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Exotic pets, rodents and birds

How do I determine what colour or breed my cavy is?

Your cavy can be categorized in two different ways. One is by breed (coat type) and the other is by variety (colour or pattern).

Let's start off with coat type.

Does your cavy have a short coat?
If yes, is it smooth and free of rosettes? If so, this is an american!
If your piggy is an american and has one rosette on it's head, this is a white crested! Keep in mind, the crest doesn't HAVE to be white, but the piggy is showable only if the crest is fully white, and no other white hairs are present on his or her body.
If no, is it kinky, curly and look like a brillo pad? If so, this is a teddy!
If no, does your cavy have rosettes or whorls all over? If so, this is an abysinian!

There is also a satinized version of all of these. What does satin mean? This means that each hair shaft is hollow. When the light hits it, it's a BRIGHT brilliant shine to the coat, each hair sparkles! If you don't know for sure, your piggy probably isn't a satin.

Your pig may carry the satin gene, but just not show it either. There is no way to tell unless you know the full pedigree of your piggy, or if you breed to another satin animal or a satin carrier.

Okay, what if my piggy has LONGHAIR?

Does your piggy have long hair? If so, the coat will grow an inch a month, and must be kept groomed, clipped or wrapped.

Does your piggy have a smooth long coat, free of rosettes? If so, this is a silkie!
If no, does your piggy have one rosette on the forehead? If so, this is a coronet!
If no, does your piggy have two rosettes or more on the rump, and hair that grows over it's face? If so, this is a peruvian!
If no, does your piggy have curly hair that grows straight back? If so, this is a texel!
Does your texel have a rosette on the forehead? If so, this is a merino!
Does your texel have rosettes on the body and hair over it's face? If so, this is an alpaca!
**Merinos and alpacas cannot be shown in the US. The ARBA and ACBA do not recognize them as a breed.
Again, any of the longhairs can be satin coats as well.

On to coat colour and patterns!

This is going to seem strange, but look at your piggies eyes. There are 4 colours of eyes. The colour of your pigs eyes determines in part what their colour or variety is. Are your pigs eyes blue, pink, black or ruby cast? Ruby cast is brown with a ruby or red tint to them.

Does your piggy only have one colour on it? If so, no matter what that colour is, it's considered a SELF colour. An all black piggy is a black self, an all white piggy is a white self, and so on. Fully examine your pig, to be sure that there are no white toes on a darker animal, or other coloured hairs. Solid coloured pigs are listed as follows:

Beige
Black
Chocolate (should be the colour of a Hershey bar or bittersweet chocolate)
Lilac
Red (should be the colour of an irish setter, but most are a light orange colour)
Red-eyed orange
White (can have pink or black eyes, but no dark ears or feet)
Again, you should only see one colour on your pig. No other stray colour hairs.

Okay, my pig has more than one colour, what do I do now???


Allright! What if your piggy is one of those ultra-cute ones that has two colours per hair shaft? You look closely at the hair, and you see that each hair has a BASE COLOUR and is TIPPED in a different colour! And her tummy is the same colour as the tips!! What on earth???

You have an agouti!

What is an agouti? An agouti is a wild type colouring, typically seen on wild mice and rats, and chinchillas. Each hair starts out being one colour and is tipped with another colour. When you brush the coat backwards, you should see a 'falling or shooting star' pattern. What kind of a cutie agouti do you have? Is the base:

Black with red tips and a reddish tummy - Golden Agouti (must be dark black)
Black with white tips and a white tummy - silver agouti (must be dark black)
Chocolate with cream tips and a cream tummy - lemon (or dilute) agouti
Chocolate with orange tips and orange tummy - cinnamon (or dilute) agouti - ruby cast eyes
Lilac with white tips and white tummy - dilute agouti (ruby cast eyes)

**What if my piggy doesn't have a different coloured tummy? Then you call that piggy a solid! Types of solids are:

Golden solid - black base with red tip
Silver solid - black base with white tip
Dilute solid - almost always chocolate base with cream tip but can be chocolate base with orange tip.

My pig has more than one block of colour on it! What is this?

