breed.

Shorthaired Longhaired Smooth
American Coronet American
American Satin Peruvian American Satin
Abyssinian Peruvian Satin Silkie
Abyssinian Satin Silkie Silkie Satin
Teddy Silkie Satin
Teddy Satin Texel
White-Crested
Curly Plush Whorls/Rosettes
Texel Teddy Abyssinian
Teddy Satin Abyssinian Satin
Peruvian
Peruvian Satin
One Whorl/Rosette Shiny Sparse
Coronet American Satin Skinny
White-Crested Abyssinian Satin Baldwin
Peruvian Satin
Silkie Satin
Teddy Satin

Getting More Guinea Pig Information

Finally, ask for help in your quest to discover your guinea pigs’ ancestry. If possible, ask at the place where you adopted your furbabies. Other people to ask are your guinea pig-savvy veterinarian or people at a pignic or other guinea pig event. You can even ask online by posting a photo in a guinea pig forum. The more opinions you get, the more educated your guess will be.

Guinea Pig Breeds

Guinea pigs are really adorable creatures to have as pets. They are available in so many different breeds. Each breed comes with its own color, size, and shape. Even though there are differences in the appearance of different breeds, they mostly share similar behavior. Irrespective of the type of the breed, they are very lovable and offer great companionship to their owner. It is anyways good to know more about the different breeds available as it would be helpful in making the choice of the pet that you would want in your home.

Types of Guinea Pig Breeds

1. The American

The American guinea pig is the most common breed among the guinea pigs. It is the breed that anyone would imagine when the name guinea pig is referred to. This breed is very soft in nature and they get along easily with other pigs. They are very loveable and friendly towards children as well. This breed has got a lot of popularity as they are very easy to be taken care of. They have very short hair. It will not take much time for grooming an American guinea pig as they have short hair. Grooming the long-haired guinea pigs can usually be a bit tiring. The American guinea pig should be the right choice if one would want to gift this pet to a kid. This is not a very extraordinary or exotic breed but is very loveable. The ease in pet care is a major highlight when it comes to the American breed.

2. The Abyssinian

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This is the breed which is among the oldest ones in the guinea pig species. They are a very loveable breed and they easily get along with people. Even a visitor would find them very friendly. They have long hair that has swirls, thus they make the best show guinea pigs. A guinea pig with about 8 to 10 swirls is considered as the greatest pick to be presented for a competition.

Long hair makes it a bit hard to take care of the breed. They need to be groomed very frequently. This breed would not be an ideal choice for a kid due to their frequent grooming needs. They are also popular for their naughty behavior and running into troubles. This would not make them any less attractive as they are very loving and bring a load of fun. This lively breed would easily attract everyone and would really make an awesome pet irrespective of the mess they may create.

3. The Peruvian

The Peruvianis the guinea pig breed that comes with the longest hair. The longest hair that got recorded for a guinea pig is 20 inches. Peruvians have very straight hair without any curls. They need a lot of grooming as the hair is very long. There are pet owners who prefer to cut the hair of their guinea pigs so that they can get rid of the work of everyday grooming. It does not make any sense to get the Peruvian breed and cut the hair as there are other breeds with short hair. A Peruvian guinea pig should be considered only if there is enough time to groom them. This breed of guinea pigs is found as the ones which are very curious and also highly alert. They are very good in the homes with kids if they are groomed well.

4. The Silkie

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Silkie or the Sheltie breed of guinea pig is another popular breed of the guinea pigs which are mostly considered by the pet lovers. They have a lot of similarity with Peruvian as they also have very long and smooth hair. The physical appearance of the silkie differs from Peruvian as the hair around the head sweeps back in a different way and has a look as if the hair is slicked back forcefully. This hair styling makes them look very adorable and much different from other types of guinea pigs.

As the breed has long hair, it also needs very frequent grooming for keeping the hair clean and beautiful, so they are not a great choice as a pet for kids. If anybody else can take care of the grooming then they are an amazing choice. They have very shiny and soft hair that kids would love to play with.

5. The Teddy

The Teddyis the breed that has a very dense but short coat. Teddy is even popularly called as wiry. Their hair is not very soft like the other ones but is very easy to manage. The frizzy coat of this guinea pig makes it necessary for frequent brushing so that anything stuck to the fur can be removed. They are called teddy as they resemble a lot like the stuffed animal. The upturned nose is another characteristic of this breed and is quite exclusive to this breed of the pigs.

6. Texel

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The Texel guinea pig is the very cutest breed in this species. It is one of the guinea pig breeds that most of the pet lovers go in search of. These guinea pigs come with very soft and curly hair that are presently covering their whole body which includes the belly. The unique hair that they have made them the best and the very successful breed in the guinea pig shows.

The hair of this breed is very beautiful but can easily get tangled; this makes it very necessary to spend time on grooming them. This is a breed of guinea pigs which would be recommended for the ones who want to have a show guinea pig. If one has enough time to groom them then it is the right pick as it makes an exotic breed among the guinea pigs.

7. The White Crested

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This is the guinea pig which is very cute, full of fun and also is a crowd pleaser. This breed of guinea pigs is much easier to be identified as they come with a white crown above the head. They have a lot of resemblance with the American. They have very smooth and short hair which is very easy to manage.

8. Baldwin

It is the breed of guinea pig which is one among the hairless breeds. They are born with hair but within two months, all of their hair would fall out, making them completely hairless. They usually come with folds and wrinkles on the skin and even on the head. The skin of the guinea pig is the same as the coat color. This is a breed which is very easy to take care as they do not need a lot of grooming. This breed does make a very cute pet.

