What Kind of a Guinea Pig is That? (Breeds and Varieties)

Little Jo Wheek

Post   » Sun Jul 01, 2007 9:09 pm

I am from the US, so my perspective is an American one, but wherever possible I will be adding the other countries' names and rarer breeds with info. A lot of the fun in knowing about predominant breeds in cavies is seeing all the different types and combinations. There are a myriad of coat types and colors as well as color patterns specific to guinea pigdom. If you have a cavy that is a combination of different breeds or varieties (colors) you may have a true one-of-a kind companion.

Unfortunately, many of the breeds and colors are now showing specific health problems associated with them. Knowing the predominant breeds or colors may help bring more common disorders to the top of the rule-outs for illnesses or be a consideration when looking for that new cavy to adopt.

The governing body of the breeding for show world in the US is the ACBA. While this site does not condone breeding for a specific type or color (as well as breeding in general due to the risks to the cavies involved), I will use their standards in referencing breeds and color varieties. Later, the dangers of breeding for specific type or color will be discussed when I get into breed-related health problems.

I would also like to clarify, what is a breed? A "Breed" in the US has a distinct coat type as well as coat length. When you talk about coat colors and color patterns that is referring to a "Variety". In some countries, they consider the entire color and coat type combination to be a "Breed." Since I feel that is less specific, I will continue to utilize the US terminology.

ACBA Breeds:

Abyssinian Satin
American (also known as English in some countries)
American Satin
Peruvian Satin
Silkie (also known as Sheltie in some countries)
Silkie Satin
Teddy Satin
White Crested

Most breeds can be Satinized (characteristics and genes will be discussed later).

Some other unrecognized breeds in the US and in other countries that have distinctive types:
Rex (UK, look like a Teddy but not the same or compatible genes)
English Texel (UK, look like American Texel, but have Rex genes)
Skinny Pig
(Self) Crested
Sheba Mini Yak

Little Jo Wheek

Post   » Sun Jul 01, 2007 9:24 pm


(Selfs-same color over entire body, homogenous coloring)

Blue (very rare)
Red Eyed Orange (REO)
White (can be either Pink-eyed or Dark eyed, PEW/DEW)

(Solids--ticked colors or color patterns, but cavy is same color over body)


(Agoutis--ticked colors with an area devoid of ticking on the belly called a belly band)


(Marked--various specific patterns)
Broken Color
Himalayan (Himi)
Tortoiseshell (TS)
Tortoiseshell and White (TSW)
Tan? (only recognized in American-breed cavies right now)

(I hope I remembered them all! This is from my rusty brain.)

Little Jo Wheek

Post   » Sun Jul 01, 2007 10:01 pm

Here is a short description of each of the breeds:

Abyssinian: This coat is also short, but is acceptably somewhat rough in texture and has rosettes! Rosettes are whorls of hair that ideally have a pinpoint center and go 360 degrees in radius. There is a great variety in this breed as to the size, shape, and placement of these rosettes can vary depending on many genetic factors. Show breeders may have many culls since placement and number of the rosettes are very specific and precise. Pet animals may have ridges and small whorls to numerous rosettes and anything in between. This is a very dominant coat trait so many pigs in the general population have some degree of ridges and rosettes if they had an Aby as a relative.

Abyssinian Satin: Same as the Abyssinian, except the hair shaft has a mutation that makes it hollow and this causes the hair to reflect the light. This can cause a "glittery" or "shiny/oily" effect to the haircoat and often causes the lighter colors to take on a pearlescent sheen. This mutation is a simple recessive one and can be found in many of the other breed types. Unfortunately, it does come with some greater health risks. Some of these include: metabolic bone disorders (osteoporosis, osteopetrosis, dental disorders, etc.), poor growth, microphthalmia (not to be confused with Lethal micropthalmia), higher rates of pregnancy toxemia, and more. Any satin coated pig is at higher risk for medical problems later on in life no matter where they come from!

American and American Satin: Short, smooth hair that grows toward the rump of the cavy. There should be no rosettes, swirls, ridges, or anything of the sort in the coat. The American is probably the most prevalent breed of cavy.

