Here we give a brief overview of the different breeds and types of guinea pigs that are available. It is quite a complex area but they are mostly classified on the basis of their coat and colour.
Guinea pig breeds are defined and classified by various guinea pig associations and there are some differences in classification between different countries. In the United States the body responsible for classifying guinea pig breeds is the American Rabbit Breeders Association. In the United Kingdom it is the British Cavy Council and although there are a number of very active local specific breed associations in most countries they do not usually have the authority to define or recognise new guinea pig breeds.
As mentioned above the exact classification of guinea pigs (or cavies) can get pretty complicated I think it is more useful just to outline the basic types based on a combination of coat type and colour.
We will first list the various guinea pig colours and then outline the different coat types:
Different colours of guinea pigs
Agouti guinea pigs
Agouti: Is more a coat pattern of flecked or multi-banded variation of each hair and is the natural and original hair type of many small animals and rodents. The original and natural colour of guinea pigs was golden agouti but they can also come in grey agouti, silver agouti, cinnamon agouti and salmon agouti.
Self-coloured guinea pigs
Black: Ideally should be pitch black with black feet and claws and the eyes are usually dark brown.
Chocolate: Dark brown down to the soles of their feet! They have brown eyes but they can appear reddish.
Lilac: Shows generally tend to favour the paler shades of lilac and those without tinges of brown, in an ideal lilac guinea pig the feet, pads and ears should have no pigmentation.
Beige: These have a deep ivory coat and show judges prefer a slightly greyer tinge rather than brown. The pads and ears are flesh coloured and the eyes are pink. Like other self coloured guinea pigs there should be no other colours present in the coat. Beige guinea pigs coats grow lighter over the first six months.
Red: These are a warm chestnut red and should contain no other colour, they usually have dark eyes and ears and black soles of the feet and claws.
Golden: These are really more orange in colour and can have dark eyed or pink eyed varieties.
Buff: These have a yellow ochre coat and ideally should not be tinged with red. There should be no other colours in the coat and the eyes are dark brown.
Cream: Should have a light ivory cream but is more common in darker varieties.
Albino: These are white with pink eyes and should have a pure white coat without any tinge of yellow. The ears pads and claws should have no pigmentation.
Guinea pigs with markings
Guinea pigs have been bred with a variety of different colour patterns and markings and these have presented quite a challenge to guinea pig breeders as often the markings do not breed true so the results can be quite unpredictable. There are a vast amount of different colour patterned guinea pigs but here we give a brief outline of the commonest.
Brindle: These have a mixture of red and black hairs in their coats and show judges prefer to see an even mix and distribution of the two colours. Patches of one colour are regarded as a "fault" as are white patches and the ears and pads should be black with dark eyes.
Tortoiseshell: These are a mixture of red and black where the border between the two is very sharp and clearly defined and outlining more or less rectangular areas. Ideally tortoiseshell guinea pigs should have three to five patches on each side and should divide in a straight line down their back.
Tri-coloured: These guinea pigs are tortoiseshell with the addition of white. These come as black, red, white or chocolate, red and white varieties.
Dutch: Dutch coloured guinea pigs are similar to dutch rabbits, that is they are white at the front and have a coloured rear. They usually also have two or three patches of the colour on the head or ears. Ideally these patches should be symmetrical. Again the divide along the back of one side from the other should be as straight as possible. The coloured parts of the body can be any colour but the commonest colour is black and the feet and legs are usually white.
Roan: Roan guinea pigs have a mixture of white hairs with other colours including black or red. Show judges prefer the white hairs to be evenly distributed rather than in too obvious clumps or patches.
Dalmatian: Just like the dogs dalmatian guinea pigs are white with dark spots which should be evenly distributed around the body and sharply defined rather than merging in to each other. This pattern is still not recognised in many countries.
True breeding colour point: These have a white body with dark markings on the nose, ears and usually feet being black or chocolate. They are similar to Siamese cats and himalayan rabbits.
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