Fact checked by Dr. Antoinette Martin, DVM
Guinea pigs tend to have calm and friendly demeanors, which partially explains why they are so often chosen as first pets for both children and adults alike. While you may just see all guinea pigs as cute and fluffy balls of fur, there are actually different breeds, and each has its own unique look and personality traits.
Just like dogs and cats, breeding associations categorize guinea pig breeds according to their weight, color, body shape, and more. To help you learn about the different breeds, we are going to take a look at the 12 main types. If you are looking for a low-maintenance pet for your family, or you currently have a guinea pig and you are unsure of its breed, learning about the different breeds will help you understand more about these cute and cuddly little creatures.
Guinea Pig Breeds
The American Cavy Breeders Association oversees and determines guinea pig breed standards in North America. We are going to take a look at the 12 main breeds they recognize:
Unsurprisingly, the American guinea pig breed is one of the most common types in North America. It is a short-haired, medium-sized guinea pig that is fairly easy to maintain. There are 20 recognized colors for American guinea pigs, so no matter what your color preferences are, you should be able to find an American guinea pig you like the look of. When most people picture a guinea pig, they are actually thinking about an American breed. Their cute, rectangular bodies and short, soft fur explain why this iconic breed is so popular.
The Abyssinian guinea pig is recognizable because of its uniquely swirled fur. These guinea pigs have a cute and scruffy look, which almost makes them look like they just woke up. They tend to be one of the most affectionate breeds, which explains why they are so popular. Breeders refer to the unique hair tufts that set Abyssinians apart as rosettes, and they usually have between eight and 10 of them. Like the American, Abyssinians can be found with every fur color imaginable.
The White-crested guinea pig is recognizable from the white crown of fur that grows on top of its head. Otherwise, this breed is fairly similar to the American, which also has a short and smooth coat. The white-crested guinea pig is known to be shy and quiet.
Sheba’s are sometimes jokingly and affectionately called the Bad Hair Day breed. They have dense and long hair that almost looks like a lion’s mane. Due to their long hair, this is a breed that requires a significant amount of maintenance. If you like the look of a fluffy guinea pig and you do not mind putting in some time with the grooming brush, a Sheba might be right for you.
The Himalayan guinea pig is known for its pure white coat. Aside from brown or black coloring on their ears, feet, and nose, these guinea pigs are almost entirely covered in short, white fur. They tend to have sensitive eyes, so it is a good idea to keep them away from direct sunlight. They do really well when they spend most of their time indoors and are a great choice for those that live in apartments and condos.
Merinos are known for being an intelligent and adventurous breed. They have a longer, wavy coat, which can become tangled and matted if they are not brushed regularly. Due to the high-maintenance nature of their fur, they can require a lot of work, but if you are looking for a fun and cuddly guinea pig, the Merino is an excellent choice.
The skinny guinea pig is the most recognizable breed. This is because this is an almost completely hairless guinea pig. Aside from some small spots of hair on its muzzle and legs, these guinea pigs only have a thin covering of fuzzy hair on the ridge of their backs. Due to their lack of fur, these unique guinea pigs tend to nest for warmth and do well when they have access to a warm blanket they can cuddle up to.
The Silkie guinea pig, which is also known as the Sheltie, has long fur that tends to grow backward. It’s known for being one of the gentlest and most laid-back breeds. While Silkies make excellent pets, it is worth noting that their long fur needs regular brushing.
The Texel guinea pig is another long-coated guinea pig breed. Texels look similar to Silkies, but their fur almost seems like it has been permed. They can be born in a variety of colors, and the soft ringlets that naturally grow toward the ends of the fur are really soft. They tend to be calm, which makes them excellent companion pets.
The Teddy guinea pig breed gets its name from its fluffy coat, which almost gives the guinea pig the look of a living Teddy bear. Teddy guinea pigs tend to be smaller than other breeds and have a reputation for being friendly and cuddly. The short, dense, and springy coat requires less maintenance than other breeds, which explains why they are popular with first-time owners.
The Peruvian guinea pig is known for its spectacular and lengthy coat. This guinea pig breed’s long and silky hair can grow so long that it drags behind the guinea pig. Not only does its long coat require regular brushings, but these guinea pigs also tend to have a bold personality, so they are rarely suitable as a first guinea pig or first pet.
The Rex guinea pig breed is identifiable from its short, wavy coat that almost gives the guinea pigs the look of a young hedgehog. Their uniquely low-maintenance coat and wool-like feel make these guinea pigs one of the most popular breeds. They are social, cute, and really easy to look after.
Just like dogs and cats, certain guinea pig breeds are easier to care for than others. If you are new to guinea pigs, or you have young children, you may want to go for one of the lower-maintenance breeds.
If you ever have any questions about specific breeds, or you would just like to know more about guinea pig care in general, you can always book an online vet appointment with one of our Hello Ralphie virtual veterinarians.
Our online vets would be happy to help you welcome a guinea pig into your family!