Coronet: This genetically looks like a long-haired American, but it has one special rosette right on the forehead. All of the hair grows towards the rump. Coronets need regular grooming as do all the long-haired cavies since their hair will continue to grow throughout the cavy's lifetime. This will often be a problem with boars since their penises may get caught in their long hair, causing damage. It also helps to keep boars and sows in better condition, avoiding matting, urine and fecal staining, and increasing mobility if the coat is trimmed regularly on any of the long-haired cavy breeds.

Peruvian and Peruvian Satin: Another long-haired breed and the oldest long-haired breed. The hair is smooth and grows away from the cavy in essentially 4 quadrants with a part down the middle with hair growing down each side, a rear sweep, and a frontal (hair covering the face and eyes). They have several rosettes, but not usually as many as an Abyssinian. That is why they are often called "long-haired Abyssinians," but they are really not. They also benefit from regular coat trims.

Silkie and Silkie Satin: Essentially a long-haired American. All of the coat is smooth and grows toward the rump of the cavy. There should be no part down the middle, but it may occur in some animals or if the coat gets long enough. There is no hair growing over the face to hide it as with the Peruvian. Peruvians and Silkies have some similar genes and for years were the same breed until Silkies were sectioned out and breeders kept each breed separate for showing purposes. Peruvians and Silkies can occur in the same litter.

Little Jo Wheek

Post   » Sun Jul 01, 2007 10:16 pm

Teddy and Teddy Satin: This is a newer genetic mutation. The hair is "kinky" and has a kinked or zig-zag appearance to the hair shaft. The resulting hair grows straight out from the body, ideally at a 90 degree angle to the body. The texture can be either harsh or soft and bathing has been said to soften texture. The coat is short and overall resembles a cuddly "teddy bear," hence the name. Some fanciers also describe the coat as resembling a "Brillo" or steel wool pad. This coat does dry quickly, but unfortunately the Teddy gene has been implicated with some of the same problems as the Satin gene healthwise, particularly with bone issues, entropion (genetic curling inwards of eyelids which cause eyelashes to rub on the surface of the eye), and many skin problems. The skin often seems drier than other cavy breeds' coats and crusting and accumulation of dead skin cells is not uncommon as are yeast or fungal infections.

Texel: This is a curly, long haired cavy. It is essentially a long-haired teddy. The head looks like a short-coated Teddy head, but the long hair that grows out towards the back is indeed very curly and may mat much more easily than other long-haired cavy coats. Regular grooming must be diligent! Unfortunately, since the Teddy gene is present in this breed, most of the health problems are also present.

White Crested: This is an American with a single (white) crest on the forehead, similar to the crest or rosette found on the Coronet. It must be 100% white for the animal to be shown. This often does not occur.

Little Jo Wheek

Post   » Sun Jul 01, 2007 10:44 pm

Rex and English Texel: These appear essentially exactly the same as the American Teddy and Texel breeds. For reasons still unknown, the Rex and Teddy genes are not compatible. A Rex bred to a Teddy will produce only American pigs. Unfortunately, the Rex and English Texel genes must have some similarity to the Teddy genes since all of the Teddy health issues apply. These are not as common in the US since they must come from animals that are from the UK originally.

Merino: A curly Texel x Coronet cross that has a crest. Teddy/Texel genes and health issues apply.

Alpaca: A Texel/Teddy x Peruvian cross. These are very curly pigs with the Peruvian frontal that is also curly covering the head. Teddy/Texel genes and health issues apply.

Somali: A Teddy x Abyssinian cross. It looks like a rosetted Teddy. Rare. Teddy/Texel genes and health issues apply. Not common in the US.

Ridgeback: This looks like an American with a single ridge down its back. Many fanciers doubt this is a true breed, since it is difficult to get to breed true. One could argue it is an Abyssinian that didn't get many rosettes.