Now, you can have a piggy with blocks of colours which can include ANY of the self colours and agouti and white! How do you say this in 'cavy-ese?'

Always list the dark colour first, with three exceptions!

If you have a black, red and white piggy, you have a tsw (TortoiseShell &White)
If you have a black and red piggy, with definite blocks, you have a TS (tortoiseshell)
If you have a black and red piggy, with small swirls of colours you have a brindle!

Other than that, you can have the following, and all of these are lumped under the term "Broken Coloured" or b/c for short. The possible combinations and their abbreviations are:

Golden agouti, red and white - ga/r/w
Golden agouti and white - ga/w
Silver agouti and white - sa/w
Red and white - r/w
Black and white - b/w
Chocolate, red and white - ch/r/w
Lemon agouti, cream and white - la/c/w
Lilac, red eyed orange and white - l/o/w (or also known as a rainbow)
Beige, cream and white - b/cr/w (also known as a rainbow)
Red eyed orange and white - reo/w (also known as a rainbow)
Lilac and white - l/w (also known as a rainbow)
Beige and white - bg/w (also known as a rainbow)
Cream and white - cr/w (also known as a rainbow)
Black, cream and white - bl/cr/w

What the heck is a rainbow??

There are two basic ways you can break down cavy genetics, and that is into intenses and dilutes. Intense colours are blacks and reds, and the dilutes are basically red eyed dilutions of those intense colours. Black is an intense colour, and lilac, for example, is a dilute version (a red eyed version and diluted colour) of black. Therefore, you will never find black and lilac on the same piggy, it's just not possible. A rainbow is a fancy term that just means a red eyed broken coloured (b/c - use our new term!) piggy.

Okay! I know my colours now, but I think I have something that we haven't discussed!

What if you have a white piggy, and we have some odd colour or pattern here? My pig looks like it's white, but it has black (or darker) feet, ears and nose? You have a himilayan!

My pig is white, but it has definite spots of black, chocolate, red, lilac or beige! You have a dalmatian!

My pig is very different from what you describe, it has white on it, and another colour, but it has white hairs mixed into the other colour, making it the other colour look really pale and washed out? This is my favourite, you have a roan!

What is a roan?

A roan is a piggy that has over 75% of it's body ROANED. The base colour can be anything, white, red, black, beige, or any other solid colour or agouti that we have talked about. Look at the 'solid' patches carefully, there should be white hairs interspersed with every other or about every 3rd solid colour hair, giving the piggy a salt and pepper type look. Roan is the same thing as merle's in rats and dogs.

Now that you know the coat type and the marking or colour type, how do tell others what you have? First, you always put the colour first, or the pattern first. For example, if you have a longhaired, no rosettes, black and white and red pig, what do you have?

You have a tsw silkie (boar if male, and sow if female!)

Let's do a few more:
1. My pig is red and white, but she has red eyes. She has a short coat, but there are whorls?
2. My pig is black and white, but the black has some red tips. His eyes are dark brown, and he has a white streak on his nose and a white leg, but the rest of him is black with red tips. Oh he has a reddish tummy! What is he?
3. My pig is black and red, short coat, no whorls. The colour is kind of blended together.
4. My pig is red eyed, and lilac colour. She has a white rosette on her forehead.
5. My pig has a short coat, and is completely red. What is she?
6. I have a pig who is longhaired. The coat is black, and he has white tips. His hair is curly. His tummy is the same colour as his coat, black with white tips.

Okay, for the answers! How well did you do?

5-6 correct: you have got the hang of this!
3-4 correct: we need to review a bit
1-2 correct: were you sleeping?

1. She is a reo/w abysinnian sow.
2. He is a b/c (broken coloured) golden agouti/white boar, and you can't tell what breed he is.
3. This pig is a brindle american.
4. She is a lilac white crested sow! Pretty girl!!! 5. She is a red american sow, if she's got black eyes, a red-eyed orange american sow if red eyes.
6. He is a solid silver texel boar! Wow!

I hope some of this helps! If you see any errors or omissions on this article, please feel free to email me at kirstinkey@yahoo.com!