9. Magpie

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Magpie is the breed of guinea pig which comes with the black and white coat that has a distinct patching of the colors. Their ears are usually black. This is the breed of guinea pigs which got originated from Dalmatians, brindles, and Roans. The peculiar look of this breed makes it a great pick. The hair is not too long and can be easily managed. Kids may find this guinea pig very attractive. They are very loving and friendly with the kids too. It is one of the best in the guinea pig category that would be adored in anyone’s home.

10. The Rex

Rex guinea pig is a very short-haired rodent and their hair is not much longer than just 1 cm. Most of the mammals are covered with various kinds of the hairs which include the guard hairs. This is the kind of the hair that is meant for protecting the coat so that it does not wear out and not have much moisture. Rex does not have any guard hair and so their fur is so much like wool. The unique feature of this guinea pig is the long and droopy ears that come with a very rough and dense coat. They are best for kids as they can be easily taken care. The fur like the hair of this breed is something that children love to play with.

11. The Himalayan

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The Himalayan guinea pig is a remarkable breed and is even known as Siamese cats. They are a highly recommended breed. They are not as rare as they actually look like. They are even regarded as albino and also have color on feet, ears, and noses and these areas are called points. This is a breed that is most suitable for the ones who live in areas with not much heat and sunlight. The points may disappear if they get exposed to too much to sunlight.

12. Alpaca

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This is a breed which is quite similar to the Peruvian breed that has got a curly coat. It comes with two swirls at the rear. The coat is heavily textured, and it is not a very common breed. This is the breed that is originated from the English Peruvian Guinea Pigs. This breed is very friendly and is so adorable.

The guinea pigs are awesome companions irrespective of their breed. One should choose the guinea pig based on how much time they can spend on taking care of them. If a guinea pig with long hair is chosen as a pet, one cannot ignore its grooming.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best guinea pig breed?

The top guinea pig breeds are as follows:

  • American. The American is the most common breed of guinea pig. It is endowed with tiny hair and is extremely docile by nature, making it an ideal pick…especially for kids.

  • Peruvian.Known for its long hair, the Peruvian is perhaps the most exotic breed of guinea pigs. They are perhaps as docile and loving as the American variant.

  • Abyssinian.This is a rather old breed, the Abyssinian guinea pig is known for its long hair with swirls, giving it a very cute and unique look.

Other popular breeds of guinea Pig include Texel, Teddy, Baldwin and White Crested.

Which guinea pig can be considered cute?

Cuteness is a rather subjective term but going by popular vote, the Texel guinea pig breed definitely takes the cake. Known to have been originated in the UK, the Texel guinea pigs are known for their marvellous long and curly coats. Texels are mild-mannered and make amazing pets.

Which type of guinea pig is becoming extinct?

The White Crested guinea pig is perhaps the rarest breed of guinea pigs. They are predominantly golden in color and come in various coat types. Grooming is easy as they have very short hair. They are quiet creatures and keep to themselves mostly.

What is the biggest guinea pig breed?

Guinea pigs are small creatures. The biggest breed of guinea pig out there is the Rex guinea pig. Where the average adult guinea pig size typically is about 10-12 inches, the Rex guinea pig’s size at maturity is as much as 17 inches which is 1.5 times greater than the average guinea.

Which breed of guinea pig is the smallest of all?

It is difficult to specifically identify a guinea pig breed based on its size. The size factor would mostly depend on how well they are treated and taken care of after they are born. However, on average, it has been noticed that the Texel breed and the American breed are considerably a bit smaller in comparison to the others.

Long hair is the feature of which guinea pig?

The long hair attribute can be given to Peruvian guinea pig. It is believed that their hair can grow up to 14 cm long. The Peruvian breed is known to be among the oldest breeds of guinea pigs; its fur can be white, black, or red in colour. Due to its long hair, the Peruvian guinea pig needs a lot of grooming which can be quite a trying ordeal for the owner.

How do you groom the long haired guinea pigs?

Long haired guinea pigs need a lot of grooming and you need to be careful about your choice of combs. A wide-toothed comb assists in removing tangles, whereas a bristle brush helps get rid of loose hair. The bristle brush is often used to uniformly distribute the guinea pig’s natural hair oil.

Is there any hairless breeds of guinea pig?

You can find guinea pigs having little to no fur at all. There are two breeds that fall under this category: Baldwin and Skinny Pig.

Precisely, for this reason, if you are taking either of these two breeds as a pet, there is no extra maintenance required for their hair. Add to that the pleasure of holding these soft, delicate, hairless creatures in your hands. The only thing to take note of, is that they require additional care and a warm place to stay.

Which guinea pig breed has the longest average lifespan?

On an average, guinea pigs live for 5 years to a maximum of 7 years. It was a rare case when the records were broken and a guinea pig lived up to 14 years.

The hjairless breed of guinea pigs usually have a longer lifespan as they live for 7 years to a maximum of 8 years. However, factors like place of stay, care and nutrition heavily affect their longevity.

Sources and further readings

  1. Pets4Homes, 10 Unusual & Charming Breeds Of Guinea Pigs
  2. Mini Encyclopedia of Guinea Pigs Breeds and Care by Myra Mahoney (Author) (Find This Book)
  3. Guinea Pigs (Complete Pet Owner’s Manual) by Immanuel Birmelin (Author) (Find This Book)

Guinea Pig Varieties

There are several guinea pig varieties available. They come in a range of colors and hair types. Here’s a brief description of the most common varieties.

Abyssinian

Abyssinian guinea pigs are instantly recognizable for their peculiar fur. Their hair grows in rosettes, giving them an extraordinary, spiky and ridged outline. Abyssinian guinea pigs come in various colors and color combinations.