Baldwin and Skinny Pigs: These are the two hairless (or nearly hairless) breeds. They have Teddy genes. Baldwins are the show breed and Skinny Pigs were originally laboratory stock. The Baldwins are usually completely hairless as adults, although they may be born with some varying degrees of Teddy fuzz. The Skinny Pigs usually retain Teddy fuzz around their face and sometimes feet. They are usually born without much hair. The two breed genes are different and not compatible. Both breeds have a host of medical problems and should only be considered by the experienced fancier. They have all the Teddy health problems, serious heart disease prevalence, and skin disorders such as melanoma and fungal infections are common. I consider them to be the highest maintenance cavy breed. They also seem to have a higher caloric intake need, probably due to the fact they do not have any coats to insulate or regulate their own body temperatures. This is also a concern.

Self Crested: Similar to the White Crested, it is also called an English Crested. The crest is the same color as the body color of the cavy.

Lunkarya: This is a Swedish breed that has an appearance similar to the Alpaca, but it is supposedly another gene that popped up and was propogated--the Curly gene. It is not a Teddy or Rex gene. Not common in the US.

Curly: This is also a Swedish breed and it is a short-haired coarse breed similar to the Teddy or Rex, but the hair lies flatter. The gene is a different gene than the Teddy or Rex. Not common in the US.

Sheba Mini Yak: This is an Australian breed that looks like a long-haired Abyssinian. It is said to be a cross between a Peruvian and an Abyssinian. This is another breed that is debated as to whether or not it breeds true and would be actually considered a real breed. They have long mutton chops and more rosettes than a Peruvian would have. Crazy, crazy, hair growing everywhere! Not common in the US.

Little Jo Wheek

Post   » Sat Jul 28, 2007 12:10 pm

Here is the picture page (in progress)

Little Jo Wheek

Post   » Sat Jul 28, 2007 12:21 pm

Little Jo Wheek

Post   » Sat Jul 28, 2007 12:39 pm

Variety Pics

3BayMare's Kenau, an American
Weaver's Twinkle, a Texel
crazypiggie247's Buster, a Crested
kristina's Nalle, an American
White (either pink or dark eyes acceptable)
LibbyLou's Foster, an American This is a Pink-Eyed White or PEW

Little Jo Wheek

Post   » Sat Jul 28, 2007 3:43 pm

US Recognized Cavy Color Varieties

The entire body is the same one color throughout.

Light brown. Eyes are pink.

Deep, rich black. Eyes are dark.

(No longer recognized as of the 2001 Standard)
Slate Blue. Eyes are dark.

Bittersweet chocolate. Eyes are dark with a ruby cast.

Cream color. Eyes may be pink or dark, with or without a ruby cast.

Light gray with an even purple cast. They may not have an orange or brown cast to the coat. Eyes are pink.

Deep, rich red. "Irish Setter" red. Eyes are dark with or without a ruby cast.

Red-Eyed Orange (REO)
Reddish orange. Eyes are pink.

Pure, even "China" white. No dark pigment on the body (ears, feet, nose, or other skin). Eyes may be dark (also called "dark-eyed whites"/DEW) or pink (also called pink-eyed whites"/PEW) with or without a ruby cast.

Little Jo Wheek

Post   » Sat Jul 28, 2007 4:14 pm

Agoutis have hair shafts that are two colors: a "base" color and a "ticking" color. These are present homogenously all over the body except for the belly, which has a strip called a "belly band" that runs from the cavy's chest to the rump on the underside of the cavy that is devoid of ticking and should be clean. The belly band should be the tip color.

Dilute Agouti
This is kind of the catch-all group for cavies that aren't Golden or Silver Agoutis (see their descriptions following this one). The base color may be Beige, Black, Chocolate, or Lilac. The tip colors may be Cream, Orange, White, or Red. The eyes may be pink, dark, or dark with a ruby cast, depending on the combination of colors.

Golden Agouti
Chestnut hue made by a combination of a black undercoat/base and a red tipped coat. The belly band is red. Eyes are dark.

Silver Agouti
Silver-white hue made by a combination of a black undercoat/base and a white tipped coat. The belly band is white. Eyes are dark with or without a ruby cast.

