Guinea pigs make wonderful pets because they're adorable, have charming personalities, and don't require a ton of room. They are also far less prone to nipping than similar small pets like hamsters and gerbils. The American Cavy Breeders Association (ACBA) recognizes 13 different guinea pig breeds. However, there are also 8 additional "unofficial" varieties. After you meet these unique guinea pigs, one of these cuties just might steal your heart.
Abyssinian Guinea Pig
The Abyssinian's harsh-textured, medium-length coat grows in a series of evenly spaced rosettes that touch each other at the outer edges to create distinct ridges. The best examples of this breed have eight to 10 rosettes, and any color or combination of colors is acceptable. The Abyssinian has a reputation for being one of the friendliest and affectionate breeds of guinea pig, although they may be too energetic and excitable for younger children.
Abyssinian Satin Guinea Pig
The Abyssinian satin is similar to the Abyssinian in almost every aspect. The one major difference is that this breed's rough, medium-length coat has a beautiful satin sheen that practically sparkles in the sunlight. Abyssinian Satin guinea pigs are not as commonly found and shown as the regular Abyssinian version. As with the regular Abyssinian guinea pig, the Satin is known for being very friendly and outgoing. However, Satin breeds tend to be at risk of more health problems, such as osteodystrophy, than the non-Satin version.
American Guinea Pig
The American guinea pig is one of the more common types of guinea pigs you'll find at pet stores. This breed has a short, shiny coat that lays smooth without any rosettes (a whorl of hair that fans outward in all directions from a center point). All colors or color combinations are acceptable. The American guinea pig requires minimal grooming, making it an easy first-time pet. They also are known for having a pleasant, friendly personality.
American Satin Guinea Pig
The American Satin guinea pig breed is nearly identical to the American. The only difference is the coat has a satin sheen, which gives it a glossy glow. The Satin version of the American guinea pig is not as commonly available as the non-Satin type. Grooming care is minimal due to their short coat. Like the regular American guinea pig, American Satins are known for having a good disposition. The American Satin has the same potential for health problems, like osteodystrophy, as other Satin breeds.
Coronet Guinea Pig
This newer guinea pig breed has a long, silky coat with a single rosette in the middle of the forehead, which is referred to as a coronet. This coronet grows long, just like the rest of the coat, falling over the eyes in the front and blending with the rest of the coat in the back. Coronets are generally described as being affectionate and playful. Because their coat requires daily care, they may not be a good choice for first-time owners.
Peruvian Guinea Pig
Peruvians have a long, silky coat that is quite thick. Their hair grows in a series of rosettes that eventually become quite long and, in fact, can grow up to almost 2 feet in length. The hair eventually falls over their head in the front and sweeps outward on the sides and rear. When the coat reaches its full length, it's almost impossible to tell the pet's head from the rear. The Peruvian requires much more grooming care than a short-coat guinea pig. Peruvian guinea pigs tend to be calmer than other breeds but have a curious, alert nature. These pets are not as common as other guinea pig breeds, as their hair does require more care.
Peruvian Satin Guinea Pig
A Peruvian Satin is nearly identical to a normal Peruvian. The only difference is the distinct sheen that covers the entire coat. Due to their long hair, this breed requires more care than a short-coat guinea pig. Like the regular Peruvian, the Peruvian Satin guinea pig has a calm but alert disposition. Peruvian Satins are harder to find than other breeds, even more so than the regular version of the Peruvian. Similar to the other Satin varieties, the bone disease osteodystrophy is a risk for these guinea pigs.
Silkie Guinea Pig
Of the long-haired guinea pig breeds, Silkies are the most popular. They are also known as shelties in the United Kingdom. Silkies have a dense, luxurious coat that sweeps back from the forehead and grows quite long. They are similar to coronet guinea pigs, except they don't have a rosette on their foreheads. Since they require more care than a short-coated breed, they're not a good choice for new guinea pig owners or younger children. Silkies are known for having generally docile, calm personalities and are considered the gentlest guinea pig breed. They can also be shy at first and might not be ideal for loud, active younger children.
Silkie Satin Guinea Pigs
The Silkie Satin breed is similar to the original Silkie. However, their long hair has an extra sheen (the unique characteristic that sets all the satin-type breeds apart). These guinea pigs have lengthy hair, yet it doesn't quite reach as long as the Peruvian breed. Careful grooming is still required. As with other satin guinea pig breeds, a Silkie Satin is at higher risk of bone diseases such as osteodystrophy.
Teddy Guinea Pig
The Teddy, known for their teddy bear-appearance, has a short to medium-length, even coat that is so full and wiry. Their hair stands on end and should spring back up when you run your hand over it, and does need regular brushing on a weekly basis. This breed comes in multiple colors and color combinations. They are also the only guinea pig breed that has an upturned nose. Teddy guinea pigs are very popular and are often thought of as the friendliest guinea pig breed with people, although they can sometimes have issues sharing a cage with another pig.
Teddy Satin Guinea Pig
The main difference between a Teddy Satin and a traditional Teddy is the Teddy Satin's coat carries a sheen that appears to reflect light. The Satin version of the Teddy guinea pig is very friendly and outgoing. In fact, it is the most popular of the satin breeds. Unfortunately, just as the other Satin breeds, Teddy Satin guinea pigs are at higher risk of diseases like osteodystrophy as a result of this recessive gene.
