If you want to get a new pet, why not get a guinea pig? They are fun, lovable creatures who make great pets for people of all ages. Like most domestic animals you can get many different breeds of cavy – But how do you know which one is best for you?
You can get many different types of guinea pigs; they come in all sorts of shapes, colors and patterns.
When deciding which cavy breed you wish to get you'll need to decide how much time you will have every day to look after your piggy – this is because some breeds require more care (although all guinea pigs do need a caring owner and all their needs catered for) – long haired breeds especially need more time spent on them as they need to be groomed thoroughly every day to keep them in prime condition.
One of the first things to establish when looking at guinea pig breeds is to recognize that a lot of breeds come in lots of colors, but also lots of color patterns are not breeds – this means that the dutch pattern is actually a color and not a breed as you can get many different breeds of guinea pig all with dutch markings. One way to tell a breed from a color is that the a breed will often have a coat-type of texture that is only associated with that breed, for example hair in rosettes is almost always the Abyssinian breed.
So, let's start with the short-haired breeds:
These are the pigs with short hair that will still require regular grooming, but not as much grooming as long-haired cavies.
Agouti Guinea Pigs – These pigs have short, coarse coats that are mainly a dark color flecked with another color, either a darker or lighter one.
American Or English Short Haired Cavies – This breed is probably the commonest breed of guinea pig for pets as they do not need a lot of grooming and the range of their coat-colors is huge. In fact these pigs can come in almost any color.
Crested Guinea Piggies – These guinea pigs look a lot like the American or English short hairs but they have a crest (usually white or the same color as the rest of the pig) on their forehead. A true crested cavy will have a body that is all of one color and not multi-colored.
Dalmation Cavies – These pigs have short white fur with darker patches on their body – much like a dalmatian dog.
Rex Cavies – These piggies look a lot like Teddies but are genetically different.
Skinny Pigs – This breed is essentially hairless, and so needs to be kept in a slightly warmer climate than other breeds.
Teddy Guinea Pigs – Teddies have short course fur that can be wiry or fuzzy, and can make them look like a cuddly toy, hence the name.
Now let's look at the long-haired guinea pig breeds:
Abyssinian Pigs – These long haired pigs have spiky hair that sticks up in rosettes all over the body.
Alpaca Cavies – This is a reliably new breed and is not that well known; these piggies have longish curly hair.
Coronet Guinea Pigs – This is basically a long haired version of the Crested pig. They have long hair with a crest on their head. Their body should all be one color, and the crest should either be the same color or white.
Peruvian Pigs – It is believed that this breed probably has the longest hair of all cavies as their hair never stops growing! A well bred Peruvian has a sheet of smooth, long hair that falls around its body like a curtain. Their hair, if left uncut, can reach a length of around 20 inches.
Silkie or Sheltie Cavies – These pigs are very similar to Peruvians – the only difference is that Silkie's do not have long fur growing over their face where as Peruvians do.
Texel Pigs – These guinea pigs have long curly hair, often in 'corkscrew' curls. They require a lot of maintenance for their long hair.
Please Note: Never breed a dalmatian with another dalmatian or roan guinea pig as a lethal gene is produced.
Many guinea pigs are actually mixtures of two or more breeds, and some owners believe that mixed-breed cavies are in general more healthier than pedigrees, although it does, of course, depend on the individual.
Good luck with your new guinea pig!