An Abyssinian Guinea Pig

American

Most of the guinea pigs you see in pet stores and other people’s homes are of the American breed. Their distinguishing feature is short, smooth hair. Colorwise, they come in all sorts of combinations. Their short coats make them very low-maintenance and easy to keep.

If entering an American guinea pig in a show, it has to adhere to one of the 19 accepted color specifications, and must have a short, smooth coat.

Americans are the most popular guinea pig variety

Coronet

Coronet guinea pigs are very similar to Silkies, having very long, smooth hair. The feature that distinguishes them from Silkies is a feature that looks like a crown in the centre of their foreheads. This is an area of fur radiating out from a central point, often at odds with the rest of their fur and forming ridges.

Coronets are named after their ‘crown’ of ridged fur

Skinny Pigs – Hairless Guinea Pigs

These varieties are the exception to the rule that says ‘All GPs are easy to look after’. Skinny Pigs are difficult to look after properly, requiring heated accommodation and a high energy diet. They are also very susceptible to infection.

The hairless guinea pig breeds are either naked, or have a smattering of fur on their faces and their feet. They are not hypoallergenic, in spite of their hairlessness.

Although experienced owners are able to care for hairless guinea pigs properly, they are not recommended for beginners. The varieties are controversial too, as their lack of fur makes them susceptible to health problems. So, should they actually be bred at all? It’s one of those pet breeding questions you meet all too often (in the case of Pugs in the dog world, for example).

Skinny Pigs are guinea pigs with very little hair, or none at all

Peruvian

Peruvian guinea pigs are a common smooth, long-haired variety. Their fur sprouts in multiple directions, and if allowed to grow out without trimming (which is not recommended) it would be so long that the poor guinea pig would have trouble moving around, and its face would be covered. With regular trimming, the hair juts from the guinea pig’s forehead, giving it a unicorn-like appearance. You may have spotted GPs of this type without realizing they require constant haircuts.

Peruvian guinea pigs’ coats require lots of grooming – that’s the message to take away here. They come in different color varieties.

As Peruvian guinea pigs’ hair keeps on growing, it requires regular trimming

Satin

These guinea pigs are named for their shiny, lustrous, satin-like hair. the hairs are actually hollow, which makes them slightly reflective and can also alter the color of the guinea pig. A Satin guinea pig in a particular color is likely to look a little different to a non-Satin Self of the same basic colour. Although Satins are often Selfs (known as Solid Satins) they also come in other types such as Satin Abyssinian, Satin Himalayan and Satin Tricolour.

The Satin guinea pig breed is controversial due to inherent health problems. The breed has a tendency for a bone disease known as Osteodystrophy. The symptoms are a stiff, hopping walk, and loss of weight.

Satin guinea pigs are prone to health problems

Silkie

Silkie Guinea Pigs are a long-haired breed that requires regular trimming and/or grooming in order to keep it neat and tidy. Silkies have long, lustrous hair that can be several inches long, and they come in a wide variety of colors.

Silkie guinea pig – lots of hair!

Teddy

Teddy guinea pigs have very wiry hair. They are ridiculously cute animals with a halo of fluff surrounding them, and this appearance makes them very popular pets. They come in many different colors.

A Brindled Teddy Guinea Pig

Texel

These guinea pigs have curly, long hair. Their coats form sweet little ringlets all over the GP’s body, making them look larger than they actually are. Texels come in different color varieties.

Texel Guinea Pigs have big hair – surely a 1980s’ breed!

White Crested Guinea Pigs

‘White Crested’ is the name given to any guinea pig that has a small patch of white hair in between the ears resembling a small white crown. It is the GP equivalent of a hair parting, with the fur radiating out from a single point.

So many partings… white-crested guinea pigs have what look like little crowns on their heads

Emerging varieties

Guinea pig breeders all over the world are creating new varieties all the time. Some of these will disappear, but over time others will come to be accepted as ‘recognized’ varieties. Below we’ve listed a few of the newer varieties – the Lunkyara, the Magpie, and the Ridgeback.

  • Lunkyara guinea pigs have wiry coats that makes them look like walking wigs! They require a lot of grooming and cleaning (or trimming) to keep them happy and healthy.
  • Magpie guinea pigs are named for their two-tone coats. They have smooth black and white fur, with lots of brindling and crossover between their black and white patches.
  • Ridge Back guinea pigs are named for the long hairs that sprout from the backs of their head and along their spines. This arrangement gives the GPs a ridged appearance.

Check out our Guinea Pig Breeds supplement for more info on different guinea pig varieties.

From Pets To Plates: Why More People Are Eating Guinea Pigs

Guinea pigs at a farm for the animals in Puno, Peru, where they’re considered a delicacy. Phil Whitehouse/via Flickr hide caption

toggle caption Phil Whitehouse/via Flickr

Guinea pigs at a farm for the animals in Puno, Peru, where they’re considered a delicacy.

Phil Whitehouse/via Flickr

You may best know the guinea pig as a nervous little pet that lives in a cage and eats alfalfa pellets.

Now, the rodents are increasingly showing up on plates in the United States.

South American restaurants on both coasts seem to be pushing the trend, answering to demand mostly from Andean expats for what is considered a fine and valuable food in Ecuador, Peru and Colombia. Middle-class foodies with a taste for exotic delicacies are also ordering, photographing and blogging about guinea pig. The animals — called cuyes in Spanish — are usually cooked whole, often grilled, sometimes deep fried. Many diners eat every last morsel, literally from head to toe.

