Oh how cute guinea pigs are! From hairless to short haired guinea pig breeds to long or curly-haired ones, there is endless wonderful variety to enjoy in the big wide world of cavies!
Some breeders spend their whole life perfecting their breeding lineage for just one type of short haired guinea pig! This is because these compact, intelligent and affectionate pets each have their own genetic history that unfolds yet again in fresh ways each time a new baby pig is born.
When you understand the basics of how guinea pig DNA works, just looking at your guinea pig can be like reading their personal history book!
This is exactly what we are going to delve into in this article. We will learn all about short haired guinea pig breeds and why their hair looks the way that it does!
The genetics of short haired guinea pig breeds
Before we dive in, let’s get a quick working knowledge of some common terms. DNA, of course, stands for deoxyribonucleic acid.
DNA is what is inside chromosomes, and chromosomes make up genes. And genes are what make you!
The specific genes you have combine together to form your “genotype,” which is just a fancy way of saying “the DNA in an individual.” So, for instance, you have your own genotype, which is the unique collection of DNA you inherited from your parents.
In the same way, your guinea pig also has her own genotype, which she got from her parents. As well, each breed of guinea pig has its own genotype, which is why one breed might have no hair, another breed might have short smooth hair or short coarse hair, and still another breed might have long, silky hair.
Genes inside your guinea pig’s genotype come in two types: dominant and recessive. The dominant ones are more commonly seen because only one parent pig has to pass it along in order for it to show up (“express”) in a baby guinea pig.
Recessive genes are less commonly seen because both parent pigs have to pass it along in order for a baby guinea pig to be born expressing that gene.
This helps to explain why one guinea pig in a litter might look one way and another pig in the same litter might look completely different.
The official name for which genes express in any given baby guinea pig is called the “phenotype.”
So let’s say you have brown hair and green eyes and a calm personality. These are the genes out of your genotype that have come forward as your phenotype to create your unique self!
Your guinea pig also has a phenotype. Perhaps your short haired guinea pig has red-brown smooth fur and brown eyes and is very chill.
This is his phenotype – out of all the genes in his genotype, these are the ones that have come forward to express as him!
A quick summary of the genetics
So here it is in a nutshell:
- Genes contain chromosomes which contain DNA. There are 64 chromosomes in all: 32 from each guinea pig parent.
- Chromosomes come in pairs and so do genes. So your pig will always get two copies of each.
- Your guinea pig’s entire collection of genes is called his “genotype.”
- Within the genotype, there are dominant and recessive genes from each parent pig.
- The specific dominant or recessive genes that express in your guinea pig’s appearance and personality is called his “phenotype.”
- Each guinea pig breed also has its own genotype, which is why there are so many different guinea pig breeds that look so different from each other.
Got it? Awesome! So now let’s dig deeper and take a look at the genetics of short haired guinea pig breeds!
The genotype of short haired guinea pig breeds
At this point you may be wondering, what genotype would a heterozygous, short haired guinea pig have?
This takes us down one level in the discussion of genotype and dominant and recessive genes. Each guinea pig gets two copies of each gene it receives from its parent pigs. Each gene can express in different ways.
The same gene with a different expression is called an “allele” (sometimes, it is also called a “factor”).
So let’s say we have a gene for guinea pig hair length.
One allele for that gene (hair length) will express as a long haired guinea pig. The other allele for that gene (hair length) will express as a short haired guinea pig.
As it turns out, some alleles are naturally dominant (your guinea pig only needs to receive it from one parent pig to show it) and other alleles are naturally recessive (your guinea pig needs to receive it from both parent pigs to show it).
Here are a few very simple examples (genetics can get a LOT more complex, but unless you plan to breed piggies, you may not want or need to know all the complexities).
- Dominant alleles can include short hair length, rosettes (curls of fur), dark eyes and straight hair.
- Recessive alleles can include long hair length, smooth fur, red eyes, and curly fur (not rosettes).
Now let’s talk about what happens when your guinea pig receives her alleles from her parents. She might get two of the same version of an allele (called “homozygous”) or two different versions of an allele (called “heterozygous”).
This is how short haired guinea pigs can end up having long haired babies!
If your guinea pig has heterozygous alleles for short and long hair, and you breed her to a short hair guinea pig with homozygous alleles for short hair, you will get short haired babies – guaranteed.
But, if you breed your heterozygous short hair guinea pig to a short hair guinea pig with heterozygous alleles, you might get short hair and/or long hair guinea pig babies.
Finally, if you breed your heterozygous short hair guinea pig to a long hair guinea pig, you might also get short hair and/or long hair guinea pig babies.
So now let’s return to the question we asked at the start of this section: what genotype would a heterozygous short haired guinea pig have?
This guinea pig’s genotype would include one allele for short hair and one allele for long hair.
In summary, the hair type your guinea pig inherits pretty much hinges on what alleles she gets from her parents when she is born as follows:
- Short hair baby: gets two alleles for short hair.
