ARBA, the official registry for guinea pigs, recognizes 13 breeds, the last of which was accepted in 1998. There is a standard of perfection that details acceptable physical characteristics for each breed.
The breeds can be divided into 2 categories; those with short coats and those with long coats.
The short-coated breeds are Abyssinian, Abyssinian Satin, American, American Satin, Teddy, Teddy Satin, and White-Crested.
The long-coated breeds are coronet, Peruvian, Peruvian Satin, Silkie, Silkie Satin, and Texel. Satins are distinguished from their standard counterparts by a satin sheen, a shiny coat caused by a hallow hair shaft. Here’s the breed lineup.
Guinea Pig Breed
One of the oldest breeds, Abyssinian guinea pigs, stand out with their awesome coat. The coat is a pattern of rosettes: one on each shoulder, four over the back, one on each hip, and two on the rea. The correct placement of the rosettes forms a ridge pattern around the shoulders, down the spine, and across the hips. The Abyssinian’s coat texture is coarse and dense, and about 1.5 inches long. There’s not much difference between the Abyssinian and the Abyssinian satin, other than the satin’s high-sheen coat.
Peruvian guinea pigs are quite a sight to behold with their long, flowing locks that grow from a center part. They are a long-haired breed, formerly known as the Angora. The Peruvian guinea pig is considered the oldest of the long-haired breeds. The coat is soft, though dense, and requires daily combing and brushing to keep it in good condition. Some Peruvian owners trim the coat short for easy care and comfort. The difference between the Peruvian and the Peruvian satin is simply the satin’s coat, which is silkier and shinier.
The Alpaca resembles a Peruvian with a “forelock,” but it has a curly coat. It is a relatively rare breed.
Teddy guinea pigs are a very popular breed in the United States. Their short, dense, even coat is unique in having kinked, or bent, hair shaft, which causes the coat to stand erect over the entire body. The teddy has a medium-length body and a Roman nose. The teddy satin is similar in coat and appearance to the teddy, with the additional satin coat quality.
Texel guinea pigs are characterized by the ringlets of curls that make up their long, soft coat. Curls are found all over the body, even on the belly. Texels have a short, compact body, with a broad, well-rounded head.
White-crested guinea pigs are shorthaired and smooth-coated. They have a distinctive white crest on top of their head, which is the only white spot on the guinea pig’s body. This marking is challenging to breed for; correctly marked offspring only 10% to 20% of the time.
The Skinny is a mostly hairless breed, with some short rough hair on the face and the feet. Pups are born nearly hairless. The breed was developed from a hairless laboratory strain crossed with Teddies and other haired breeds.
The many and varied colors found in the 13 breeds of guinea pigs are organized into groups: self, agouti, solid and marked. In each group, there are individual colors. Agouti is hair with at least 2 colors in it. Wild guinea pigs have agouti coloring. The agouti hair shaft has a base color of either of the following: black, chocolate, lilac, or beige.
The tip of the hair shaft is one of the following colors: red, orange, cream, or white. The bellyband or stripe running down the center matches the tip color. Self means a guinea pig who is the same color all over. This different from solid, which may include agouti and other mixed-color hair, as long as it does not create a pattern or distinct marking. Members of the marked group are usually white with patterns of another color.
There are a number of acceptable colors found in each guinea pig breed standard of perfection. Many breeds share common colors. Here are a few of the most widely seen colors:
Other popular colors include beige, blue (gray with a blue cast), brindle (red and black hairs), red-eyed-orange, tortoiseshell, and tortoiseshell and white.