The small, cute, sociable guinea pig breeds we keep as pets today have an incredibly colorful past.
These unassuming furballs can trace their domestic ancestors back at least 3,000 years.
During that time, guinea pigs have been on our plates, in our temples, in research laboratories worldwide and, finally, in our hearts and homes as companion pets.
As pets, we have even selectively bred guinea pigs for different coats and qualities to create distinct breeds.
In this article we compare all the different breeds of guinea pigs, from the smallest to the largest and the hairiest to the hairless.
All to find out… is there a best guinea pig breed for you??
Different breeds of guinea pigs
Guinea pig breeders and long-time enthusiasts likely know that the American Cavy Breeders Association (ACBA) recognizes 13 different breeds of guinea pigs.
The different breeds of guinea pigs recognized by the ACBA can be grouped by fur length (long hair or short hair) or fur texture and also by coat coloration.
Among the 13 different breeds of guinea pigs, there are also several basic recognized coat colors as well as innumerable color combinations and patterns.
ACBA-recognized guinea pig breeds
The 13 ACBA-recognized breeds, in alphabetical order, are:
- Abyssinian Satin
- American Satin
- Peruvian Satin
- Silkie (also known as the Sheltie, especially in the UK)
- Silkie Satin (or Sheltie Satin)
- Teddy Satin
- White Crested
As you may have already noticed, the majority of these guinea pig breeds are distinguished in part by coat texture – either regular or Satin.
The remaining breeds have other coat characteristics that set them apart, as you will read about in the sections to come.
Short haired guinea pig breeds
The Abyssinian, American, Teddy, their Satin counterparts and the White Crested are the seven ACBA categories of short haired guinea pig breeds.
Let’s take a look at them in more detail.
Abyssinian / Abyssinian Satin
The Abyssinian guinea pig and Abyssinian Satin guinea pig both have short coats, with whorls of fur called rosettes.
Ideally, a show Aby has eight to ten rosettes spaced evenly over the body.
The difference between a regular coat and a Satin coat is the same as matte versus shiny.
While the Abyssinian guinea pig coat is lovely and soft, the Abyssinian Satin has a shiny, satin sheen to the coat as well.
In both breeds, the coat is coarse textured rather than fine.
The typical Aby may sport five or even more different colors in its coat.
Abyssinians need lots of grooming to stay tangle and mat-free.
Personality-wise, Abyssinians are quite energetic and best matched with an older, responsible child, young adult or adult carer.
American / American Satin
The American guinea pig and American Satin guinea pig both have short smooth coats (no rosettes).
The American guinea pig coat has a matte appearance, while the American Satin guinea pig coat is shiny.
Its short coat is easy to care for and typically needs less grooming than other guinea pig breeds.
According to owners, this guinea pig has a lovely, people-focused personality.
Teddy / Teddy Satin
The Teddy guinea pig and Teddy Satin guinea pig breeds literally look like round furballs.
Instead of acknowledging gravity and laying down flat, each short fur strand sticks straight out from the body, making this guinea pig look a lot like a long, plump and lushly bristled bottle brush.
The Teddy Satin guinea pig looks like a particularly shiny bottle brush.
Even though this breed has short hair, the Teddy pig needs daily attention to its thick, curly coat to remove tangles, mats and debris before they cause skin irritation.
There is something so eye-catching about the White Crested guinea pig breed.
Regardless of what color this short haired guinea pig breeds coat may be, the White Crested always has a lone white whorl (rosette) of fur smack dab in the center of its forehead.
For show purposes, the rest of the coat must always be a different solid color from the white forehead whorl.
Long haired guinea pig breeds
The Peruvian, Silkie, their satin cousins and the Coronet and Texel (Curly) breeds are the six ACBA long haired guinea pig breeds.
The Coronet guinea pig is simply stunning, with one single whorl (rosette) of fur in the forehead center and a long, tousled coat that looks worthy of a punk hair commercial!
The Coronet gets its name from its head crest, which often resembles a coronet (crown) worn by royalty.
Peruvian / Peruvian Satin
If you didn’t know any better and were looking at a Peruvian guinea pig, you might assume you were staring at a particularly fabulous long hair wig.
The Peruvian’s fur can quite easily reach lengths of 20 inches (50 cm) or longer!
The Peruvian guinea pig’s fur grows from back to front along a center part, with two whorls (rosettes), one at the front and one at the back, to direct hair growth over the face and then back over the hind quarters.
A health concern of Peruvian guinea pigs is their habit of chewing on their own hair, even if they are provided with plenty of chew-worthy materials!
This can cause internal impaction (similar to how hairballs affect cats).
Despite the hair-interference, however, this guinea pig’s personality is charming, alert and curious.
Silkie / Silkie Satin
The Silkie is sometimes also called the Sheltie.
The Silkie has a soft, luxurious “curtain” of fur that naturally falls away from the face and is slightly longer near the hind quarters.
Viewed aerially, enthusiasts aim for a “teardrop” conformation in body.
Both the Silkie guinea pig and the Silkie Satin guinea pig breeds have long coats that grow from front to back with no center part, but they have no rosettes so their hair is completely straight and smooth.
The Silkie Satin’s fur is a lovely, shiny texture.
One of the Silkie’s main needs is daily grooming and brushing.
Without daily attention, the Silkie’s long coat can become a health hazard, developing mats and tangles that can trap irritants near the skin.
Once you have laid eyes on a Texel guinea pig you won’t soon forget it.
