longhaired guinea pig standing
Guinea pigs originated in South America, and 13 different breeds are currently recognized by the American Cavy Breeders Association. siala/pixabay.com

Did you know that there are different breeds of guinea pigs? That’s right. They are all the same species, Cavia porcellus, but some of the many different looking guinea pigs you see are because of the different breeds. Do guinea pigs care what breed they are? Probably not — and you probably don’t either. After all, you love your guinea pig regardless of his or her breed. But exploring guinea pig breeds can give you some insight into your own piggie companion.

Guinea Pig Origins

Guinea pigs originated from the Andes area in South America, with notable origin countries being Peru and Brazil. Their history with humans began mainly as stock animals. Today, they are beloved members of the family in the United States, the United Kingdom, and other countries and regions. Most of these companion guinea pigs are bred in each region and are decades or centuries removed from their Andean ancestors. One exception to this are guinea pigs that are bred to be much larger than companion guinea pigs, sometimes weighing three times as much. These guinea pigs are called cuy and are typically directly from or recently descended from South American guinea pigs, where they are still bred as stock. Companion guinea pigs are also called cavies, or cavy if singular.

black, white and orange guinea pig with fur rosettes
The Abyssinian breed of guinea pig has fur with a distinct whorl pattern, often called rosettes. iStock.com/imv

The Guinea Pig Breeds

So what are the breeds? The American Cavy Breeders Association, in conjunction with the American Rabbit Breeders Association, oversees guinea pig showing and breed standards in the United States and Canada. Thirteen guinea pig breeds are recognized. These are:

Guinea Pig Breeds
Abyssinian SatinSilkie Satin
American SatinTeddy Satin
Peruvian Satin

Each of the breeds can be shown in varieties with several different colors in the ACBA. The varieties as noted by the ACBA are Self (a single coat color; 8 colors recognized), Solid (a uniform coat color created by mixing two or more fur colors; 5 colors recognized), Agouti (a coat with different colored fur at the base and tip, and belly fur that matches the tip color; 3 colors recognized), and Marked (a coat with patches or patterns breaking up the main color; 6 colors recognized). The American breed can also be shown in the Tan group (the coat has tan markings; 4 colors recognized: black, blue, chocolate, and lilac). This makes for quite a few different color combinations.

Other breeds that aren’t recognized but are notable are the mostly hairless. They are unforgettable when you see them. As you might have guessed, the breeds are follically challenged. The Skinny has only a bit of fur on the face and feet. The Baldwin sheds a full coat of fur from birth until only a bit remains on the feet.

The British Cavy Council oversees guinea pig shows and breeds in the United Kingdom. It recognizes more than 40 breeds of cavy. Although this might seem like a lot more than the ACBA, a lot of crossover exists — what is classified as a variety in the ACBA is sometimes a breed in the BCC.

orange, white and black, shorthaired guinea pig
The American breed of guinea pig has short, smooth fur. iStock.com/Aneese

The Look Of Guinea Pig Breeds

The size of companion guinea pigs is about the same. They weigh about 1.5 to 2 pounds and have a rectangular body shape. The American, Abyssinian, and Peruvian are the original three breeds to be exhibited, and usually the most popular. The fur on these breeds differs from one another — the American has a short, smooth coat; the Abyssinian has a short, rough coat with the fur forming distinct rosettes; and the Peruvian has long, silky hair.

The Teddy and White-Crested are other short-coated breeds, and each exhibits a unique trait. The Teddy has a short, plush coat similar to a Rex rabbit. The White-Crested has a short coat with a single, white fur rosette on the forehead.

Other long-coated breeds are the Coronet, Silkie, and Texel. Although they share the trait of a long coat, each breed boasts something special. The Coronet has a single fur rosette centered on the forehead; the Silkie lacks any fur rosettes; and the Texel has curly fur.

That accounts for eight of the 13 breeds. The other five are Satin versions of the Abyssinian, American, Peruvian, Silkie, and Teddy. What’s Satin? This is when the fur has a translucent quality that gives it an added sheen.

Guinea Pig Temperament

It’s a matter of debate whether or not different breeds of guinea pigs have different temperaments. Anecdotal reports indicate a lack of consistent differences between breeds. Peter Gurney, a well-known guinea pig owner who wrote extensively about them before his passing in 2006, noted on his website that “a guinea pig is a guinea pig is a guinea pig.” They are herd animals, and most like to have another guinea pig companion and are sociable. You have no doubt noticed that your guinea pig has his or her own personality, and it seems this is likely unrelated to breed.

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