The American Cavy Breeders Association lists 13 guinea pig breeds, which gives pet owners plenty of choices. Most varieties have been domesticated, while others are sought after for their rarity.
The original habitat range for these animals is the Andes Mountains in South America, but they have since been introduced to various parts of the world.
Guinea pigs make excellent first-time pets for kids since they are less demanding than dogs and cats, and they are less fragile than hamsters.
You can choose between the guinea breeds discussed below:
1. Cuy Guinea Pig
Cuy guinea pigs are reared for food in Peru, where they are prepared either by frying or roasting. These guinea pigs are often three times the size of normal guinea pigs, and they can weigh six pounds or more.
Cuy guinea pigs are hard to tame and are therefore not kept as pets. They only live for two to three years, and they commonly develop health issues like blindness because of their size.
You can identify cuy guinea pigs for their floppy ears and pink lips and noses. Pet owners sometimes buy this guinea pig unknowingly only to realize later how large they can get.
2. Abyssinian Guinea Pig
The Abyssinian guinea pig is a favorite among beginner pet owners because of its friendly nature. It was a famed show animal in Victorian England due to its striking hairstyle that features natural swirls called rosettes.
Abyssinians bred for shows will have even-numbered rosettes, but those in pet stores have imperfect coats.
Abyssinians also display a range of coat colors, from white, roans, red, brindle, tortoiseshell. There is also the prized ‘Abyssinian satin’ whose coat is shiny.
Pet owners who buy Abyssinian guinea pigs quickly realize that they need unlimited attention, which is why they are perfect pets for kids.
They like to be petted, and you should take them out of their cage regularly. These guinea pigs can get lonely if they lack affection.
Abyssinians are susceptible to eye problems, diabetes, and ovarian cysts, so you should watch out for any unusual behavior.
3. American Guinea Pig
The American guinea pig is the short-haired, smooth-coated breed that populates pet stores in the US. The American Rabbit Breeders lists multiple colors of this breed, including:
- Self group – The coat has a solid color that can include red, black, beige, lilac, chocolate, red, cream, or roan
- Agouti group – The animal’s hair has dark and light bands
- Dalmatian – White body with dark spots
- Himalayan – White body with black or brown feet, nose, and ears
The American guinea pig is great for kids because it needs minimal maintenance. They don’t bite, and they respond well to being handled.
Their short hair does not mat easily, and they groom themselves perfectly. The animal will be happy as long as their cage is spacious and clean and filled with toys.
4. Texel Guinea Pig
Texels are popular show guinea pigs thanks to their stunning waves and curls. These curly coats need plenty of grooming, but they are beautiful to look at.
This guinea pig is relatively new, having been recognized in the 1990s. It is a result of breeding the silkie guinea pig breed and the rex variety.
Texel guinea pigs will have a body length of 8-10 inches, although males are longer. Handle your pet carefully so that they don’t slip and fall.
Most of the care given to this breed is directed to their coat. Buy a soft bristle brush to groom your pet’s fur every day.
You should also trim the fur once a month, and you should especially cut the hair around the animal’s anus and back legs. This guinea pig also needs monthly baths in lukewarm water.
The hair on the texel guinea pig can become matted and result in skin issues like parasites and mites. The animal also has large eyes that are susceptible to eye infections.
5. Skinny Pigs
Skinny pigs are a unique breed of guinea pigs, as they are almost hairless. They only have some hair on their legs, muzzles, and feet, with the rest of the body left hairless.
Their skin is, therefore, very sensitive, and they thrive in the care of adults who can watch out for fungal infections.
Skinny pigs are believed to have originated in a Montreal lab in 1978. The lab identified the hairless genetic mutation after breeding a group of guinea pigs.
The first skinny pigs were inbred to preserve the mutation, but they were prone to illnesses. Professional breeders have, however, bred these guinea pigs carefully since then to produce stronger and healthier individuals.