Guinea pigs on the grill Courtesy of Curtiss Calleo hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of Curtiss Calleo

But there may be more to gain from eating guinea pig than bizarre foods bragging rights. According to activists, eating guinea pig is good for the environment.

Matt Miller, an Idaho-based science writer with The Nature Conservancy, says rodents and other small livestock represent a low-impact meat alternative to carbon-costly beef. Miller, who is writing a book about the ecological benefits of eating unconventional meats, visited Colombia several years ago. At the time, he says, conservation groups were expressing concern about local ranchers clearing forest to provide pasture for their cattle — activity that was causing erosion and water pollution.

“They were encouraging people to switch from cattle to guinea pigs,” Miller says. “Guinea pigs don’t require the land that cattle do. They can be kept in backyards, or in your home. They’re docile and easy to raise.”

The Little Rock-based humanitarian organization Heifer International, which assists communities in enhancing their economies and streamlining local food production, is also promoting guinea pig husbandry in Peru, Ecuador and Guatemala. Jason Woods, the nonprofit’s Americas regional program assistant, says guinea pigs — which he says usually weigh no more than 2 pounds — are twice as efficient as cows at turning food, like hay and compost scraps, into meat: To render a pound of meat, a cow, he explains, may require 8 pounds of feed. A guinea pig only needs 4.

To help start a home guinea pig farm, Heifer International typically supplies a family with one male and seven females. In just months, such a collection may have doubled in size. Woods says a guinea pig herd consisting of two males and 20 females can sustain itself while providing meat for a family of six.

In the United States, most guinea pigs intended for human consumption come from Peru as whole, frozen, hairless rodents in plastic bags.

The Salt contacted several federal regulatory agencies, including USDA and Fish and Wildlife, but none seemed to track guinea pig imports. However, we spoke with the owners of two Peruvian food importers who said cuy consumption in the United States is certainly rising. Neither would speak on record, but each said they are now importing more guinea pigs than ever before.

At one company, in Connecticut, imports have nearly doubled since 2008 — from 600 guinea pigs per year then to more than 1,000 today.

Urubamba, a Peruvian restaurant in Queens, wasn’t serving guinea pig at all eight years ago. Since then, demand has climbed every year, according to Carlos Atorga, who opened Urubamba in 1976.

Now, Urubamba customers can expect cuy on the menu about one weekend each month. The animals go for $17 a plate, each cuy splayed down the middle like a lobster and served with a front leg and a back, an eye, an ear and a nostril.

In San Francisco, Diego Oka, a native of Peru and the executive chef of La Mar Cebicheria, serves imported Peruvian cuy every summer around Peru’s July 28 Independence Day. Oka marinates and deep-fries his guinea pigs for a dish called cuy chactado. He says the nose, ears and fingery little hands are the best bites of all — but Oka removes the animals’ extremities to avoid offending sensitive diners.

In Los Angeles, Helen Springut, co-founder of the adventurous eaters club Gastronauts, says guinea pig is a food worth pursuing only as a cultural experience. She says the meat can be tough and stringy.

I ate a quarter of a grilled guinea pig recently during a cycling trip in Ecuador. The sinewy meat was dry and sparse, and I went away hungry. But others describe what sounds like a different creature.

Miller at The Nature Conservancy says guinea pig is “delicious, very tender and hard to compare to anything else” — not even chicken. Chef Astorga at Urubamba says cuy — which he describes as “about the size of a squirrel” — has “tender flesh and very tender skin.” La Mar Cebicheria’s Chef Oka says cuy is “very oily, like pork combined with rabbit.”

While guinea pig may be attaining star status as a hold-your-nose-and-roll-the-camera bizarre food, whether an animal so favored as a pet in the United States will become a mainstream piece of protein is, perhaps, doubtful.

“There’s a clear cultural prejudice against eating guinea pigs, and rodents in general, in the United States,” Miller says. “But finding ways to reduce our carbon footprint is a good idea, and so is eating small livestock, like guinea pigs.”

Caviidae – cavies, guinea pigs, maras

There are 18 species in this family including maras, cavies, and guinea pigs. They are all found in South America. One species, the lesser capybara, is found in Panama in Central America. They are found in a variety of habitats including mountains, grasslands, and wetlands. Most species live in groups in burrows and are active during the day. They are herbivores. Cavies and guinea pigs look similar. They have rounded bodies, short legs, large heads, no tails, and short necks. Maras look like a little bit like hares. They have long legs, and their rear legs are longer than their front legs.

The capybara is found in South America and is the largest living rodent. They stand about 1.5 feet tall and are around 4 feet long and weigh as much as 150 pounds! Capybaras have stocky bodies; reddish-brown fur; webbed toes with claws; and large heads with squared muzzles.

Capybaras are semi-aquatic and are found near lakes, ponds, swamps, rivers, and marshes. In fact, capybaras can stay under water for as long as five minutes! They are excellent swimmers, Their eyes and nose are on the top of their heads so they can keep them above the water! Capybaras are herbivores and eat grasses and aquatic plants. They are very social and live in groups of 10-40 individuals led by a male. Females have 4-7 babies.
World Status Key
Least Concern Near Threatened Vulnerable Endangered Critically Endangered Extinct in Wild Extinct
Status taken from ICUN Redlist. If no status is listed, there is not enough data to establish status, or there is no status data for the species.