You will also understand why the Texel guinea pig’s nickname is “curly.”
The coat of this unique guinea pig breed has a coat straight out of an American 1980’s hairstyle magazine, with long, fluffy spiral curls that spring out and cover the entire body, including the belly region.
The Texel can have a center part in its curly long hair, and the fur itself is very soft to the touch.
Hairless guinea pig breeds
In addition to short haired, long haired, smooth coated, curly coated, rosettes, no rosettes and mixed fur, there are also breeds of guinea pig that have little to no fur at all.
The two hairless guinea pig breeds are the Skinny Pig and the Baldwin.
One of the main health concerns and needs of both hairless breeds is sufficient warmth.
With no downy coat to keep them warm, both Skinny Pigs and Baldwin guinea pigs need extra environmental control over furry guinea pig breeds.
However, it goes without saying that there is little to no coat maintenance required with this breed, and with their soft skin, the hairless guinea pig can be a delight to hold.
The Skinny guinea pig breed doesn’t have any hair at all except for a few tufts on the face and feet.
The lack of fur on the Skinny hairless guinea pig breed is because of a genetic mutation. Here, the underlying color pigment still remains and shows up as skin markings.
The Baldwin guinea pig breed is born with a full coat of fur and slowly loses it over the first year of life, with just a few tufts remaining on the feet at maturity.
A baby Baldwin guinea pig will have a full coat, and then around two months, the fur will begin to fall out.
As with the Skinny hairless guinea pig breed, the Baldwin retains skin pigment markings on its skin that have the same coloration the fur would have had.
Largest guinea pig breeds
With a few exceptions mentioned here, guinea pig adults typically measure between 10 and 12 inches long.
The ACBA breeds are pretty consistent in size, but across the pond the Rex guinea pig – a British recognized purebred breed – definitely takes top honors in the “largest guinea pig breeds” category.
The Rex guinea pig can grow to a whopping 17 inches long and may take upwards of 24 months to get there!
Cuy Mejorado: the largest guinea pig breed?
In some cultures, it is still common for guinea pigs to be bred for food.
These guinea pigs, called the Cuy Mejorado, are a giant cross-bred guinea pig breed developed by natural selection (breeding two large parent guinea pigs to get even larger babies).
Cuy Mejorado guinea pigs were bred by the Institute for Investigating Experimental Agriculture (INIEA) in Peru, Argentina, for three decades starting in 1970.
The goal of the breeding initiative was to produce larger meat animals that could be introduced into poor, rural communities who lacked resources to breed larger livestock for food.
Cuy Mejorado guinea pigs breeds include the Inti, Peruvian, Andina, Inka, Mantaro and Sanos.
There is also a cross-breed mix called Mestizos (born from breeding one Cuy Mejorado and one regular guinea pig parent).
All Cuy Mejorado breeds are substantially larger, stronger and temperamentally more challenging to tame and keep as pets than their guinea pig cousins with a longer domestic history.
Smallest guinea pig breed
Size-wise, the American guinea pig and the Texel guinea pig can be somewhat smaller than other breeds, topping out at 9 or 10 inches long.
And of course, there can be (and often are) noticeable guinea pig size differences within any given litter.
For example, the first-born guinea pig has the best access to nursing and thus gets a head start in growth.
Conversely, the last-born guinea pig is often smaller than the others because it gets less time to nurse and grow before weaning begins.
Dwarf guinea pigs: the smallest guinea pig breed?
While certain breeders may advertise “dwarf” guinea pigs, there are no recognized dwarf guinea pig breeds.
More likely, so-called dwarf guinea pigs will be runts of the litter, or pups who have failed to thrive and grow as they should, either through congenital defects, lack of proper care, or both.
Guinea pig coat patterns
There are many different guinea pig coat colorations, but the best known and most popular include these:
- Self – this just means “all one color”
- Albino – white, of course
- Himalayan – white with grey ears and feet
- Tortoiseshell – mottled black and brown
- Tortoiseshell and White
- Dalmatian – as you would expect!
- Roan – a darker color, like black or chestnut, with large flecks of white white become
- denser at their butt
- Agouti – a darker color and a lighter color finely flecked together
- Dutch – the highly-recognizable white saddle and muzzle markings
Different coat patterns are more prevalent among different breeds.
For example, the self pattern is more common in shorthaired guinea pig breeds.
For more about guinea pig coat colors, we recommend this informative article!
All guinea pig breeds
All guinea pig breeds are unique and special, as every guinea pig lover knows.
There is no single ideal breed, but only the right breed for you!
Here, the most important aspect is simply to consider the care needs of different guinea pig breeds before selecting your new pet.
This way, you can make sure what you can offer and what your new pig will need are a good match.
Best guinea pig breed
We hope you have enjoyed learning more about different breeds of guinea pig and how they are similar and different from each other!
If this article helped you choose a new piggie companion, please let us know which breed you chose in the comment section below!
Bradford, A., “Guinea Pig Facts,” Live Science, 2015.
Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC), “Guinea Pigs,” CCAC, 2005-2018.
ACBA Online, “Recognized Cavy Breeds,” American Cavy Breeders Association (ACBA), 2014.
Etherington, S., et al, “Australian National Standards for Exhibition Cavies,” Australian National Cavy Council (ANCC), 2018.
Vanderlip, S.L., “The Guinea Pig Handbook,” Barron’s Educational Series, 2003.