These colors are patterns of colors that are homogenous (or ideally homogenous) all over the body. They are different from Selfs because Selfs should only be a single color throughout and the Solids are ticked pigs (like Agoutis) or Brindles and Roans which are made up of different colored hairs that are evenly intermixed throughout the cavy.

Red and Black hairs that are evenly intermixed. No distinctive pattern should exist. Show cavies require more than 50% of the coat to be intermixed, with an ideal of over 75% of the body color to be intermixed/brindled. Eyes are dark.

Intermixing of white and one other self, agouti, or solid color. Show cavies are required to have more than 75% of the body to be roaned, but many may have much less roaning including having so little they appear to be Broken Color cavies or other varieties. These cavies with few Roan markings but have the Roan gene expressed are often called "Covert Roans." Eyes are pink or dark with or without a ruby cast.

Roan coloring genes (as well as Dalmation genes) when bred to other cavies with Roan or Dalmation genes may produce cavies known as "Lethals" or "Lethal Whites." This will be described in more details later. Lethals have anywhere from moderate to severe birth defects and need very diligent veterinary and supportive home care if they are to survive and have a decent quality of life.

Solid Dilute
Color is the same as the Dilute Agouti, except there is no absence of ticking anywhere (e.g. no belly band).

Solid Golden
Color is the same as the Golden Agouti, except there is no absence of ticking anywhere.

Solid Silver
Color is the same as the Silver Agouti, except there is no absence of ticking anywhere.

Little Jo Wheek

Post   » Sat Jul 28, 2007 4:50 pm

These are color patterns that often have very distinct looks.

Broken Color
This is pretty much the catch-all for cavies that don't fit any of the other variety descriptions. Most cavies that aren't Selfs fall into this category. Broken Color cavies may be two or more colors (of course don't include the patterns recognized in other variety descriptions). Ideally, breeders want these colors to be in a specific "checkerboard" type pattern with very clear cut patches that are uniformly distributed and placed. This often leads to a LOT of Broken Color cavies being not the best show quality. Eyes can be either pink or dark with or without a ruby cast.

A spotted cavy! Just like the Dalmation dog. They are white as the base color with any other color as the spotting color. Often the face/head is the spotting color. Please see the Roan description for special genetic problems associated with the Dalmation gene. Eyes may be blue-gray or dark with a ruby cast.

Like the Dutch rabbit breed. Any self, agouti, or solid color (excluding roan) as a marking color on a white base. The marking color makes cheek circles around the eyes and a saddle covering the hind end just behind the forelegs and extending towards the rump covering the rest of the cavy except for the hind feet, where the marking color stops just past the ankle/heel area to reveal little white tips to the feet. Very specific pattern! Eyes are pink or dark with or without a ruby cast.

Also called "Himis" for short. Another specific pattern on a white base patterned after the Himalayan rabbit breed. In the US, only Black is recognized as a marking pattern, but different marking colors may be present, particularly in other countries. The black marking pattern consists of black nose, ear, and foot markings. These markings may darken with age (Himis are often born without any point darkening at all) and may change depending on the temperature. The points often are darker in colder weather. They also vary from cavy to cavy depending on genetics. While it is not "ideal" for there to be any sootiness in the coat (it should be China white), many cavies have graying in the coat. It all depends on which genes the cavy got. Eyes are pink.

Also known as a "TS." Essentially a black and red cavy. Ideally, patching should be as the Broken Color cavies in a checkerboard pattern described above. Eyes are dark.

Tortoiseshell and White
Also known as a "TSW." Black, red, and white patched cavy. Ideally, patching should be as the Broken Color cavies in a checkerboard pattern described above. Eyes are dark.

(Other color varieties recognized in other countries to follow!)

Little Jo Wheek

Post   » Sat Jul 28, 2007 5:05 pm


Recently recognized in the US in the American breed of cavy only.
Another very specific pattern also called a Black & Tan. The Tan rabbit breed is marked similarly. It is a cavy with a rich chocolate base with tan markings around the face, chest, and belly.

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