Since their initial domestication around five millennia BC, several guinea pig breeds have been developed. While not nearly as diverse as dogs or cats, there are at least eighteen recognized breeds of guinea pigs.
Here I’ll be talking about a very peculiar one: The Skinny Pig.
One thing that makes this hairless guinea pig breed peculiar is that they do not look anything like their wild counterparts. If you have never seen a skinny before, you might think it was another animal.
History of Skinny Pigs
Skinny pigs were created in laboratories in 1978, as a result of crossing haired guinea pigs with a hairless lab strain (the hairless strain is thought to be of a spontaneous mutation discovered by the scientist Armand Frappier). Unlike some other breeds created by design, Skinnies were created partly by accident and in a completely ethical manner.
The Skinnies were later sent to Charles River Laboratories in 1982 for laboratory use, where they have been and still are very helpful in studies of dermatology.
The Skinnies are most remarkable for having no hair covering them. If they do grow hair, it’s normally on their feet and noses. They do come in varied colors, though.
Although they are generally the same as any other breed of guinea pigs, physiologically, the lack of hair affects their behavior in indirect ways. For instance, in order to compensate for the protection from cold that hair normally provides, they have to eat more food to maintain their body temperature.
They can get along with all sorts of piggies, but seem to prefer the company of their own kind, probably able to identify with them better.
For reasons probably unrelated to their lack of hair, they are a particularly affectionate breed. They are also, however, quite noisier and messier, taking longer to clean after even with no hair to shed.
Here’s a video of a particularly vocal baby skinny:
A big advantage of their peculiar condition is that the Skinnes make great pets for allergy sufferers, since they don’t need to make contact with hair and the allergens that come with it
If you have both regular pigs and a skinny, you might notice that your skinny feels much warmer than your regular guinea pig. This is due to their higher metabolism rate and is completely normal.
Skinny pig care and special considerations
While caring for a skinny is not very different from regular guinea pig care, their lack of hair give Skinnies a number of special needs that their owners need to take care of.
Temperature is the first thing to have in mind. Skinnies can’t live outdoors, and require the shelter of a heated house. It’s also preferable to provide them with blankets or other cozy toys that they can cover themselves in.
Their problems with temperature don’t stop there, either. If you were to take them out during sunny, warm days, they will require sunscreen to be applied on their skin, since they can suffer from sunburns.
As it was previously mentioned, Skinny pigs require more food to metabolize in order to compensate for their lack of natural coats. This makes them into probably the ‘hungriest’ cavy breeds.
Another consequence of lacking for is that it makes the Skinnies more vulnerable to injuries and infections, including fungi. Because of this it’s preferable to make periodical inspections as to prevent health issues.
It is also important to make sure that toys and accessories do not have parts sticking out that could scrape your skinny pig’s skin.
During winter, a Skinny pig’s skin tends to get dry and chapped. To help prevent dryness and keep your piggy comfortable, organic virgin coconut oil can be applied on its skin. I personally think the coconut oil is a much better alternative than any other lotion since it’s completely edible and non-toxic even if your piggies happen to ingest it.
And finally, like regular guinea pigs, they need to be provided with fresh water and unlimited hay, as well as Vitamin C fortified pellets and fresh vegetables daily.
- Skinny pigs were created partly by accident in a lab
- They are mostly hairless, unlike regular guinea pigs
- They require almost the same care as regular guinea pigs but they:
- need more cozy toys and blankets to keep warm
- must be kept indoors in a heated house
- eat more food to maintain a constant body temperature