There are hundreds of different breeds of guinea pigs available, developed over the years by breeders for exhibition and the pet trade. They are broadly divided into two groups - the smooth (or self) varieties and the rough (or non-self) varieties.
Smooth Guinea PigsThese are the ones with short, smooth coats. There are many color varieties within the category, all classed as individual breeds. For example there are self blacks, self creams, self whites (with pink albino eyes), dark eyed whites, self reds, self chocolates, and so on. These breeds all come in a satin variety too. Satins have a different type of hair that reflects light, giving it a shiny appearance.
The Agouti is one of the smooth breeds
Smooth GPs come in a mixture of colors. The agouti has hair tips and roots that are different colors (looking like someone who needs their roots re-colored!). These are closest to the color of their wild ancestors. Tortoiseshells are a variety of smooth guinea pig with red, white, and black fur arranged in blocks on their bodies. Dalmations resemble the dog of the same name, being white with black spots. Himalayans, meanwhile, have similar markings to Siamese cats.
Rough Guinea Pigs
This group includes the Peruvians, with long flowing coats up to 20 inches long, and the Shelties with their slightly finer coats. These long-haired breeds all require a lot of grooming. Then there are Texels (like Shelties but with a perm!), Teddies, and Rexes with hair sticking up like a hedgehog's.
The Coronet is a Sheltie with a crest
Crested Guinea Pigs
There are many Crested types - smooth guinea pigs with a rosette or crest on their forehead. Shelties can have crests too, in which case they are called Coronets. Abyssinians have 10 rosettes covering their whole bodies. All these varieties come in a multitude of colors too.
Crossbreed Guinea Pigs
For many owners the attraction of keeping a guinea pig isn't about which pure breed it is. They are kept simply because they're great, fun pets. There are many crossbreeds available, in an almost endless variety of coats and colors. A crossbreed is simply a mixture of different breeds, and can often be more robust than the inbred varieties.
Whatever type of guinea pig you choose, you can be guaranteed a friendly and entertaining companion who will live for between 4 and 7 years.