Abyssinian Guinea Pigs: The Guide to the "Bedhead" Piggies

Our curious cavy chums come in all shapes and sizes, make a lot of adorable noises, and are prone to the occasional burst of joyful popcorning. But in this post, we’ll be putting the spotlight on one particular breed and discovering everything there is to know about them.

Say hello to the charming and outgoing Abyssinian piggy!

Yep, this is one seriously disheveled, scruffy little ball of fluff. They may look like they’ve been dragged through a hedge backward, but this is just their everyday look. Even when they’re feeling well-rested and fresh as a daisy, you’ll recognize them by their signature messy bedhead, which sticks up like a bristle brush at 1.5” tall. These swirls of hair grow outward, colliding with fur that grows in the opposite direction to create the ‘rosette’ patterns so distinctive to the Abyssinian pig.

One of the oldest breeds known to their hooman companions, they are also among the most popular. And we can’t say we’re surprised! Let’s find out more about the Aby cavy in this complete guide.

Fun fact: It’s a tough gig competing in shows as an Aby! In order to score high, your prize piggy must have at least 8-10 rosettes in particular spots (a minimum of 4 on the back, 2 on each leg, and 1 on each shoulder). Phew. Not asking for much, then!

Abyssinian guinea pig in a colorful background

The Origins of the Abyssinian Guinea Pig

Just to confuse you, the Abyssinian guinea pig has nothing in common with their namesake. They don't come from Abyssinia (or its modern-day equivalent Ethiopia) and they don't originate from Guinea either!

The Abyssinian was one of the first cavy breeds to be certified by the American Cavy Breeders Association. But, if truth be told, the origins of this elusive pig remain a bit of a mystery. The only things we know for certain is that they originate from South America and, like other cavy breeds, these hardy, adventurous little floofers enjoyed scurrying through mountain ranges like the Andes.

Thankfully for us, Abyssians found their way down from these high peaks and settled into domestic bliss around the 16th century. They have continued to grow in popularity, and can now be found in loving homes all across the globe!

What Do Abyssinian Guinea Pigs Look Like?

Effortlessly cool, Abyssinians are the rockstars of the cavy world. Casually sporting 6 to 8 hair swirls or ‘rosettes’, their bristle-like fur is about 2 inches long and flat out refuses to be tamed! They are also very much individuals and come in a delicious assortment of cute colors and pretty patterns.

The American Cavy Breeders Association specifically recognizes a few colors as the Aby breed standard: beige, black, chocolate, cream, lilac, red, and white.

They also recognize the following fur patterns:

  • Self (one solid color)
  • Tortoiseshell (red and black blocks of fur)
  • Roan (a balayage of light and dark hairs)
  • Brindle (white mixed with a darker color)
  • Agouti (a salt and pepper combo)
  • Dalmatian (yep, you guessed it, just like their canine pal)

Your typical Aby is an 8-12 inch long ball of fluff (with males an inch or so longer) and weighs 2-3 pounds. Like their fellow cavy friends, they manage to simultaneously have long bodies, wide heads, and stumpy faces, with drooping, petal-shaped ears. Particularly dapper Abyssinians may also have a smart little tash around their nose. Interestingly, there is even an ‘Abyssinian satin’ breed variant, named after its spectacularly satin-like sheen.

Abyssinian guinea pig on the floor

How to Groom an Abyssinian Guinea Pig

As a responsible piggy parent, remember that no matter the breed of guinea pig and their particular hairdo, your furry friend will require some regular pampering to stay healthy and look their best!

They may not be quite as needy as their Peruvian pals but they still require more TLC than some other breeds. Their long hair and stunning rosette curls call for regular grooming activities with some taking place daily, weekly, and monthly. 

Hair brushing (every 2 to 3 days)

Start brushing your cavy from an early age to help them get used to it and turn this into a lovely bonding activity for the two of you. Brushing not only keeps your floof looking fabulous, but it’s also part of their skincare routine and helps with exfoliation (the removal of dead skin cells), as well as boosting their circulation. 

Be gentle with your Aby cavy’s fur, and take extra care when combing their delicate rosettes to prevent unwanted painful knots. If you can, it’s best to use a soft bristle brush that will glide through your piggy’s locks.

As a general guide, follow your Aby’s hair the way it naturally falls. Moving from the shoulders onto the back and hind legs, ensure you’re brushing outwards from the center of their tufted swirls.

Hair cutting (occasionally)

You can breathe a sigh of relief that, unlike other long-haired breeds, Abyssinians only need the occasional trim at your home salon. Even better, you don’t have to give them a full haircut and blow-dry - just concentrate on the spots that stick out as needing particular attention. You can use any hair-thinning scissors to snip your cavy’s curls, but make sure to hold the strands between your second and third fingers to avoid accidentally nicking their delicate skin.

Bathing (only when necessary)

The rosette swirls of the Abyssinian’s coat don’t exactly see eye to eye with water, so we’d recommend light bathing and spot cleaning only when your piggy is particularly stinky. When an Aby gets wet, it can be a long wait (weeks, even!) for their pride and glory rosettes to look their best again. So take preventative measures and keep their cage spick and span, with consistent spot cleans and plenty of regular fresh hay.

Abyssinian Guinea Pig on a white background.

Is the Abyssinian Guinea Pig Right for You?

There’s no denying it, Abyssinian piggies are playful, enthusiastic, and affectionate little companions with big hearts. Their larger-than-life personality perfectly complements their distinctive rough-around-the-edges looks. Compared to other breeds, they do require a little bit more effort from their piggy parents when it comes to maintenance and grooming routines, but they’re well worth it!

Before you go ahead and adopt one (we know you’re already thinking about it!), take the time to honestly answer a couple of questions to determine whether you can give this sweet cavy everything they need to thrive:

  • Do you have the right amount of space in your home? An Aby is really energetic and will need plenty of room to move around in, as well as stimulating tunnels, chew toys, and hidey holes to keep them out of mischief.
  • Do you have enough time to play and engage with your piggy? Abyssinians are little social butterflies who love the attention and affection from their hoomans so make sure that you can make time for them.
  • Do you have space for an outdoor run? It’s important to let your Aby engage in natural behaviors like exploring and foraging on a daily basis. This helps them stay trim and get some necessary exercise, too.

Abyssinian guinea pigs on fleece

Abyssinian Guinea Pig FAKs - Frequently Asked Kavees

How long do Abyssinian guinea pigs live?

You can expect half a decade of love, laughter, and popcorning with your cavy furball. Abyssinian guinea pigs generally live up to 5 years.

Do Abyssinian guinea pigs need haircuts?

Abyssinian guinea pigs don’t require the same level of haircare as other long-haired breeds like the Peruvians. That said, they’ll still need the odd spot trim. Rather than an all-over cut, just focus on any small but noticeable sections that are growing at a quicker rate than others.

Do Abyssinian guinea pigs have health issues?

Like other cavy breeds, the Aby cavies are sadly unable to produce their own Vitamin C, which puts them at risk of nasty diseases like scurvy. Compared to other breeds, they are more prone to diabetes and a variety of eye infections so be sure to contact your cavy-savvy vet if you spot any signs of something out of the ordinary.

How to feed your Abyssinian guinea pig?

The Abyssinian guinea pig follows the same diet as all cavies: 24-hour access to clean drinking water, high-quality pellets, fresh hay, and lots of healthy veggies loaded with essential Vitamin C!

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