US Status Key
Threatened in US Threatened in NH Endangered in US Endangered in NH Introduced
Status taken from US Fish and Wildlife and NH Fish and Game

New Hampshire Species

North/Central American Species

None Lesser Capybara – Hydrochoerus isthmius

Other Species Around the World

Africa Asia Australia/Oceania Europe North/Central America South America NH Species

Brazilian Guinea Pig – Cavia aperea
Shiny Guinea Pig – Cavia fulgida
Santa Catarina’s Guinea Pig – Cavia intermedia
Greater Guinea Pig – Cavia magna
Montane Guinea Pig – Cavia tschudii
Patagonian Mara – Dolichotis patagonum
Conejo Del Palo – Dolichotis salinicola
Yellow-toothed Cavy – Galea flavidens
Muenster Yellow-toothed Cavy – Galea monasteriensis
Common Yellow-toothed Cavy – Galea musteloides
Spix’s Yellow-toothed Cavy – Galea spixii
Capybara – Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris
Lesser Capybara – Hydrochoerus isthmius
Acrobatic Cavy – Kerodon acrobata
Rock Cavy – Kerodon rupestris
Southern Mountain Cavy – Microcavia australis
Andean Mountain Cavy – Microcavia niata
Shipton’s Mountain Cavy – Microcavia shiptoni

Additional Information

Key: Profile Photos Video Audio

Brazilian Guinea Pig – Cavia aperea
The Brazilian Guinea pig is probably the ancestor of the domestic Guinea pig.
Source: Arkive Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Brazilian Guinea Pig – Cavia aperea
Brazilian guinea pigs are mostly found in scrub grasslands and savannas, but they are also found in the highlands of the Andes.
Source: Animal Diversity Web Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Capybara – Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris
The capybara is the largest rodent in the world.
Source: Arkive Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Capybara – Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris
Capybaras are always found near water.
Source: San Diego Zoo Intended Audience: Students Reading Level: Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Capybara – Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris
Capybaras live in groups of around 10 adults.
Source: Animal Diversity Web Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Capybara – Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris
Capybaras can weigh more than 100 pounds.
Source: National Zoo Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Common Yellow-toothed Cavy – Galea musteloides
Common yellow-toothed cavies are the size of hamsters.
Source: Animal Diversity Web Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Patagonian Mara – Dolichotis patagonum
The Patagonian mara has rabbit-like ears and a deer-like body.
Source: Arkive Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Patagonian Mara – Dolichotis patagonum
The Patagonian mara is a long-legged rodent.
Source: Animal Diversity Web Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Patagonian Mara – Dolichotis patagonum
The Patagonian mara is found in central and southern Argentina.
Source: National Zoo Intended Audience: Students Reading Level: Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Patagonian Mara – Dolichotis patagonum
The Patagonian mara is monogamous.
Source: BBC Nature Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle School Teacher Section: No

Rock Cavy – Kerodon rupestris
The rock cavy is found in northeastern Brazil.
Source: Animal Diversity Web Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle School Teacher Section: Yes
Rock Cavy – Kerodon rupestris
The rock cavy eats Leaves, grasses, and seeds.
Source: National Zoo Intended Audience: Students Reading Level: Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Rock Cavy – Kerodon rupestris
Rock cavies make a variety of vocalizations, including an alarm whistle, chirps, and squeaks.
Source: Central Park Zoo Intended Audience: Students Reading Level: Middle School Teacher Section: No

Santa Catarina’s Guinea Pig – Cavia intermedia
Santa Catarina’s guinea pig is only found on Moleques Island do Sul, in the state of Santa Catarina, Brazil.
Source: Arkive Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

Southern Mountain Cavy – Microcavia australis
Southern mountain cavies are found in Argentina, southern Chile, and southern Bolivia
Source: Animal Diversity Web Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle School Teacher Section: Yes

This little piggy… isn’t a pig at all! Guinea pigs, also called cavies, are stout little rodents from various regions of South America. The best known of this family is the domesticated guinea pig (Cavia porcellus) that is commonly kept as a pet, and is one species broken down into approximately 13 breeds.
It’s believed that the Incas domesticated guinea pigs more than 3,000 years ago, and Spanish explorers brought guinea pigs back from the Andes of South America to Europe, where they were kept as exotic pets. The other members of the genus Cavia can still be found in the wild across the continent.
So where did the name “guinea pig” come from? Theories include that one guinea was the cost of one of these little animals in 16th century England; the name could reflect on the squealing sound the rodents make; or that their meat is similar in taste to suckling pig. It’s also possible that ships leaving the port of Guiana in South America or Guinea in West Africa may have transported the rodents to Europe and the name stuck.
The extended family. Guinea pigs are more distantly related to the rodents in the genera Microcavia, Galea, Hydrochoerus, Kerodon, and Dolichotis; which include other wild cavies, capybaras, and maras. The greater capybara Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris, for example, is the largest rodent in the world.
A family resemblance. While the various species of cavy differ in size, there are some shared characteristics: a stout body, a short tail, a large head with short ears, and continuously growing, flat-crowned jaw teeth (20 of them). Their dense, coarse coat ranges from olive-, cinnamon-, and reddish-brown to yellowish-gray. Some species, such as the greater guinea pig (C. magna) sport shiny black streaks down their backs. Underparts are usually whitish to gray. The soles of their feet are hairless and claws are sharp. When it comes to domestic guinea pigs, a range of colors, hair length, and coat texture are possible.

Of all the wonderful pets available, you’ve finally made the decision to raise a guinea pig. Good work, what’s next? Pick a type of guinea pig.

By now, you’ve probably learned that there are actually several guinea pig breeds to choose from. Specifically, there are 10 popular breeds.

These guinea pig breeds differ in color, shape, coats, size and personalities. However, they’re all very similar for the most part. There is no wrong choice in selecting a breed.

No matter which type of cavy you decide to go with, your guinea pig will be a loving companion. This guide serves as the best resource for picking the guinea pig you want to develop a loving relationship with.

