The Furry Critter Network

Abyssinian Breed Description

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Breed Organization

American Cavy Breeders Association

British Cavy Council


Other Names

Life Expectancy
4-8 Years

General Description

The Abyssinian breed is known for their 'rosettes', which are cowlicks growing from the coat. The rosettes are worth 25 points by ARBA standard. The hair is coarse and harsh, shaped in precise rosettes over the body. There are 10 rosettes on a show cavy; four saddle, two shoulder, two hip, and two rump rosettes. Some judging bodies, such as the ANCC, consider shoulder rosettes optional but desired in show Abyssinians. The rosettes are to be round with pinpoint centers, and are to be faulted for guttering (elongated rosettes), double rosettes, and uneven placement. Any Abyssinian showing an interfering extra rosette or missing any required rosettes are to be disqualified from the competition. Double rosettes do not count toward final rosette count.

Between the rosettes of the Abyssinian's hair are the ridges, worth 25 points by ARBA standard. The ridges between two rosettes should ideally stand rigidly straight, without breaking down onto either side even if pressed down lightly with the palm of a hand. There should be a collar ridge, back ridge, rump ridge, and ridges between every saddle, hip, and rump rosette. ARBA faults for flatness of coat, crooked ridges, a short coat, and soft texture. Other hair disqualifications include a coat over 1.5 inches in length and a satin sheen (not to be confused by the natural luster of some varieties). Required head furnishings (5 points by ARBA standard) include a well formed mustache and an erect mane running down the head.

Breed Standard

- The Abyssinian is a rough-coated, short-haired cavy in which a specific arrangement ofrosettes creates a pattern of ridges both parallel and at right angles to the body.
- The overall effect is most important in the Abyssinian. It should be cobby, thick-set & with adense, harsh coat giving the ridges their erectness.
- When the ridges are straight, a checkerboard pattern is formed
- The Abyssinian should appear ‘short-coupled’, this is achieved when the collar ridge is setwell back behind the shoulders & the back ridge is well up in front of the hip bones.This gives a compact-looking animal with deep-centred cup-shaped rosettes.
- The head is greatly enhanced by a wealth of mane and moustache (which is formed by the hairgrowing forward from the jaw-line meeting the hair growing on the nose).
- Shoulder rosettes are optional but improve appearance when displayed. Rump rosette centres are normally two-thirds of the way down the rump, and should not be toolow.
- A double, ‘lifter’ or split rosette on an otherwise good exhibit should not be unduly penalised.
- Open centres and ‘guttering’ are often wrongly identified and penalised on dark-colouredAbyssinians or light-coloured ones with dark skins.
- On account of their harsher coats, boars are more commonly shown in Adult classes, but sows should not be unduly penalised because of their coat texture.
- It is difficult to assess coat qualities in young Abyssinians, as their coats are not usually ‘through’ until they are at least 12 weeks of age.

Eyes: Large, almond-shaped, wide-set. Accentuated by a fine dark line of the base color and encircled by a light-colored area. Brilliant, expressive, of one intense color. Yellow (gold), green, and amber.
Neck: Rather long and gracefully arched.
Body: Medium in length and build, lithe, strong, and muscular. Rounded rib cage. Slightly arched back.
Paw: Long, straight, fine-boned. Small, oval, compact paws. The cat gives the impression of being on tiptoe.
Tail: Fairly long, thick at the base and tapering to the tip.
Coat: Thick, dense, and resilient to the touch, lying close against the skin. Short in length or medium particularly along the spine. Ticking (two or three bands of alternating dark or light color on each hair shaft) similar to the coat of a rabbit. Ticking is not present on the throat, underside, or inside of legs.


Abyssinians are deemed by many as good pets for experienced owners of exotic animals but their excitable nature makes them not necessarily a good choice for first time cavy owners.

Guinea pigs can learn complex paths to food, and can accurately remember a learned path for months. Their strongest problem solving strategy is motion. While guinea pigs can jump small obstacles, they are poor climbers, and are not particularly agile. They startle extremely easily, and will either freeze in place for long periods or run for cover with rapid, darting motions when they sense danger. Larger groups of startled guinea pigs will "stampede", running in haphazard directions as a means of confusing predators. When excited, guinea pigs may repeatedly perform little hops in the air (known as "popcorning"). They are also exceedingly good swimmers.


If handled correctly early in their life, guinea pigs become amenable to being picked up and carried, and seldom bite or scratch. They are timid explorers and often hesitate to attempt an escape from their cage even when an opportunity presents itself. Still, they show considerable curiosity when allowed to walk freely, especially in familiar and safe terrain. Guinea pigs that become familiar with their owner will whistle on the owner's approach; they will also learn to whistle in response to the rustling of plastic bags or the opening of refrigerator doors, where their food is most commonly stored.

Guinea pigs should be kept in pairs or, preferably groups, unless there is a specific medical condition that requires isolation. Lone guinea pigs are more likely to suffer from stress and depression. Domesticated guinea pigs come in many breeds, which have been developed since their introduction to Europe and North America. These varieties vary in hair and color composition. The most common varieties found in pet stores are the English shorthair (also known as the American), which have a short, smooth coat, and the Abyssinian, whose coat is ruffled with cowlicks, or rosettes. Also popular among breeders are the Peruvian and the Sheltie (or Silkie), both straight longhair breeds, and the Texel, a curly longhair.

Cavy Clubs and Associations dedicated to the showing and breeding of guinea pigs have been established worldwide. The American Cavy Breeders Association, an adjunct to the American Rabbit Breeders' Association, is the governing body in the United States and Canada. The British Cavy Council governs cavy clubs in the United Kingdom. Similar organizations exist in Australia (Australian National Cavy Council) and New Zealand (New Zealand Cavy Club). Each club publishes its own Standard of Perfection and determines which breeds are eligible for showing.

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