Guinea pigs and their breeds
Guinea pigs are one of the most loved house pets. They are native to South America. Early Spanish explorers exported them in the sixteenth century to Europe, where they became widely popular as pets. A predominant part of their charm is their face. Those round eyes, small ears and a triangular snout, complemented by their cute purring and whistles, make these pets an instant favorite. They are mammals, which means that they are furry and deliver live young ones and nurse them. They generally have a life expectancy of around 5-6 years and are low on maintenance cost. However, taking care of them is a slightly time consuming task. There are many categories of Guinea pigs, depending on their fur, size and other characteristics. As of today, there are 13 distinct breeds of guinea pigs that have been identified.
The most common among them include Peruvian, Teddy, and Abyssinian, among others, with their characteristic traits as below:
Peruvian Guinea Pig
Peruvian guinea pigs have a long-haired coat and they are believed to be the common ancestor of all present breeds of long-haired guinea pigs. Their hairs grow continuously and uniformly all over their body. Their length can easily be as much as 50 centimeters. Their hair grows in the forward direction near the head. Their silky smooth and impressive coat makes them the most common show-pets. They need a good amount of training before they learn to sit still during inspections. They come in many different colors and patterns, but the one with a combination of three colors is the most desirable.
Pros: They are show animals – all cute and beautiful. Therefore, you can get them into a variety of competitions. You will love petting them on their long and soft coat. Since, they are of show quality, breeders have made efforts to encourage calmer animals that can sit for longer periods of time. Because of the selective breeding and good training, the Peruvian guinea pigs tend to be more docile and disciplined pets.
Cons: Their long hair call demand significant maintenance. It includes bathing them almost every other day and grooming their coat regularly. Peruvians tend to chew on the hair that fall on the front of their face. Therefore, they should be trimmed short. Otherwise, taking care of the animal’s hygiene, and show quality may become a problem since their appearance is more dependent on their coat condition than its color. Because of the high maintenance factor, they might not be a good choice for smaller kids.
Teddy Guinea Pig
This breed gets its name because of its appearance. Teddy Guinea Pigs are cute, snugly, playful and entertaining. Teddy Guinea Pigs are characterized by their dense and spring-like coat, also described as ‘wiry’ by some. It does not essentially mean they have a rough coat, but just that they have short, straight up, and thick hair covering their body. The hairs are uniform all around their body with straight hair on the belly and only slightly longer on the head. The Rex breed of guinea pigs is often confused with Teddy guinea pigs because of the similarity in the appearance of their fur. However, the difference lies in the texture of the fur and their whiskers. A Teddy has a softer fur and straight whiskers, while a Rex’s fur is coarser to touch and its whiskers are curly in appearance.
Pros: They have an endearing appearance. They are enthusiastic and attention-seeking – attributes that make them great entertainers. Therefore, they are perfect for kids. Since they sport short hair, they require very little maintenance. Even a brush a week is enough to keep Teddy guinea pig clean and healthy.
Cons: Because of their short hair, although the maintenance goes way down, a regular coat cleaning becomes a necessity. The dust particles in the air may get caught in the fur and cause them skin irritation.
Himalayan Guinea Pig
This is one of the most beautiful breeds of guinea pigs. It is an albino that develops a pigmentation of the same color only on its nose, ears and feet, lending it the characteristic appearance. It essentially means that it has a pure white colored body and a dark shade of brown or black in those three areas as well as whiskers and between the eyes. This characteristic pattern is not there at birth and starts to take form only a few months later. Its appearance has also earned it the title of the ‘Siamese Cat’ of guinea pigs. Because of their visual appeal, they are a breeder’s favorite and a show animal.
Pros: It is a pretty common breed. Therefore, it is easy to find their supplies and tips for keeping them. They are beautiful to look at and docile animals. They are popular for showcasing at competitions and a great companion for kids.
Cons: They require their fair share of care. They are highly sensitive to the general weather conditions. They have to be housed in a shaded and cool area. Direct sunlight and heat is not good, especially for their pigmented area. The pigmentation starts to fade away under sunlight, and grows back during cold weather. Pigmentation is also affected by their age and overall health.
Abyssinian Guinea Pig
This is a comparatively larger breed among the guinea pigs. They are also known as “Aby” or “rosetted” guinea pigs. They have a peculiar pattern of hair that looks like rosettes – four on the torso, two on the lower back, two at the hips and even on the shoulders. Thus the name. The rosette pattern may differ for cross-bred guinea pigs. In the rosette, the hair is arranged around a bald spot. Their fur appears pointy and may feel a little rough compared to other breeds. They also have curly hair on their long toes, another characteristic feature of Abyssinian guinea pigs.
Pros: They are furry and highly enthusiastic pets. They are highly affectionate, playful and make for perfect companions. Their distinctive appearance makes them great show animals. Moreover, they do not require as much grooming as other breeds do. They are available in a large variety of colors and sizes and have been successfully cross bred with almost all other breeds of guinea pigs.
Cons: They have a rough coat, which some people might find undesirable. A major concern with Abyssinian Guinea Pigs is they are vulnerable to sickness and fall ill frequently. They are also known to suffer from cataract quite often. However, it has been determined that despite the blurred vision, they lead a normal life.
Guinea pigs are small, playful and friendly animals, making them perfect pets. All of these breeds have similar nutritional requirement, especially Vitamin C. You should make sure that you provide your pet with quality pellets as well as fresh water and hay. You should see to it that they get enough room to run around and simultaneously, a little enclosure to feel safe. Their bedding should be cleaned regularly and they should have some toys and/or wood to chew on. It is also recommended that guinea pigs be bought in pairs, for the animal to have a healthy life. Lastly, it is an animal that has to be conditioned to your presence. It is important to pat them and play with them regularly, in order to make them comfortable around people, in general.
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