When thinking about guinea pigs, most people have a picture in their minds of the well-known, common American guinea pig breed that has a short coat. However, unbeknownst to most people, guinea pigs come in a variety of breeds with different shapes, slightly different sizes, and different coat colors and lengths—just like dogs. Also unbeknownst to most people, like dogs, the long-haired breeds of guinea pigs need grooming.
So, if you’re considering getting one of these adorable little rodents as a pet, be sure that you get a proper guinea pig cage, including guinea pig supplies such as water and food dishes, guinea pig food and bedding. You should also purchase a wide-tooth comb or soft-bristled brush to do daily brushing of your long-haired guinea pig.
While the different long-haired breeds of guinea pigs all share the feature of a mane-like coat, they each have their own unique characteristics that make them special. Here are a few facts about these fantastic-looking pocket pets:
Abyssinian Guinea Pig
Originally from South America, these guinea pigs have a rough-textured, spiky coat that can grow nearly 2 inches long. Their coat grows in swirls or cowlicks, called rosettes, that are paired across their body, typically with eight rosettes total. Their hair comes in a variety of colors and patterns, including brindle, roan, tortoiseshell and solid. Abyssinians are known to be very affectionate and outgoing but can get into trouble for being too curious. They make great first-time guinea pigs for families.
Peruvian Guinea Pig
With extremely long, straight hair all over its body, the Peruvian is harder to care for when compared to short-haired guinea pig breeds. Their coat can grow as long as 24 inches, and it requires a lot of daily grooming. Once referred to as Angora guinea pigs, Peruvians have hair that hangs over their foreheads like bangs, which may grow long enough to cover their eyes.
Their coats part down their backs, hanging down on both sides of their spines. Typically, their hair is arranged in two rosettes—one in which the hair extends forward, and the other in which it extends backward. Peruvians bond closely with their owners and are often considered the most alert and engaged of the guinea pig breeds.
Texel Guinea Pig
Also called Curlies, Texels are originally from England and have stout bodies and broad heads. They have soft, thick fur that is arranged in curls all over their bodies (including their bellies) and is often parted in the middle of their backs. They usually have shorter hair on their faces and may have longer curls behind their ears and along their lower jaws. Due to their long ringlets, Texels require quite a bit of daily brushing to maintain their coats free of tangles; thus, this breed is not ideal for children or very busy adults.
Silkie Guinea Pig
Also known as Shelties, this breed of guinea pig comes from England and is called a Silkie because of its long, soft, smooth, shiny haircoat. Unlike some of the other long-haired guinea pig breeds, the Silkie has a coat that is not parted or arranged in rosettes. Instead it sweeps backward, like it’s slicked back, away from its face, giving its body a teardrop shape. Although sometimes shy at first, Silkies are known to be gentle and laid back and are good family pets, as long as their coat is brushed daily to keep it free of debris and knotting.
Coronet Guinea Pig
Sometimes called the English guinea pig, the Coronet resembles the Silkie in that they have smooth coats that grow backwards over their bodies. However, unlike the Silkie, the Coronet has a rosette, or coronet, of hair in the center of its head. The rest of their hair is not parted. The Coronets are known to be affectionate and inquisitive and can make wonderful companions.
Lunkarya Guinea Pig
Occasionally called the “Lunk,” the Lunkarya is originally from Sweden and is rarely seen in the US. The Lunk has rough-textured, dense, long, curly hair that sticks out in all directions and cannot be combed flat. There are three breed variations: the Lunkarya Peruvian—with a distinct forelock on its head, the Lunkarya Sheltie—with hair flowing back over its body, and the Lunkarya Coronet—with a crest of hair on its forehead.
Sheba Guinea Pig
Originating in Australia, the Sheba mini yak, or Sheba for short, has a stocky body and a tousled-looking coat. Their dense hair is arranged in rosettes, similar to that of the Abyssinian and the Peruvian. They have square heads and hair arranged around the sides of their faces, so it looks like they have mutton-chop whiskers. They are gentle and curious and make excellent family pets if someone is willing to groom them each day.
Alpaca Guinea Pig
These guinea pigs are also called the boucle, English Peruvian and curly coated Coronet. They have wavy, coarse hair, similar to that of the camel-like alpaca. Each strand of hair varies in color from its root to its end. They also have a rosette of hair on their foreheads. As a result of their thick coats, they should be kept indoors or they risk overheating outside in warm weather. Alpacas are extremely high-maintenance guinea pigs because their dense hair requires daily brushing and detangling.
Merino Guinea Pig
Also called the English Merino and the Merino Peruvian, the Merino has a curly coat like that of a Texel. The hair is short on their broad heads and is arranged in a crest-type rosette right on top, between their eyes and ears. They make wonderful pets, as they are typically sweet and gentle.
While the different breeds of long-haired guinea pigs have subtle differences in personality and more extreme differences in appearance, in general, they all require quite a bit more grooming than short-haired guinea pigs to keep their long coats healthy. So, if you’re thinking about taking one of these precious piggies home, just be sure your schedule can accommodate extra time for daily brushing and care.
Image via iStock.com/Daisy-Daisy