1. American Guinea Pig

Highlights: Lively, Affectionate, Easy to care for.

As you can probably guess, the American Guinea Pig is the most common breed of them all. They’re the epitome of these animals and probably the first image that comes to mind. In fact, it’s relatively rare to see a guinea pig that’s not of this breed.

Not only do Americans have superb temperaments, but they also get along better with other guinea pigs in the enclosure. Plus, they love children as much as children love them.

However, the main reason why they’re popular is because they’re so easy to take care of. Not all guinea pigs have short straight hair like the American. And because of this particular physical characteristic, grooming isn’t nearly as time consuming compared with long-haired breeds.

Interesting Facts

  • Back in the 1500’s, the American Guinea Pigs were called the English Guinea Pigs. In fact, they’re still called that name in certain countries today.
  • American Guinea Pigs are the oldest guinea pig breeds, dating as far back as 5000 B.C.
  • The American Cavy originated from the Andes of Western South American. They were brought to the U.K. by european traders on South American expeditions.

American Breed Recommendation

I’d highly recommend this breed if you plan to get a cavy for small children. Just make sure the child understands how to respect these animals so they don’t unintentionally hurt them.

American Guinea Pigs are also just as great for adults looking for a relatively low maintenance small pet. Sure, they aren’t the most interesting or exotic breeds, but they have a wonderful personality most people can appreciate.

READ MORE: American Guinea Pig – Guide to the Most Popular Cavy

2. Abyssinian Guinea Pig

Highlights: Mischievous, Loving, Fun.

One of the oldest types of guinea pigs, the Abyssinian is certainly a great icebreaker for a home guest. Their iconic long hair with “swirls” make them some of the best show guinea pigs in the world.

These swirls are actually called rosettes and is one of the main features being judged in these show competitions. In fact, show judges recommend that your Abyssinian has eight to ten rosettes if your Abby wants to be competitive.

For reference, most Abyssinians have 6 rosettes. In this case, the more the better. But if you’re not showing your Cavy, then who cares?

On another note, Abyssinians are known to be naughty or mischievous by nature – they often get into extra trouble. But don’t let this deter you from owning one. Their fun and loving personality will certainly make up for the naughtiness.

  • The Abyssinian Guinea Pig’s origins go so far back, no one is certain where they originated from.
  • Most people believed they came from the historic Abyssinia (now Ethiopia), but scientists have refuted this. The names have no relation.
  • The first Abyssinian reached Europe in the 16th century, where the Brits decided to call them Abyssinian Guinea Pigs for unknown reasons.

Abyssinian Breed Recommendation

Personally, I wouldn’t recommend the Abyssinian for a small child unless he/she is getting help from an adult in caring for the animal. If the child is too small to adequately groom this breed, then it could be a problem.

Because of the long hair and curls, it’s more difficult to groom this breed. And without proper grooming, the coat can tangle and cause discomfort for the cavy.

As for adults, the Abyssinian is a fantastic choice! They’re very similar to the American in terms of temperament and personality, but have a unique flare to them.

READ MORE: Guide to the Mysterious Abyssinian Guinea Pig

3. Peruvian Guinea Pig

Highlights: Curious, Alert, Kind.

Of all the different types of guinea pigs, the Peruvian Guinea Pig takes the cake for the longest hair – and by far. In fact, the guinea pig that holds the record for the longest hair was a Peruvian. He had hair that reached 20 inches long!

Unlike the Abyssinian, the Peruvian has long straight hair. And yes, their coat requires the most attention and commitment of all breeds.

However, some owners opt to cut their hair in order to prevent brushing their coats every day. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend it – I say let them be as intended! But that’s your choice as an owner.

The Peruvian tends to be more alert and curious than any of the other breeds. Still, they’re just as loving and will often come greet you out of curiosity every chance they get.

  • Despite popular belief, the Peruvian guinea pig was not bred in a lab like the Skinny Pig. People probably make this assumption because of how unique they look.
  • They originate from South America. Specifically, from countries like Bolivia, Argentina and of course, Peru.
  • The Peruvians were first domesticated in France, as opposed to England – where Americans and Abyssinians gained instant popularity.

Peruvian Breed Recommendation

I highly recommend a Peruvian for older children and teenagers, if properly supervised. If you plan to cut the guinea pig’s hair, then it may be easier for them to care for. Regardless, supervision is always highly recommended with these fragile pets.

For adults that want an exotic pet, look no further. The Peruvian is for you. They’re wonderful and sweet animals, yet interesting and quirky. There’s no dull moment with a Peruvian Guinea Pig.

READ MORE: Peruvian Guinea Pig – The Complete Guide

4. Silkie Guinea Pig

Highlights: Charming, Gentle, Calm.

For reference, the Silkie is often referred to as the Sheltie Guinea Pig. At first glance, the Silkie is quite similar to the Peruvian in the sense that it has long, smooth hair. However, there is a small difference in physical appearance.

The hair around their heads sweep back differently than the Peruvian. It actually looks like it had been purposely slicked back with hair products. Obviously no hair products were involved, the Silkie is just that stylish – earning the nickname: the Hollywood Cavy.

Because of the unique styling of the hair, i’ve heard some really great names for the Silkie. Check out my favorite guinea pig names here.

There’s something about the Silkie Guinea Pig that makes them so charming. Of all the breeds, they’re perhaps the most calm and gentle. As a result, they’re fantastic with small children who also have a calm demeanor.

They’re as laid back as any other domestic pet and may even appear shy or timid in the beginning. For this reason, Silkies take a bit longer to warm up to people than other guinea pig breeds.

