by Jennifer Johnson
Right now there are thirteen breeds of guinea pigs that are recognized by the American Cavy Breeders’ Association (ACBA). In this article, I’d like to highlight some of the more popular breeds, plus a few you may not recognize.
The most popular breed is the American shorthair, which of course has short, smooth hair. These little guys come in all kinds of colors and patterns and are usually very personable. They require little or no grooming, and depending on the coat color, they may have black or red eyes. Only certain colors and patterns are accepted in the show ring. The crested breed is identical to the shorthair, only it has a whorl or “dent” on its head. This whorl may be a different color than the rest of the body. I’ve only owned a few cresteds, but they have been some of my favorites because they have such charming personalities!
Another popular breed is the abysinnian, or abby. These have “spiky” but soft hair that sticks up all over their bodies. Like the shorthair, they come in a wide variety of colors and coat patterns. Most have a small bald spot behind each ear; this is perfectly normal. Abbies tend to have strong personalities but are very sweet and loving.
My personal favorite is the Peruvian. These guys need quite a bit of grooming to keep their long coats from getting dirty and matted. Peruvians’ hair is very long and drapes over the face, so sometimes it’s hard to tell the back from the front! One of the most common coat colors is a silvery-gray (lilac), and the cavy will have red eyes. Peruvians are the most quirky in terms of personality. I lovingly describe them as neurotic, jumpy, and easily spooked, but their gorgeous appearance overshadows their faults. Unfortunately, Peruvians are often victims of neglect because buyers don’t know how much grooming is required, and the animals end up suffering.
Some lesser-known breeds include the teddy, the silkie, the texel and the hairless. Teddies have short, fuzzy hair that tends to fall out around their rear ends as they get older. Silkies are similar to Peruvians, only with short hair around the face and a coat that flows straight back from the head. Texels have coarse, wavy hair all over their bodies. Last but not least, hairless guinea pigs actually do have a little hair on their faces and feet, but are otherwise wrinkled and bald. They must be kept out of drafty, cold places as they can easily get sick. Their ideal cage would have lots of nice warm fleece and cozies to snuggle in!
Less common breeds can sometimes be found only by looking up breeders, but the good news is that if you want to adopt, almost ALL of these breeds are easily found, whether they come from a rescue or are being given up by their owners. Whatever type of guinea pig you decide on, do your research beforehand to make sure you both have a happy life together!