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The Abyssinian Guinea Pig


The Abyssinian Guinea Pig is one of the most recognizable breeds of guinea pigs. They have also been known to be the older breeds of their species.  Even though this type of guinea pig is common, they are also a unique and distinctive group and not your typical guinea pig breed. They have great characteristics and interesting facts that made them really special. Here is all the information you may need to know about them:



History and Origin


Because of their longevity in this world, this type of pet has its origins unknown. However, they are thought to have originated from the northwest regions of South America. The ancient tribes of the region were said to respect and worship the rodents and were domesticated as pets around 5000 BC. Then, guinea pigs were recorded on the Caribbean on 500 BC and the earliest appearance of the certain breed might have been on 1200-1550 AD. The animals were then said to have been brought to Europe on the 16th century from South America by Spanish sailors during the Spanish conquest and the earliest record of the species cultivation as pets were believed to be on 1547 AD.



Origin of Their Name


One of the most interesting things about this guinea pig breed is their name as “Abyssinian”. Now, you may wonder: Where did they get their title from? Well, the truth is, the origin of their name is a mystery since the breed originate in South America and not in Abyssinia (Abyssinia is a region in Northeast Africa and is now the country of Ethiopia). Today, the naming of modern guinea pig types were done by certain organizations, but because the name of the Abyssinian guinea pigs were given before this groups formed, the organizations certainly didn’t put the label on the guinea pig breed. Some believed that because the first guinea pigs that reached Europe were expensive, they were also named fancily, especially the unique ones; so perhaps, the Abyssinian guinea pig got its name from the fancy sounding country, Abyssinia. It may also be that the cavies got their name because the same ships used to transport them were also those used in the African Slave Trade. It is also possible that the Europeans, from the Americas, first stopped at Guinea or in Africa, and made people believe that it was brought from there. Hence, both the name “Guinea” and “Abyssinian” were created. Some also think that because they have some resemblance to the Abyssinian cat, they were named “Abyssinian. Whatever reason it is, we’re pretty sure that the name given to them suits them perfectly.



Basic Facts about the Breed


The Abyssinian guinea pig breed has a lifespan of five to seven years, depending on the environment they live in, and they can grow up to 12 inches long. They can have about 20 hours a day of activity and a little time for sleeping. In normal circumstances, this certain type of guinea pig can breed as early as three to four weeks old, with males maturing earlier than females. Their gestation period ranges from 9-11 weeks. It should be noted that the fatality rate of female Abyssinians are high when pregnant and an estimated 1 out of 5 pregnant breed dies due to issues of pregnancy. Getting pregnant in an older age increases the risk of death and it is advisable to breed with the female having an age younger than 8 months. A single litter can contain an average of 3 babies and litter size ranges from 1-6.



Physical Characteristics


A great fact about them is their appearance. As said earlier, this breed of guinea pig is different and exotic. One factor that proves it is their fur coat. They have a distinctive rough coat with rosettes (which are groups of hair symmetrical from the center making up the coat). Hair in each rosette has an average length of 1.5 inch. A single Abyssinian guinea pig can have an average of six to eight rosettes and as many as ten rosettes covering its body. Every rosette has a different color combination and pattern. The most common colors of these pets are white, black, brown, orange, and yellow.


The Abyssinians’ color may vary from one to another with a different color pattern in each, making the pet a truly unique one. Those that are called “brindles” have an even mix of red hair and black hair on its body. There are two types of brindles: the light brindle and the dark brindle. The label or classification of a guinea pig varies on the intensity number of the colors of their hair, in this case, red and black. Another type of the rodent according to their color variety is the “tortoiseshells”. This type has black and red spots all over its body and there is usually no repetitive pattern that appears with the spots. Then there are the selves” that have one solid and general color on their bodies. The most common colors of the selves are black, white, red and brown. They can also have more unusual colors like orange and more. Then finally, there are the roans” which has a certain hair color mixed with white and has a beautiful appearance entirely. The roans are distinguished as either blue roans or strawberry roans. Strawberry roans have a mixture of white hairs and red or red-orange hairs that makes it appear brownish or reddish, while the blue roans has a mixture of white hairs and black hairs with their coat appearing bluish or grey as a whole. While it is great to keep an Abyssinian roan guinea pig, keeping two of the kind for breeding may cause genetic deformities for the offspring as they have a peculiar gene. However, mating with other Abyssinian guinea pigs with their types will not cause the same effect; just don’t mate them with their kind.


So, what is considered then as a “perfect” appearance for a typical Abyssinian guinea pig? It is believed that the perfect coat for this type has a beautifully formed rosette making up the coat, each rosette having a visible center without any excessive hair, the edges of each rosette should also be clear and the endings are visible. What is considered as a “perfect coat” for this particular breed is a rosette on both the left and the right shoulder, four to two rosettes covering its back, and one on both sides of the hips.





The Abyssinian rodents are known for its very “naughty” behaviour. Many researchers and breeders even concluded that the certain sub-species is harder to manage than other guinea pig breeds. On the other hand, this breed seems to be more enthusiastic as a pet than other breeds of the guinea pig group. They are also easy to train and catches up with trainings quickly. The creature also seems to be personal and intimate with its owner. They are very lively and they tend to be hyperactive especially when still young. They can also be described as curious, cuddly, gentle, and lively.



Caring for the Breed


The Abyssinian guinea pig is particularly harder to take care of than a typical guinea pig breed. However, they don’t particularly need specialized care as other pets do; for example, baby guinea pigs are usually already developed when they are born so they don’t usually need to be nursed intensively. Here is some information on taking care of Abyssinian guinea pigs:


  • Food

The Abyssinian’s diet includes grassy hay, which should make up about three quarters of their diet. They can also be fed guinea pig pellet and fresh fruits and vegetables. They also need to be hydrated in a minimum of 5 ounces a day. They also need Vitamin C to protect them from disease.


  • Grooming

The breed doesn’t usually need a lot of grooming, although they do need to be bathed when they get dirty. They also need to be brushed occasionally to keep their hair from tangles and things being stuck with the hair.


  • Disease and Vulnerability

Just like all animals, the Abyssinian guinea pig also has health issues. Without enough intake of Vitamin C, they may develop scurvy. They can also have diabetes and ovarian cyst so pet owners need to watch their health.


  • Caging

Abyssinians need cages with enough space (preferably more than 7.5 square foot of space, as what cavy organizations require). They need a large area to run around and do certain activities like exercising.


  • Leisure

Although it’s not required, it’s good for guinea pigs to have toys they can play with, like little balls and things they can chew (just make sure they are not toxic or deadly). They can also have other stuffs for exercising like guinea pig wheels.



The Abyssinian guinea pig breed is an interesting and a different kind of guinea pig. If you want to keep one as a pet, their cost is about $10-$75 dollars, depending on the quality and the place it is sold. Buying the basic needs of a pet like the cage, food, water, toys and others may cost about $200 but as soon as you have prepared the setup, the monthly maintenance may cost around $20-$40 which includes the needs that aren’t permanent. Just remember that if you want a great pet, the quality of the pet is just a small thing, what matter is how proper treatment and love and are that you are ready to give it.

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