According to the Smithsonian National Zoo, guinea pigs have been domesticated since 5,000 B.C. In this time, humans have done a fantastic job of creating different breeds with unique appearances and applications.
Throughout the years, guinea pigs have proven to be fantastic pets and surprisingly hardy in the wild. Whether you want to find out which breed is best for you or want to learn more about wild guinea pigs, we have you covered.
Abyssinian Guinea Pig
The American Cavy Breeders Association (ACBA) recognized Abyssinians with and without a satin sheen. These affectionate guinea pigs have swirls (called rosettes) that look like small tornados of fur on their body. When bred to standard, they have 4 symmetrical pairs. Pet-quality Abyssinians are still endearingly sassy, but they have “imperfect coats''.
While not officially recognized, Ridgebacks are Abyssinian guinea pigs with only one rosette on each side of their back, resulting in a “mohawk” appearance.
The numerous cowlicks are surprisingly easy to manage, especially when compared to long-furred breeds like the Alpaca guinea pig.
Alpaca Guinea Pig
Alpaca guinea pigs get their name from their dense, curly hair that much resembles the coat of their larger namesake. Standard Alpaca guinea pigs have a single rosette on top of their head, while pet-quality Alpacas may have more.
These cavies are very social with humans and other pets, but their coats can be difficult to manage. Guinea pigs require daily brushing and frequent baths to keep clean.
Alpaca guinea pigs are not yet recognized by ACBA, but specialist clubs like the Peruvian Varieties Cavy Club do a fantastic job of moving towards a breed standard.
American Guinea Pig
The American guinea Pig is the default when it comes to cute little cavies, and they’re one of the oldest domesticated guinea pig breeds around today.
Also known as the English guinea pig, they come with both normal and satin-sheen coats and an endless list of color variations.
The short, smooth coat of the American guinea pig requires practically no maintenance, and their easy-going personality makes them a top pet for small children.
Baldwin Guinea Pig
As one of two hairless breeds, the Baldwin guinea pig is the only one with absolutely no fur. This surprising cavy is actually born with fur but loses all of it by the time it is a few months old.
Baldwin guinea pigs have a shorter life expectancy than other breeds, around 6 years instead of 8. While they obviously don’t need extra brushing, owners must take care to protect their exposed skin from sunlight and keep them warm.
Brazilian Guinea Pig
The Brazilian guinea pig is the first wild breed on this list. When roaming the grasslands of South America, their brown and black fur works well to keep Brazilian guinea pigs camouflaged. Unlike pet guinea pigs, the Brazilian breed has a short (almost non-existent) tail.
Brazilian guinea pigs are considered livestock in some houses, bred to provide food for the family. They live about 1 to 4 years on average, mostly due to the nature of domestication and the threats they face in the wild.
Coronet Guinea Pig
Coronet guinea pigs have a long, luxurious mane that lacks a part. Apart from the rosette on top of their head, the fur of a Coronet guinea pig flows straight from front to back.
As expected, Coronet guinea pigs require dedicated daily grooming time. This breed is best suited for enthusiasts and mature children or adults, although smaller children may enjoy their playful nature.
Himalayan Guinea Pig
The Himalayan guinea pig is not a recognized breed, but it has a distinguished color pattern. Similar to Siamese cats, Himalayan guinea pigs are white with brown or black on both ears, nose, and feet.
Because the sun can bleach these dark spots, it’s ill-advised to house them outside. Instead, breeders keep these gentle guinea pigs inside and out of the sun.
Lunkarya Guinea Pig
The Swedish Lunkarya guinea pig is one of the rarest in existence today. Although they’re not ACBA recognized, the “Lunk” has unmistakable long, rough curls that make identification easy.
Unsurprisingly, this curious breed does poorly in both direct sunlight and heat. It’s unusual to find them outside of Sweden.
Merino Guinea Pig
Like the Alpaca, Merino guinea pigs are named for the way their coats resemble wool. Merino guinea pigs have dense, medium, wavy coats with a single crest on their heads.
Merino guinea pigs are quite intelligent, just like the sheep they’re often compared to. They may require more room to roam than your average guinea pigs.
Montane Guinea Pig
The Montane is another guinea pig living wild in the Andes of South America. You can usually tell which region a Montane is from using its coat color.
Peruvian Montanes usually have reddish-brown coats, while Chilean Montanes have brown coats and light undertones. In Bolivia, their coats have a more olive tone with a white underbelly.
Peruvian Guinea Pig
Peruvian guinea pigs are the starting point for many other long-haired breeds. Some Peruvian guinea pigs have fur 2 feet long, and it can easily cover their eyes if not trimmed. There is also a satin variety.
Despite their intensive locks, Peruvian guinea pigs are gentle and curious with relaxed personalities overall.
Rex Guinea Pig
Young Rex guinea pigs have wavy fur that eventually settles into a dense, bristly coat as adults. This quirky breed also has curly whiskers and droopy ears, giving them plenty of character right off the bat.
The ACBA does not recognize the Rex as an official breed, but that doesn’t stop them from being a favorite of many and a perfect match for children.
Santa Catarina’s Guinea Pig
Only found in Moleques do Sul Archipelago, Santa Catarina’s guinea pig is a critically endangered breed. These wild cavies have one of the smallest distributions of any mammal.
Unlike domesticated guinea pigs, you cannot tell their gender easily. Females and males grow to the same size.
Sheba Guinea Pig
Sheba guinea pigs have a more formal name: Sheba Mini Yak. As you would expect, this Peruvian and Abyssinian cross has plenty of fur and rosettes for the fluffiest appearance.
Sheba’s have the laid-back personality set in the Abyssinian genes. Their fur doesn’t grow nearly as long as that of their relatives, but they still require dedicated attention to prevent tangles and mats.
Shiny Guinea Pig
Shiny guinea pigs live in large herds in the Atlantic Forests of Brazil.
While little is known about them, they were first noted in 1831. It wasn’t until 1901 that they were officially recognized as a guinea pig breed.
The Skinny Pig is nearly hairless, hosting only a few furry patches (usually on the back, legs, and feet).
Like the Baldwin, Skinny pigs only live about 4 years. While they’re just as loving as other breeds, pet owners should consider the special care needs of Skinny Pigs before bringing one into their home.
Silkie Guinea Pig
Also known as a Sheltie guinea pig, Silkies have long fur that only grows front to back. The breed was first discovered in the United Kingdom in the 1970s but is now one of the most beloved out there.
Silkies are very gentle and usually put up with daily grooming well. The ACBA also recognizes a satin coat variety.
Teddy Guinea Pig
Teddy guinea pigs match their namesake well. Their dense medium coat requires some grooming, but nothing compared to many on this list.
While they’re much sought-after for their cute appearance, only a few breeders keep Teddy guinea pigs. The breed is ACBA-recognized with both normal and satin coats.
Texel Guinea Pig
Texel guinea pigs come from Silkie and Rex lineage. Many argue that Texels have the most intensive hair care routine because it is not only long and curly, but coarse.
This breed is known to be affectionate and prefers cuddling to spending time on its own. Any news of nipping is usually from improper handling or aggressive grooming.
White Crested Guinea Pig
They may be last on the list, but White Crested guinea pigs are the first in many hearts. As close cousins of the American guinea pig, they have the same short sleek coat with one major difference: a white rosette sitting on top of their head.
White Crested guinea pigs may be more timid than other breeds, but it doesn’t take long for the usual guinea pig behavior to surface.