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Guinea pigs are an especially common rodent, but some guinea pig breeds are more common than others. For example, the Himalayan, silkie, and Abyssinian are found in pet stores and purchased from breeders around the world. On the other hand, hairless breeds are uncommon and require extra care because they lack the capability of warming themselves with their thick coats. There are many other guinea pig breeds — some defined and officially recognized, others not — and the list continues to grow as the animals crossbreed.
There are two types of guinea pig breeds: short haired and long haired. The short-haired breeds are among the most popular sold in pet stores, while long-haired guinea pigs are commonly used in competition or show. Their hair can grow up to 2 feet (0.6 m) long and must be bundled into wraps or cut for the animal’s well-being and ease of care. Like most dogs and cats, long-haired guinea pigs have a top coat and bottom coat.
The Himalayan guinea pig is solid white at birth with dark red eyes. As the guinea pig ages, its points darken until they are light brown to black. The final color of a Himalayan guinea pig’s points depends on the temperature of the home for indoor pets or local climate for outdoor ones. In general, Himalayan guinea pigs will have darker spots if they grow up in warm areas.
Abyssinian guinea pigs are known for their cowlicked appearance. Their coat is rough, usually stands on end, and often appears mussed. This type of guinea pig can be purchased in short- and long-haired varieties.
Also known as the sheltie, a silkie is a long-haired breed. Its hair sweeps back over its head rather than into the guinea pig’s eyes. In show, judges look for an even coat that falls all around the guinea pig’s body, except the eyes.
Hairless guinea pig breeds are rare but not unheard of. The most common is called the skinny pig, and while it is not entirely hairless, it is nearly so. Another breed of hairless guinea pig is the baldwin, which is born with a full coat of hair that later falls out. The skinny and the baldwin cannot breed to form another type of hairless guinea pig because their hairless genes are incompatible. Only some guinea pig shows allow competitors to participate with hairless varieties.