  • Silkies were originally bred in the U.K. by crossbreeding a “self black guinea pig” with a Peruvian.
  • In America, this breed is called the Silkie. However, in Europe, they’re called Shelties. No one knows exactly why they were named as such.
  • In recent years, the Silkie has become one of the most popular show guinea pigs for competitions.

Silkie Breed Recommendation

Despite their popularity with kids, I would not recommend a Silkie for a child. However, if you’re a parent that is willing to take on that responsibility, then by all means go for it. Their hair is shinier and softer than the Peruvian, so they are great for little kids to play with, just not for them to take care of.

Most of my adult friends that own a guinea pig have the Silkie. Unsurprisingly, they love their guinea pig. I’d recommend Silkies for anyone looking to develop a great relationship with their guinea pigs. They’re simply a fantastic breed for any adult that has a bit of time to commit to grooming.

READ MORE: Silkie Guinea Pig – Guide to the Hollywood Cavy

5. Teddy Guinea Pig

Highlights: Social, Lively, Friendly.

Boasting a short yet dense coat, the Teddy Guinea Pig is often described as “wiry.” In other words, they have a rough and stiff coat. A Teddy’s coat is the exact opposite of a Silkie’s coat.

Although they’re not as soft as other guinea pig breeds (think: Silkie, Peruvian), their coats are relatively easy to maintain. However, this doesn’t mean no grooming at all. Occasional brushing is still necessary to remove any junk or debris stuck in their fur. And trust me, there will be junk if left unbrushed.

The reason why they’re called the “teddy” is because of their uncanny resemblance to a stuffed animal – the teddy bear. Their signature characteristic is the upturned nose, which is exclusive to this breed of guinea pigs.

Regarding personality, the Teddy has one of the best temperaments among guinea pigs. Most owners will tell you that they warm up fairly quick to people, making them fantastic pets for all types of families.

  • Like the Skinny Pig, the Teddy was born due to a genetic mutation in breeding. Since then, they’ve been popular guinea pigs.
  • The name “Teddy” derives from the fact that they look like little teddy bears with their upturned noses.
  • This unique nose of the Teddy Guinea Pig is called the “roman nose.”

Teddy Breed Recommendation

I would certainly recommend the Teddy Guinea Pig for children, as long as they’re old enough. They’re relatively low maintenance and have a charming personality that any child will fall for. Basic brushing is necessary, but kids can easily do this with the supervision of an adult. Older kids will have no problem.

Teddies are very similar to American Guinea Pigs, but with different coats. If you were looking into getting an American, i’d take a long hard look at the Teddy.

READ MORE: Teddy Guinea Pig – A Quick yet Thorough Guide

6. Texel Guinea Pig

Highlights: Friendly, Elegant, Graceful.

The Texel Guinea Pig is truly a remarkable breed that’s sought-after by some of the biggest enthusiasts and show breeders. Texels feature curly soft hair not just apparent on their backs, but throughout the whole body – including the belly.

With such extravagant coats, they have quickly become premiere show guinea pigs with immense success. Whether at competitions or around house guests, the Texel is sure to turn some heads.

As you’ve probably realized, this breed is the most difficult to groom. They have beautiful wavy locks that come with both pros and cons. The latter, being a coat that’s extremely prone to tangling. It can cause a lot of pain if their coats are left tangled and neglected, and you certainly don’t want that.

  • The Texel Guinea Pig is the result of crossbreeding a Silkie and a Rex Guinea Pig. Through minor modifications, the Texel you see today was born.
  • Texel Guinea Pigs are sometimes referred to as the “long-haired Sheltie.” It’s a fitting and accurate nickname.
  • Texels are one of the newer guinea pig breeds. In fact, they weren’t officially recognized by the American Cavy Breeders’ Association until 1998.

Texel Breed Recommendation

Due to the amount of time and dedication required, I recommend the Texel Guinea Pig only for those that want to show off their guinea pigs. With the Texel, there’s an expected amount of care needed. It’s why they’re not popular guinea pigs, especially as normal family pets.

They are especially not suitable for kids. However, they are an awesome sight to see and children usually get a kick out of interacting with a Texel.

READ MORE: Texel Guinea Pig – Origins, Features & Care

7. White Crested Guinea Pig

Highlights: Joyful, Loving, Easy to care for.

These little bundles of joy are definitely a crowd pleaser. Other than their signature crest, they most resemble the American Guinea Pig. However, those that know can easily spot one because they look like they have a white crown above their head. Hence, the white “crested.”

Shape and size are not the only traits the Whited Crested has in common with the American. They both have short smooth hair, which makes them easy to groom and great for kids to take care of.

However, unlike the American, the White Crested is a lot more difficult to find. Don’t expect to walk into your local pet store and see one. More likely, you’ll need to find a specialized Crestie breeder.

  • The White Crested comes in a range of coat types, such as: brindle, roan and agouti.
  • A Crestie’s white crown is actually a single rosette on the top of the head. Usually rosettes come in pairs (even numbers), but not with this breed.
  • Although finding a White Crested is possible, finding one of show quality is extremely hard to find.

White Crested Breed Recommendation

If you’ve been looking to get an American, the Crestie is a fantastic option too. They’re suitable for both adults and children, and make some of the best small pets. In regards to commitment, they’re at the same level as the Texel or American.

If you happen to find a Whited Crested, it’s a no brainer for the more casual guinea pig owners. The only downside is that you’ll probably need to explain to guests that your guinea pig isn’t an American breed.

8. Rex Guinea Pig

Highlights: Friendly, Gentle, Calm.