Texel Guinea Pig
The Texel has a long, soft, springy coat that grows in ringlets. This curling can make the hair look a bit shorter than other long-coated breeds, but you can gently pull on a ringlet to reveal the true length. The hair on the face is short and gradually becomes longer at the top of the head to blend in with the rest of the coat over the shoulders.
The fur on the Texel's belly should also be curly. Although it would appear that this breed needs frequent grooming, this can actually be detrimental to the health of their coat. Even so, it's important for owners of this breed to take extra caution with care, as it's common for their coat to get tangled. Texels are the most active of the long-haired guinea pig breeds and also are thought to be one of the cuddliest.
White Crested Guinea Pig
The white crested guinea pig, or crested for short, has a short, smooth, silky coat just like the American. The difference is there's a single white rosette on this breed's head that is known as a "crest." The crest stands out from the color of the fur on the rest of the body. The crested guinea pig is considered rare, as they're not as easy to find as other breeds. The crested guinea pig tends to be shyer than other guinea pig breeds. Despite their quieter personalities, they are known for being quite smart and are a good choice for training tricks and other fun behaviors.
Unofficial Guinea Pig Breeds
Although these eight breeds are not yet recognized by the American Cavy Breeders Association or the American Rabbit Breeders Association, they are gaining in popularity among guinea pig lovers. Although some of these unique breeds are not easily available in the United States, they are popular in Europe, Australia, and Latin America.
Alpaca Guinea Pig
This rarer breed of Guinea pig gets its name from its alpaca-like fur, which is coarse and wavy. They are also known as the Curly Coronet, English Peruvian, or the Boucle Guinea pig. These cavies are not a beginner breed, as their coat requires daily care to keep it from becoming matted and tangled. They also need a bath at least monthly. Alpaca guinea pigs have a reputation for being very outgoing and affectionate.
Baldwin Guinea Pig
These unusual-looking guinea pigs are hairless as adults, although they are actually born with hair that falls out within their first few months of life. These pigs can be found in many colors and have skin that needs careful monitoring. Because they lack a coat, they are at higher risk of getting skin infections, wounds, and abrasions.
Baldwins also need warm, soft bedding in their cages to help them maintain heat and keep them from hurting themselves. These guinea pigs should not go out in direct sunlight and cannot handle extreme temperatures. Baldwin cavies are also similar to hairless cat breeds in that they have an elevated metabolism and require a diet to meet their higher energy needs.
Himalayan Guinea Pig
This guinea pig breed gets its name from its coloring, which is similar to that of the Himalayan cat and Himalayan rabbit. They have an entirely white coat with brown to black "points" on their ears, nose, and the tips of their feet, and also have red eyes. This cavy variety is an albino breed, which means they are very sensitive to direct sunlight. Personality-wise, Himalayans are considered quite friendly and gentle, but they are not a good beginner guinea pig because their albinism requires special care.
Lunkarya Guinea Pig
This guinea pig breed is affectionately known as "the lunk" and stands out for their very long, rough, and curly coat. This rare breed is found primarily in Nordic countries, such as Sweden, Norway, and Finland. This is definitely not a beginner's choice, as their voluminous coat requires regular care.
Merino Guinea Pig
Merino guinea pigs are similar to the Texel, but their coat is shorter on their heads. They also have a crest on their heads placed between their ears and eyes. Commonly referred to as the English Merino or Merino Peruvian, this breed is considered gentle, friendly, and makes excellent pets.
Rex Guinea Pig
Like other types of rex animals such as Rex cats and Rex rabbits, this guinea pig breed gets its name from its short, wooly coat. It also has long ears that droop downward, which set them apart from other breeds. Rex guinea pigs are the longest of all the breeds, reaching lengths of up to 17 inches. The Rex tends to be a very affectionate, cuddly guinea pig with an outgoing personality. Their coat does require some minimal grooming, but they're not a high-maintenance breed.
Sheba Guinea Pig
Also known as the Sheba Mini Yak, this guinea pig has a long, dense coat that appears somewhat out of control. The breed was created in Australia where it's known as the "bad hair day" cavy. Because of their unique fur, these guinea pigs need daily grooming to keep their coat healthy. Shebas are known for being very intelligent, curious, and docile, and make lovely, if high-maintenance, pets.
Skinny Guinea Pig
Similar in looks to the Baldwin, the Skinny is another hairless guinea pig. They do have some hair on their bodies, though -- typically around their feet, legs, back, and around their nose. Like hairless cat breeds with unprotected skin, these guinea pigs are susceptible to skin infections, irritations, and damage. If you acquire one of these guinea pigs, you must be sure to provide them with soft bedding material that won't hurt their skin, and be diligent about regular cage cleaning. Like the Baldwin, they also need a higher-energy diet due to their increased metabolism.
So Many Guinea Pig Breed Choices
You might find it difficult to pick just one guinea pig with such a wide range of breeds, coat types, and color choices to choose from. If you can't pick just one, you may not have to. These adorable animals are social creatures and can be kept in small groups of the same gender in most cases. Start out with one from your favorite breed, then consider getting a friend to keep your pet company. Their playful antics will surely keep you entertained.