The ACBA recognizes 13 distinct breeds that are eligible for entry in sanctioned shows. While mixed-breed and unrecognized breeds make fine pets, it’s worth taking note of which breeds you can show if you’re interested in becoming involved with the fancy.
The breeds can be grouped together roughly based on hair length. Short- and long-haired breeds are relatively even — the ACBA recognizes six long-haired and five short haired breeds. Mid-length coats, which account for only two recognized breeds, are underrepresented in the U.S. Many breeds also have a satin counterpart with a gene that gives the breed softer, shinier hair. Satins are considered separate breeds, but are usually identical to the regular breed in everything except coat type.
Despite the name, the Abyssinian guinea pig has nothing to do with cats. In cavies, the Abyssinian breed sports stiff, medium-length hair that stands up to form distinct ridges. These ridges are formed by multiple whorls in the coat called rosettes. These rosettes and ridges are the breed’s defining characteristic, and the shape of the coat, as formed by the placement of rosettes on the animal’s body, is the primary characteristic by which this breed is judged.
The Abyssinian also has a satin counterpart, the Abyssinian Satin. Abyssinians represented about 9 percent of cavies shown at 2010 and 2011 conventions; Abyssinian satins represented about 3 percent of the same survey.
Because the rough, rosetted coat is a dominant gene, Abyssinian-like cavies are a relatively common sight at pet stores.
Americans are by far the most well represented breed at most shows — accounting for 32 percent of cavies shown at conventions in 2010 and 2011. They are also by far the most familiar breed among pet owners. The smooth-coated American breed requires relatively little coat maintenance, making it a popular choice among fanciers who don’t have the time for or interest in the daily grooming long-haired breeds require.
The American also benefits from its status as a more or less default cavy. Most new varieties are first developed in Americans, and as a result American cavies come in a greater diversity of colors and markings. The standards for most new breeds often use the American as a template for body type and color requirements, which further give Americans an advantage on the show table.
American satins are also popular, but account for only 5 percent of cavies shown in 2010-2011.
The Peruvian was the first long-haired cavy officially introduced at cavy shows in America. Like other long-haired breeds, the hair on the Peruvian grows continuously throughout the cavy’s life at the rate of about one inch per month, much like human hair. Beneath all that hair, the Peruvian is actually a rosetted cavy, much like the Abyssinian. However, the rosettes are usually only visible on young Peruvians. When the coat grows out, cavy’s rosettes will push the hair over the animals face. In the ideal cavy, this will create a perfect circle of hair radiating outward from the center of the cavy’s body.
Because the Peruvian features its coat so prominently, judges typically focus on the quality of the coat while judging this breed. The coat’s density, texture and evenness are all taken into account.
Peruvians account for a little more than 3 percent of cavies shown in convention between 2010-2011. However, this number should not be seen as representative of the popularity of the breed overall; Peruvians, like any other long-haired breed, require a great deal of attention to grooming. The difficulty of preparing a Peruvian for show reduces the number of animals actually presented in show.
The Peruvian satin, which is arguably the least common accepted breed in the U.S., accounted for less than 1 percent of cavies shown in convention.
The silkie is currently the most popular long-haired breed shown in the U.S., accounting for four percent of cavies at conventions between 2010-2011. A similar breed, known as the sheltie, is also popular overseas.
The silkie’s continous hair grown is similar to the Peruvian’s, but the breed differs in its lack of rosettes. This changes the shape of the coat, and allows the hair to fall back away from the cavy’s face. Hair growing over the cavy’s back forms a thick mane, which garners additional attention from judges. The shape of the cavy’s face is also important in the silkie.
Silkie satins, though less common than the breed’s regular counterpart, are increasing in popularity. At last count they represented 2 percent of cavies shown in 2010-2011 conventions.
The coronet is a long-haired breed similar to the silkie, but differs in that the coronet features a crest on the crown of it’s head. That is, the coronet is a silkie modified to feature a single rosette on the top of the forehead. Judges evaluate the coronet in much the same way as most other long-haired breeds, but the crest, which should radiate evenly from a single point on the forehead and should be nicely centered, is also important.
The coronet does not have a satin counterpart. Despite being a relatively new long-haired breed, fanciers have taken to the coronet breed with enthusiasm — the coronet represented nearly 3 percent of cavies shown in conventions between 2010-2011.
The texel is currently the only curly-haired breed recognized in the U.S. Its popularity has grown rapidly in recent years, and at last count texels represented 5 percent of cavies at conventions between 2010-2011.
Other countries treat curly cavies much the same as any other long-haired breed, and regularly comb the coat, giving it a frizzy, wavy appearance. In America, the texel coat is allowed to develop naturally, resulting in a substantially heavier, more well-defined curl. However, this lack of grooming also cuts the individual cavies’ show life short. Texels with the long, flowing hair seen in other long-haired breeds are not often seen in show. Nonetheless, judges typically devote the majority of their attention to the texel’s coat and, specifically, the curl of the coat.
The texel was only recently added to the official cavy standard in the U.S. As such, it has no satin counterpart. A new ARBA rule requires newly introduced breeds to have at least two distinctly genetic differences from other, previously recognized breeds. This prevents the formation of new satin breeds not introduced before the rule went into effect.
The Teddy’s short, fuzzy coat has earned the breed a dedicated following of young fanciers. Though remarkably popular as a pet for children, the breed is also popular with adults. Teddies accounted for 15 percent of cavies shown at conventions between 2010-2011.
The teddy has short- to mid-length hair with a coarse, bristly texture that encourages the hair to stand on end, instead of lying flat against the skin like an American’s coat. However, the coat should be evenly dispersed over the cavy’s entire body. No rosettes are present in the ideal teddy.
Judges typically focus on the quality of a teddy’s coat, but also pay close attention to the cavy’s markings and body type.
The teddy satin is the most popular satin breed, accounting for about 6 percent of cavies counted between 2010-2011.
The white crested is to Americans as coronets are to silkies — essentially, the white crested is an American modified to include a crest over the forehead. Unlike coronets, however, the crest on the white crested must be entirely white, and must be the only white on the animal. The high possibility of stray white hairs makes breeding the white crested relatively difficult. They are, however, a relatively popular breed among fanciers, and accounted for 11 percent of cavies shown in 2010-2011 conventions.
The white crested is judged essentially like an American, with extra attention dedicated to the shape, position and marking of the crest. Producing a show-quality crested may be difficult, but those that make the cut tend to perform well on the show table.