Despite their high maintenance, skinny pigs are popular pets in Europe and North America. They have been nicknamed ‘house hippos’ and are lauded for their peaceful temperament.
If you decide to get a skinny pig, get ready to provide more food as they have a higher metabolism than that of normal guinea pigs. They also need sunscreen to enjoy sunny days.
6. Sheltie Guinea Pig
The sheltie guinea pig is another breed known for its luxurious coat. The animals are sometimes called ‘silkies’ as their fur is smooth and silky to the touch.
They have little sideburns that resemble teardrops when viewed from above.
You have to keep trimming the guinea pig’s fur since it can grow long enough to drag along the ground.
Use a large brush to remove dirt from your pet’s coat, and a smaller one to get finer pieces of debris. Silkies should not be let outdoors as their fur can become dirty and wet.
Silkies are friendly and sociable, and you can keep a group of same-sex individuals. They will also welcome your attention as you enjoy touching their silky fur.
These guinea pigs are quite expressive, and they make sounds when they are excited, nervous, or angry.
7. Peruvian Guinea Pig
Peruvian guinea pigs are favored for their long hair that often reaches 12 to 14 inches. Their spectacular hair made the guinea pigs famous in 15th-century animal shows.
Peruvian breeds grow enough hair to cover their eyes, and you may even mistake it for a wig.
This variety is not a beginner pet, as you have to keep up with a strict grooming routine. You need to comb the animal’s hair daily in the direction that it grows to discourage matting.
The pet’s cage must always be tidy, and you may have to clean it every day.
Peruvian guinea pigs also require regular baths in lukewarm water. You should keep the hindquarters and bottom clean in between baths.
More maintenance will be needed if you want to show your pet. Some pet owners opt to roll up the hair to prevent matting and keep their Peruvians ready for shows.
8. Teddy Guinea Pig
The teddy guinea pig is named for its resemblance to the teddy bear. This breed is quite small, with adults weighing a maximum of three pounds.
You can get a teddy guinea pig with a solid-colored coat like red, orange, or chestnut or one with a blend of several colors. There is also a satin variety with a shiny coat.
These guinea pigs do not need a lot of grooming, and you can gift them to kids. Brush their fur weekly and clean their ears with a warm damp towel to get rid of wax.
Do not bathe a teddy guinea pig more than three times a year to avoid drying out their skin, and use a shampoo that is formulated for them.
You can clicker train the pets to perform various tricks when bonding with them. Teddy guinea pigs also thrive outside of the cage under supervision.
9. Rex Guinea Pig
The peaceful temperament of the rex guinea pig makes it a popular pet. This breed is sometimes confused with the teddy guinea pig, but it has a wirier coat and curly whiskers.
You can get the animal in a range of colors too, like red, agouti, white, and brown.
The rex can reach 20-45 cm in length with a coat that is 1/20-inch long. You can clean the animal’s curly coat with a small brush.
The claws on the rex need special attention because they grow fast and thick.
10. Himalayan Guinea Pig
Himalayan guinea pigs need special care because they are albino. Do not expose this breed to direct sunlight as their points will start fading, and their eyes will get damaged.
As they age, Himalayan guinea pigs will develop dark patches on their paws and noses, and around their eyes.
Himalayan guinea pigs are sensitive, and they need calm and gentle care. They use sounds like squeaks to express their happiness or anger.
Can You Keep Different Breeds of Guinea Pigs Together?
Wild guinea pigs live in pairs and small groups. You can keep a pair of the same species or different varieties as long as they have similar care requirements.
Keep only one male in a small group since males can be territorial.
Guinea pigs can either be short-haired or long-haired, and you can select the right one based on the level of commitment you plan to offer.
Long-haired varieties like the Peruvian guinea pig are stunning to watch, but the luxurious fur needs constant grooming.
So, if you are going to get a guinea pig as a pet, now you know which type will suit you.