There are now literally hundreds of different breeds of guinea pigs available. They are broadly divided into two groups, the smooth (or self varieties) and the rough (or non-self varieties). For more information, have a look at the breeds in our section on choosing a guinea pig.
As the name implies these are the ones with the short smooth coats. Within this category there are many different colours, all as individual breeds. For example there are self blacks, self creams, self whites (with pink albino eyes) and dark eyed whites. Also self reds, self chocolates, the list goes on. All these breeds can also come in a satin variety. A satin has a different type of hair that reflects light, giving it a shiny appearance.
Varieties such as the Agouti have short, smooth hair
Smooth cavies can also come in a mixture of colours. The agouti has a hair tip and root that are different colours (they look like someone who needs their roots re-coloured!) and are closest to the colour of their wild ancestors. Tortoiseshells have the colours red, white and black arranged in special blocks on their bodies, and Dalmations, like the dog of the same name, are white with black spots! Himalayans are marked like Siamese cats.
In this group we have the Peruvians, with long flowing coats of hair up to 20 inches long, and the Shelties with slightly finer coats. These are not breeds for the faint-hearted, but for people who are prepared to do a lot of grooming. Then there are Texels (Shelties with a perm!), Teddies and Rexes whose hair sticks straight out like a hedgehog. Then there are all the Crested varieties, smooth guinea pigs with a rosette or crest on their forehead. Shelties can have crests too, and then they are called Coronets. Abyssinians have rosettes all over, 10 in all, laid out in a special pattern over their bodies. All these varieties come in a multitude of colours as well.
Texels are a rough-haired variety with a lot of springy hair
So there is a huge range of guinea pigs to choose from. Many others are crossbreds, mixtures of different breeds, and equally appealing. Whatever type of guinea pig you choose, you can be guaranteed a friendly and entertaining companion, who will live for between 4-7 years of age.