Guinea Pigs: Breeds and Care
It was the naturalist Conrad von Gesner who described guinea pigs almost five centuries ago. Curiously, its original name was ‘cuy’, devised in its regions of origin of the animal, within Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. However, with the passage of time and its arrival in other countries, the nicknames of this rodent changed to ‘guinea pig’.
Identified with the scientific name of Cavia porcellus, this species of mammal includes different breeds, which require specific attention. Today we’re going to look at the origin, care, and breeds of guinea pigs. Do not miss it.
Guinea pigs: breeds and care
It seems that the acquisition of a specimen of Cavia porcellus used to cost one English guinea, and so the species acquired that name. But there are more interesting details about guinea pigs.
This herbivorous mammal comes from the Andean region, where it was domesticated by the Incas 500 years ago. At that time – and until relatively recently – this rodent wasn’t valued as a pet, but as an important nutritional source, also participating in religious ceremonies. After the arrival of the Spanish in America, the export of guinea pigs to Europe began.
Over time, domestication and cross selection have influenced the different characteristics of guinea pigs. The most striking feature is its coat, both the type of hair and the different shades it can acquire. Such is its relevance that there are several classifications within the same species, according to the guinea pig breeding manual.
Although so much terminology may seem complicated, don’t worry. Now, the most distinctive features of guinea pigs will be explained in detail.
Regarding the number of breeds that make up this species, ARBA currently recognizes 13 different ones. Did you know that one way to differentiate guinea pigs is by their hair type? There are specimens that hardly have any, and others are classified by the length or texture of the hair. As there are many breeds, we’re now going to mention some of the most popular ones.
Among the breeds of guinea pigs, the Abyssinian is one of the oldest and easiest to identify. Its body is covered from top to bottom by “rosettes”, but despite this, it doesn’t require great care. In addition, they’re quite affectionate pets and have a lot of energy.
Without a doubt, American guinea pigs are the most common and the most recognized by the public. Its appearance is simple, with a short coat, which has a great variety of colors and combinations. Thanks to its type of hair, it hardly requires care. It’s ideal for people with little time who want a pet.
Lovers of hairstyles love the Coronet breed, because of the thick fur these rodents have on their heads. Having the same type of hair as the Peruvian breed, it’s essential to brush this breed daily, to prevent the appearance of tangles and dirt.
Peruvian guinea pigs are arguably one of the best known breeds among lovers of this species. They’re characterized by their fur, which can reach up to 50 centimeters long. For this reason, some people define this rodent as ‘a wig with legs’.
Another of the breeds, called Silkie or Sheltie, looks quite similar to the Peruvian variety. However, its long fur begins to grow behind its face, while in the Peruvian breed it covers its entire body. Given the length of their hair, both breeds require daily brushing and trimming from time to time.
Rex or Teddy
The funny thing about this breed is that in England they’re called Rex, while elsewhere it’s known as Teddy. In any case, as both names already suggest, this variety is larger than the rest of its relatives and its fluffy short coat is reminiscent of bears. However, their character is nothing like the dreaded tyrannosaurus, since they are sweet and affectionate rodents.
Although not all breeds have been mentioned, it should be noted that there are variations with each breed of the same name, where only the type of coat differentiates them. If they have a shiny (satin) coat then this word is simply added to the original name.
The type of satin hair is soft and smooth, typical of races such as American, Abyssinian or Peruvian, while other breeds have curly hair.
When choosing guinea pigs as pets, you should choose carefully. For example, if you buy a hairless specimen, such as the skinny or baldwin breeds, you should consider that it won’t tolerate the cold. On the other hand, if you choose those with long hair, you’ll have to brush them frequently, trim their fur and maintain hygiene often.
As you can see, guinea pigs require certain care, but they’ll return the attention you give to them, as they’re very funny, cute animals. What takes the most time is the brushing to remove dirt and excess hair. So, don’t forget these responsibilities before adopting one of these cute rodents.