- Long hair baby: gets two alleles for long hair.
- Short hair baby: gets one allele for short hair and one allele for long hair.
Finally, it is also vital to remember that genetics itself is a field of study where there is always more to learn and discover. This is why new improvements in even very established guinea pig breeds can happen at any time – exciting!
So now, with DNA out of the way, let’s take a look at different short haired guinea pigs, their similarities and differences!
Short haired guinea pig breeds
These short haired guinea pig breeds are each the same in their genotype in one important way – they all have short hair. But, they are also quite different in other aspects of their breed genotype.
One important difference is that some breeds are “self” (solid color smooth hair) and others are “non-self” (colors, patterns, points) guinea pigs.
American / American Satin guinea pig
The American short hair guinea pig is one of the most common and popular of all guinea pig breeds. It is sometimes called the English short hair.
Sometimes in shows you will see these guinea pigs called by their coat coloration with the designation “short hair” following, such as “self chocolate short hair.”
This piggie has short, smooth, soft fur that is easy to care for. The fur can be matte or satin. This breed may shed less than other guinea pig breeds, which can be very nice!
It also has a lovely, calm, agreeable personality that makes it a perfect pet choice for first-time guinea pig owners.
American crested guinea pig
The American crested is also sometimes called the English crested or the White crested guinea pig. Technically, however, these are three separate short hair breeds.
The distinguishing difference in these breeds is the presence of the forehead crest, which can be a single contrasting color from the rest of the coat or pure white.
These are striking guinea pigs that look both cute and somehow elegant too.
Abyssinian / Abyssinian Satin guinea pig
The Abyssinian guinea pig is said to be the breed that most closely resembles now-extinct wild cavies! The “Aby,” as it is nicknamed, is distinguished by its rosettes (whorls) of fur and is one of the most ancient breeds.
However, this is still considered to be a short hair breed! There may be as many as 10 evenly-spaced rosettes set against a bi-color or tri-color fur pattern.
The Abyssinian guinea pig can have short matte or satin fur. But the rosettes mean more meticulous and frequent grooming to keep your piggie’s fur smooth and free from tangles.
These pigs have lots of energy and need plenty of daily exercise and play to stay happy and healthy.
Teddy / Teddy Satin guinea pig
The Teddy guinea pig is often said to be the “teddy bear” of the guinea pig breeds world because of its short, fuzzy fur. It doesn’t mat, but still needs lots of brushing for healthy fur and skin.
These guinea pigs also have a really cute upturned nose that is sometimes called the “Roman nose.” Their ears droop downwards and can build up wax, so you will need to carefully clean their ears every so often.
The Teddy guinea pig is said to have come from a cross between the American and Abyssinian guinea pigs, with a rogue recessive gene that causes a kinky coat.
Rex guinea pig
The short, rough coat of the Rex guinea pig is quite fuzzy. The coat grows to an even length of around one-half inch so they look quite cuddly (and feel so too!).
The Rex’s hair is very thick, so it needs lots of brushing. This pig’s nails need frequent trimming, since they can grow quite fast compared to other guinea pig breeds’ nails.
The Rex and Teddy guinea pig breeds look a lot alike. However, the Rex coat is coarse and the whiskers are curly, while the Teddy bear’s whiskers are straight.
Himalayan guinea pig
The Himalayan guinea pig is nicknamed the “Siamese cat” of guinea pigs. This is due to its short, mostly white, smooth coat at birth.
The coat color can change over time, however. This guinea pig has distinctive dark red eyes but is not albino.
One really interesting feature of this guinea pig breed is that their accent colors (“points”) can be different depending on the ambient temperature of their surroundings as they grow up!
Ridgeback guinea pig
This relatively rare short haired guinea pig has one distinguishing feature: its nearly one-inch (25mm) long “ridge” of long fur along its back, from which it gets its name.
The Ridgeback is not currently recognized in the United States but is recognized in the UK and Sweden for show purposes.
Short haired guinea pig breeds summary
Do you have a short haired guinea pig? Or have you been reading through this article to try to make up your mind between a short haired guinea pig and a long haired guinea pig?
If so, we hope you have found this information helpful to select your lucky guinea pig!
Let us know if you are already caring for any of these short haired guinea pig breeds! Do you have a favorite amongst all the guinea pig breeds?
Drop us a comment to share your story!
Resources and Further Reading
- Sirocco, E. (2018). Guinea Pigs: Genetics. Sirocco Cavy Stud.
- Warren, N. et al (1999). Cavy Genetics: An Exploration. British Cavy Council.
- Banks, R. (1999). The Guinea Pig: Biology, Care, Identification, Nomenclature, Breeding and Genetics. USAMRID Seminar.
- Herman, P. et al (2007). Cavy Genetics. American Cavy Breeders Association Guide Book.
- British Cavy Council (2016). Guinea Pigs: Breeds.
- Donnelly, T. (2018). Guinea Pigs: Breeding and Reproduction. Merck Veterinary Manual.