Guinea pigs belong to the Caviidae family, known as a type of rodent species, Cavia. Most guinea pigs trace back to the Andean montane guinea pig. With this information, the guinea pig originally came from Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, and Chile.
It is believed that guinea pigs were domesticated by the Incas in 5000 BC. They bred guinea pigs as pets and other resources. By the 1600s, the Spanish, Dutch, and English brought guinea pigs to Europe to be bred and kept as pets.
Although many domesticated guinea pigs warm our hearts and homes, there are still wild guinea pigs. Today, we’ll discuss the rarest breeds and their origins.
Top 7 Rare Guinea Pigs
1. The Montane Guinea Pig – Cavia Tschudii
First on the list are montane guinea pigs. It is believed that all breeds of domesticated guinea pigs originated from the Montane Guinea Pig, among other breeds like the Brazilian Guinea.
The Montane Guinea Pig is a wild ancestor who inhabits the regions of South America in the high Andes. They like rocky areas with coarse vegetation about 2,000 to 3,800 meters above sea level.
Montanes are a smaller guinea pig breed that looks similar to a squirrel with no tail. They appear reddish brown with dark gray underbellies and average a total length of approximately 10 inches.
2. Short-Haired Peruvian
Upon first glance of the Short-Haired Peruvian Guinea, you may wonder why it is called Short- Haired Peruvian when their hair doesn’t look short. Long-Haired Peruvian fur can grow up to 50 centimeters (20 inches) long.
Short-Haired Peruvian guineas are native to Peru, and, like its name, resided in Argentina and Bolivia. Eventually, they made their way to the United Kingdom and are one of the oldest breeds of the Cavia family.
Short-Haired Peruvians range in colors from browns, black, reds, grays, and multi-colored and have the most extended lifespan of the guinea pig family: 12 to 14 years.
3. The Irish Crested Guinea/Bonnett
The Irish Crested Guinea Pig, known as the Bonnett Guinea, is similar to the Short-Haired Peruvian Guinea. The main difference is Short-Haired Peruvians have two whorls on their hips, and the Irish Crested have two whorls in the middle of their back.
There are also two other breeds of crested guinea pigs: the American and English Crested. The exact difference between the three is the number of whorls on the back and the size of the mohawk each has. The Irish Crested piggie’s mohawk reaches the middle of its forehead, falling between its ears.
4. The Argente Guinea Pig
Argentes are rare because of their distinct hair pattern. Similar to the Agouti, the Argentine Guinea Pig has a ticking pattern. However, unlike the Agouti and other guinea pig breeds, the Argente has multi-colored ticking patterns on each hair, creating a dual-colored effect.
What’s interesting about Argentes is that they only come in light colors ranging from white to golden beige. You can notice them out of a crowd the most based on their bright reddish-pink eyes. Argentes are a newer breed, which is also why they are classified as rare.
5. The Texel Guinea
The Texel Guinea Pig is a rare crossbreed of the British Rex and the Silkie. They were first bred in England, but since the late 1900s, they have been globally known as a recognized breed. Texels were bred for a reason to participate in shows at exhibitions, so they became known for being famous cavy celebrities.
Texels tend to be shorter than other guinea pigs (up to 8 inches long) but they’re most famous for their long curly wool coat appearance, meaning they must be groomed more often than other guinea pigs.
Texel Guinea Pigs come in many colors, including pure white, golden brown, and black. Though, it’s not uncommon to come across a multi-colored Texel.
6. The Swiss Teddy Guinea Pig
Like the Santa Catarina Guinea Pig, the Swiss Teddy is another extremely rare guinea pig. Again, what makes the Swiss Teddy Guinea Pig so rare is its physical appearance. Their adorable and striking appearance resembles coarse, dense, and medium-length (2.4 inches), extremely curly fur.
What separates the Teddy breed from the other guineas of the world is that there are no whorls or rosettes though some Teddys have unique crests on top of their head. Unfortunately, Teddy breeds live a shorter lifespan of 4 to 6 years.
A fun fact about Swiss Teddy Guinea Pigs is that they were created by crossbreeding an Abyssinian with an American Guinea.
7. Santa Catarina – Cavia Intermedia
The rarest rodent in the world, the Santa Catarina guinea pig is rare due to their population size: 24 to 60 individuals left worldwide. Santa Catarina is unique because it is possibly the only species of guinea pigs that still live in the wild that are native and originate from the edge of South America.
You can spot the Santa Catarina rodent on a coastal Island of Moleques do Sul Archipelago in the state of Santa Catarina, Brazil. The Santa Catarina Guinea is endangered due to natural disasters and hunting habits. Also, the small Island of almost 10 acres doesn’t make it easy for them to repopulate and grow.
Guinea pigs have been around for thousands of years and were native to much of Peru and Argentina. What most rare guinea pigs have in common is their hair color and appearance. It’s rare to find a Teddy or Texel Guinea Pig rather than the American Short-Haired Guinea that’s available in most pet stores.
While there are other breeds, like the Crested Guinea Pigs, the Tuxedo, or the Coronet Guinea Pigs, which fall under the rare category, the main differences are appearance and color patterns.
Almost all guinea pigs are domesticated and adopted as pets, and perhaps the rarest guinea pigs are found in the wild, like the Santa Catarina.
Featured Image Credit: Arcady, Shutterstock