brown guinea pig looking at camera
Shorthaired, smooth-coated guinea pigs are usually the American breed or a mix with this breed. MAKY_OREL/pixabay.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.

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

ShorthairedLonghairedSmooth
AmericanCoronetAmerican
American SatinPeruvianAmerican Satin
AbyssinianPeruvian SatinSilkie
Abyssinian SatinSilkieSilkie Satin
TeddySilkie Satin
Teddy SatinTexel
White-Crested
CurlyPlushWhorls/Rosettes
TexelTeddyAbyssinian
Teddy SatinAbyssinian Satin
Peruvian
Peruvian Satin
One Whorl/RosetteShinySparse
CoronetAmerican SatinSkinny
White-CrestedAbyssinian SatinBaldwin
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.

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