The Rex Guinea Pig is a short-haired cavy with hair no longer than 1 cm long. Most mammals have three different types of hairs, including “guard hairs.” These specific hairs are used to protect the rest of the coat from any wear and excess of moisture. However, the Rex does not have guard hairs, creating a wool-like appearance.

In addition to the dense and rough coat texture, the Rex’s most notable features are the long and droopy ears. In a way, they look like hedgehogs while still retaining the shape and feel of a guinea pig.

  • The Rex Guinea Pig is the only guinea pig without guard hairs, giving them a unique wool-like feel.
  • Rex Guinea Pigs comes in a variety of coat colors, including: brown, white or agouti.
  • Depending on the breed and environment, a Rex can live up to 6 years.

Rex Breed Recommendation

I highly recommend Rex Guinea Pigs for children. They’re easy to take care of and have a charming demeanor that can put a smile on any kid’s face. Because of their lack of guard hairs, the Rex has a unique texture that children seem to love.

For anyone looking to get an American Guinea Pig, the Rex should also be considered. They’re the perfect lap pets and you could pet them for hours.

9. Himalayan Guinea Pig

Highlights: Sociable, Friendly, Gentle.

The Himalayan Guinea Pig is truly a remarkable breed and is often called the “siamese cats of guinea pigs.” And despite their name, these breeds did not originate from the Himalayas (mountain range). Siamese cats are from Thailand, but the Himalayan Guinea Pig is actually from South America.

With such a nickname, you can already tell they are a special type of guinea pig. Not only are they considered albino, but they are known to have color (usually black) on their noises, feets and ears (called “points”). These guinea pigs also have red eyes.

The pigment (or color) on their body doesn’t develop until they get older. When they’re first born, they’re just white with red eyes. Usually after a few months, the colors start to kick in.

  • The Himalayan was named not because of the Himalayas mountains, but because of their similar color patterns with the Himalayan (or Siamese) cat.
  • The points (or pigment) on a Himalayan will slowly fade if they are stressed or malnourished.
  • Himalayan Guinea Pigs are some of the most social guinea pigs. They play well with others.

Himalayan Breed Recommendation

These unique guinea pigs are recommended for anyone that wants to own a unique guinea pig but don’t want to deal with a lot of grooming. Their short coats make them favorable guinea pigs to own – outside of the common American cavy.

Because they’re albino, Himalayans should not be exposed to too much sunlight. For this reason, living in a warm climate area may not be the best for this guinea pig breed.

10. Skinny Pig

Highlights: Quirky, Kind, Bright

Perhaps the most unique of all the breeds, the Skinny pig is a hairless guinea pig. However, they’re not completely hairless. They actually have some hair on their feet and legs, although minimal.

These guinea pigs originated in a lab guinea pig colony, where strains of short-haired and hairless guinea pigs were crossbred. The final result: a Skinny Pig.

They certainly aren’t the most attractive breeds of guinea pigs, but they have similar personalities to the other 8 breeds. Sure, many people have claimed they may be “harder to love” due to their physical appearance. However, as long as you treat them properly, they will reciprocate the love.

  • Skinny Pigs are always hairless guinea pigs, but hairless guinea pigs are not always Skinny Pigs. There are others, such as the Baldwin.
  • This breed has existed for less time than you think. They were first bred in the late 70’s.
  • Skinnies were developed at the Charles River Laboratories to be used in dermatology studies.

Skinny Pig Breed Recommendation

I would not recommend these guinea pigs for children. Because they don’t have a coat of fur, their skin is very sensitive. Unintentional foul play could potentially hurt a Skinny. Plus, kids may not appreciate the appearance of this breed since they aren’t your typical “cute” guinea pigs.

For those that can appreciate the wonderful personality of the Skinny Pig, i’d highly recommend giving them a try. If you’re okay with the looks, they make fantastic pets.

READ MORE: Skinny Pigs – Guide to the Hairless Guinea Pig

Where to Find a Specific Guinea Pig Breed?

This list of guinea pig breeds are the most popular ones. However, not all of them are easy to find. The easiest way to find a guinea pig is to go to your local pet store. Major chains, such as PetCo or PetSmart do sell guinea pigs (at the time of writing), however your options are limited.

If you’ve been eyeing an American of Abyssinian, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll find one at a commercial pet store. However, for the rarer breeds, you most likely need to look elsewhere.

One of the best places to find a unique breed is by adopting one. A great resource is Guinea Pig Finder, where you can adopt one from a home. Most of them are common breeds, but from time to time you’ll spot a truly unique breed.

If you’re not patient, I would google breeders around you. For example “Skinny pig breeder los angeles” if you’re looking for a Skinny living in LA. Most specialized guinea pig breeders have a website. However, due to the rarity of certain breeds, they may not always be in your area. If you really want one, you may have to travel a bit.

Guinea pig forums are also another great way to finding a specific breed. Often times, people will post pictures of their unique guinea pigs. Sign up and send those users a message and ask where they got theirs from. There may even be specialized breeders lurking around the forums.

The key is to be persistent. Keep checking forums and adoption sites and before you know it, your breed of choice may pop up.

Choosing a Guinea Pig Breed

There’s no right or wrong when it comes to picking out a guinea pig breed. My recommendations are just recommendations. If you feel like a specific breed speaks to you, then by all means – go for it.

As long as you (or your child) take in proper information and commit some time to raising a guinea pig, you will have a wonderful experience.

So, don’t stress too much over which to get, because they will all make great pets for you and your family. All these guinea pig breeds have warm personalities and as long as you properly take care of them, they will love you back. Happy raising and feel free to ask questions in the comment section below.