Professionals recognize 13 official breeds of guinea pig or cavy, though several more are popular. Within this set is a group of differently colored types that add further variety to this amazing animal. To top it off, there are ‘satin’ varieties, in which the hair shafts are hollow, giving them an ultra-shiny appearance and smooth feel.
The Abby is among the oldest of breeds in a group going back to the 16th century. Despite the name, they don’t originate in Ethiopia (the present name for ancient Abyssinia). They are easy to spot in a crowd of cavies, with their distinctive rosettes. Rosettes are tufts of hair that swirl from a whorl, forming a spiral of fur.
They also have an endearing mustache that gives them a definite comic look. They can be found in multiple colors such as the brindle, in which different colors like brown and black bunch together to form patterns. They also come in a satin breed variety.
This breed is what will come to mind for most when they think of a guinea pig. Also known as the English cavy, their hair is short and sleek. They have the familiar ‘chunky tube’ body, blunt nose and come in a wide variety of colors. Some are the Self type, denoting a solid color, such as black, beige or white. Others are roan (white and another color, such as red or lilac).
This breed, too, comes in a satin type with a glossy coat that feels like what the name suggests. The fur is very dense, soft and has a translucent sheen.
The Peruvian cavy is one of the most popular long-haired breeds. Hailing from South America, where the Andes mountains can get bitterly cold, this breed stays warm in the coldest of weather. The smooth hair can grow up to 17 inches/43 cm, though 6-12 inches/15-30cm is more normal. The Satin has a similar appearance, but again with more glossy, satiny fur.
Silkie or Sheltie
Another long-haired breed, the Silkie differs from the Peruvian in having hair that sweeps back from the face. The Peruvian may look like a wig, with its face and hindquarters completely covered by long, flowing hair. The Silkie’s face is clearly visible, having a clearly marked forehead.
The Silkie’s hair is also finer and typically softer than its cousin’s. The Satin has the expected sheen, but in the Silkie the soft texture is brought to a peak.
This adorable breed has short, wiry hair and a series of whiskers. The hair is kinked, meaning it moves back into place after being brushed backwards. They resemble the American breed and have a Roman nose, blunt and curving back toward the body.
The Texel is among the most unusual cavies, owing to its long ringlets. Curls cover the entire body, back and belly, front to rear. The ringlets can become several inches long, though a couple of inches is more usual.
Within all these breeds there are several color varieties including the black and white Dalmation, the Tortoise Shell, the Dutch and many more. Whatever your preference, there’s a cavy to suit.